CAN UNIVERSAL EDUCATION SECURE WORLD PEACE ? – Gomathy Venkateswar
It is encouraging to note that the National Council for Research and Training in India (NCERT), the authority that sets the curriculum in schools across the India, has introduced Peace Studies as an elective subject from Middle school on, and has provided programs that students can follow in order to develop an understanding of the basic concept of World Peace and the resolution of conflict starting from within their own communities and environment.
Close to 50 years ago two great philosophers and scientists, Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell invited the world to “learn to think in a new way”, and pointed out that if “issues between the East and the West are to be decided, then, they must NOT be decided by war!”
In what became known as the Russell-Einstein manifesto on July 9th, 1955 the two philosophers suggested that people should regard everyone as primarily members of the human race, whether they be workers in factories, shop-keepers, farmers or property owners on a large or small scale. “Consider yourselves as members of a biological species that must live complementary to the larger order,” the two eminent men stated.
“The paramount role for achieving any kind of development—and most definitely any development great enough to be judged beneficial to our whole world of the future—belongs singly to Education.” said Alva Myrdal the great Swedish economist. One may conclude rightly that only if every human being in the world is educated can Peace be sustained. Race, Religion and the lust for Power are the ingredients that sow the seeds of endless war between states or even within states.
It must be understood that Peace is not essentially the absence of conflict or war, but presupposes the presence of a rational order in a community, society or nation where there is an even distribution of wealth, an opportunity for growth and development, and the protection those who are vulnerable or handicapped.
The explosion of information in the fields of Science and Technology has opened up vast possibilities for good or evil. But if the right choice is made, and indeed it must if humanity is to survive, the elimination of hunger, poverty and disease from the entire world, is a just crusade we must all fight to remove. And today, that just cause to fight for is not a mere visionary’s dream but has now become a practical proposition that is achievable. People everywhere are awakening to the expectation that poverty and ignorance can be banished from the face of the earth and that it can happen now in their own lifetime.
Maybe the last century’s prospects with two World Wars taking away the lives of half that world’s able bodied men, were bleak and dim, but in this 21st century we can almost hear the ultimatum the Future has issued to the present that we must shed the narrow, tyrannical confines of national, political history with its baggage of the past, and search for a different model that will inspire and support long term structures and trends fashioned on an all encompassing global model.
This can be surely brought about if we start now in the classrooms with the grounding in the lessons of World citizenship and international identity in a Global Forum. The lessons that need to be taught for taking on this new identity are the values of hard work, honesty, integrity, individual effort, respect for others and team work. All this however presupposes certain economic development achieved by every country where access to educational institutions that guarantee literacy is free and easy and open to each and every citizen.
60 years after India achieved its independence from British colonial rule that impoverished the country and broke down the country’s traditional industries, India has achieved a staggering growth of its industries in fair competition with the other global powers. But the development pattern has been uneven and in some areas totally neglected. Now at the crossroads in order to accelerate towards the new World Order, we are making the ‘growing child’ run before he has learnt to stand up!
We have to take stock of our bearings and design that new curriculum for the young in the classrooms that teach us the diversity of our world populations, the beauty of all the indigenous traditions and cultures, that the great and small creatures in the forests and seas around us have as much right to exist as we do, and that indeed the forest cover that is fast disappearing is the only source of oxygen left for us to breathe.
Gomathy Venkateswar has been an
educator for the last 35 years and has
been the principal of several prestigious
private schools in India as well as in
Nepal. She was a Fellow of the Fulbright
Studies Program at the University of
Minnesota in 1987. Now retired from
active workm she enjoys working with a
few NGOS both local and International
for promoting literacy
for women and children
in the slum dwellings
in her locality, and
empowering the status