Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Public Space of Education

Democracy is shaped by politics and public opinion. Our politicians don’t have PhDs in political science or public administration. A majority of our political columnists and correspondents are also not “academically qualified” to write on politics. But democracy has survived despite the lack of specialists to run the field of politics. This is because politics belongs to the public space. And debates in the public space are not directed by specialised educational qualifications but by ideological beliefs and leanings, commonsense and practical decision making, memory of events and interpretations, and the ability to read subtexts and make connections.

Education belongs to the public space, too. Because the most important aim of education is not just to provide students with knowledge and skills and make professionals and entrepreneurs out of them; it is to help shape responsible citizenship in a civil society. Education, like politics, has a role to play in reacting to terror, global tensions, deprivation, consumerism and depleting natural resources. And this debate cannot afford to be restricted to the boardroom of academics. We need more public participation to decide school curricula, to provide students with analytical tools that take human emotions into account and to let them know that puzzles far outnumber the answers that we know.

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