Role of education towards social progress

Educational Journey with EPHAT MUDENDA
THE education system of every country in the world focuses on the all-round development of learners. It aims at churning out individuals who should contribute positively towards socio-economic development.

In the process, educators translate and practise theories and policies laid down in a given curriculum, thereby inevitably taking up the role of ultimate builders of a nation. They ensure that all needs of society – cultural, religious, social, and psychological – are fulfilled by education.
Culture, actually, is all-encompassing as it includes the arts, sciences, religions and social customs that are regarded as societal norms, which individual groups in the land have contributed to the larger community. And these, combined, are aimed at achieving the highest level of development at individual, community and national level.
When people talk about upholding cultural values, there is always an aspect of learning involved – at least there must be knowledge that is transmitted from one point to another, and both the transmitter and recipient are supposed to utilise that knowledge for their own benefit and that of others. Then community progress can be realised in this way.
We always talk about countries that are developing rapidly because of their ‘culture of hard work’, or indeed Zambia having maintained a great ‘culture of peace’. Sometimes we lament the ‘poor reading and writing culture’ in our country. Each time we do this we are basically referring to important aspects that the education system is expected to address.
The system should promote a culture of hard work, respect for human rights and freedoms, peace, love, co-existence and self-discipline, among others. When these values are transmitted to the learners in schools, the aim is to ensure that they benefit from them, both at the present and in the future.
In fact, one of the major tasks that education should perform in a given society is the full preparation of youth’s minds for the roles and responsibilities they are expected to assume when they turn into adults.
Therefore, when one behaves well towards others – a kind of behaviour that portrays an individual as having ‘stepped’ into a classroom – he or she is said to be civilised. The opposite is also true: a person whose behaviour is crude is considered to be uncivilised. Wherever such a strange behavioural pattern is exhibited, whether during political activities or in general social relations, people are forced to wonder at the unwise character’s educational background.
But, since the unwise are also ‘civilised’ in their own way, it is important that the education system is clear on the type of civilisation that is desirable for society to be progressive; to be full of new ideas, technological innovation and positive change, with people living at peace with each other.
This model of civilisation refers to a standard of behaviour that is similar to etiquette, that is, the formal rules of correct or polite behaviour that one is expected to abide by, as we interact with other members in society. Here, ‘civilised’ behaviour is contrasted with ‘barbaric’ behaviour.
The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines the word ‘barbaric’ as “cruel and violent and not expected from people who are educated and respect each other”. In other words, people who behave this way are more or less like animals, which lack capacity to think in a logical way.
Another use of the term ‘civilisation’ focuses on aspects of complexity and sophistication of communities. This point of view pits complex, sophisticated societal groups that perceive themselves as being superior against so-called inferior, less complex, less sophisticated ones. In history, this type of ‘civilisation’ promoted such evils as racism.
But there is need for ‘social intelligence’ (or social consciousness) among citizens. We borrow this concept from John Dewey (1916), who said education is the fundamental method of social progress that aids the formation of a certain character as the only genuine basis of right living.
So, as you witness the various behaviours from people around you, ask yourself the question: Is this the civilisation that these men/ women acquired during their educational journey? Perhaps some have never been part of it after all.

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