An inconvenient truth about our education system

by Sahadev Komaragiri

In spite of all the increases in literacy and income levels across the globe why is it that the levels of happiness are going in the reverse direction? Education and wealth should eventually lead us to happiness but that does not seem to be happening! I think those who are more educated are generally not as happy as those who are less educated. Is the adage ignore is bliss applicable to the field of education? Why?

First and foremost we should understand something that is fundamentally very important – education is for life and not merely for living.  But class after class, year after year students are prepared for a living and not life. Once they join the workforce they have to finetune their skills, again month after month and year after year, to make a better living. Some times we feel that our degrees are not taking us anywhere nor making us any happier. We feel let down as the knowledge that we gained over several years simply got reduced to just another skill like carpentry, stone masonry and pottery. Knowledge was not churned into wisdom and we slowly lost traction on the purpose and meaning of our pursuits. We fail to understand that the problem lies in our pursuits and the system that prepared us for a living. The education system turns into a collosal failure when it prepares people for a mere living and not life. Just as cattle are put in closed farms, fed, fattened and readied for human consumption, humans are put behind closed doors, brainwashed, examined to make sure the brainwash is complete and then finally put on a treadmill called labour market so that they continue to make a living that is bereft of all purpose and enlightenment.  What do they do when they get on the labour market? They earn so that they can buy things that the televisions and newspapers implore them to buy. Eventually we fatten the corporations that ruin the environment. But there is hope.  The fact that there are towering advances in science, technology and communications as well as in the fields of spirituality and philosophy is proof of our hope. There are still people around who care, seek and find their purpose in life and act on it.

How do we make amends so that the situation does not deteriorate any further?

It is only knowledge that can manage wealth and not the other way round. This is a very important thing to keep in mind

Let us first understand the fundamental difference between knowledge and wealth. Here is a quick comparison between the two. The only way to acquire knowledge is by devoted study. Once acquired it cannot be taken away either by force or by coercion. Giving or sharing does not mean losing it. It sits in your subconscious and wherever you go it travels with you. Knowledge when finetuned can provide us with the contentment and happiness that nothing else can provide. It is a potent weapon that must be employed wisely. Wealth on the other hand can be acquired by several means including honest worthy earnings, highway robbery, illegitimate inheritance and plain swindling. Wealth stays in banks and sometimes under the carpet and in either case it requires continuous monitoring and maintenance. Wealth acquired by any means can be gone in a jiffy! Wealth is a potent weapon too and when acquired by honest means and if used wisely for noble causes it can make miracles happen.  It is only knowledge that can manage wealth and not the other way round. This is a very important thing to keep in mind.

Corporations around the world have mastered the technique of winning us with their advertisements. They can easily see whether their advertisements and marketing campaigns are working or not and make amends in a short period of time. They have well established ways of telling us how we cannot live without buying their products. They were able to do this because there is a profit motive. A lot of money is pumped into these campaigns to make you spend. It works – just look at how impulsive buying is on the rise! If there is something that the education system can learn from the corporate culture it is this. In the same way that corporations mastered their techniques of winning us, the education system should also strive to develop techniques that drives students towards discovering their purpose. It should equip our future generations to seek and realize the goals of long lasting happiness. The current education model has been in place for a while now and now is the time to take a fresh look at how it operates.

Once we understand the basics that education is for life and not merely for living, once we understand that true knowledge can contain the influence and potency of wealth and once we understand that techniques can be developed to teach students to discover their purpose in life, it will be easier to identify holes in the education model that need to be closed. The goal of any transformation of our education system is to inject our future generations with higher levels of immunity against social pressures of equating success with material possessions. Once this is done, it will unlock many more doors for purposeful living. This is easier said than done, I know that. But each of us should take charge and help the kids in our sphere of influence with ideas on realizing their true potential. Where possible we should assist and influence the school systems. But the true beginning is to transform and model ourselves as the messengers of the life that we advocate!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Sandeep October 11, 2010 at 9:07 am

Good thought and well written.
Now Indian education system is very good, but parents add to that what is called “peer pressure”. They forget to ask the kids what they intend to do, instead they enforce upon them as to what the kid should become. The moment this stops, the kids will automatically try and learn what they intend to learn and therefore the education they receive will be for life and not just a living.
Parents should imbibe in the kids only ideas and opinions and not force them.
Education should be a way of life and not a way for living, like you have already mentioned.


Rafi June 12, 2011 at 11:39 am

I guess the education system got molded into its current form – expressly for the purpose of making a living – because of human greed and focus on short-term profits. But the pace of change makes knowledge we received obsolete. Businesses do not want consumers to be happy with what they have, so they can buy more. Governments also wants its citizens to buy more and measure economic activity as a leading indicator of well being of its citizens. If only our leaders can measure and work towards increasing Gross National Happiness the way Bhutan does, may be things will be different. May be it is the wisdom and love of craft that must be the focus of education and not just knowledge to get a job.
As Gandhi said “Be the change that you want to see in the world” ( to really see these social changes.


Sahadev Komaragiri June 13, 2011 at 6:01 am

Rafi, I use to have Gandhi’s quote “Be the change you want to see” as my email signature for a very long time. I had a conversation with the taxi driver while returning from Little India. I remembered him because he said that the jobs that his teenage kids will be looking for are not created yet! It is indeed a statement to reflect on. The world is indeed changing very rapidly. Wisdom and love of craft were a national pastime for many thriving civilizations especially ancient Greece, China and India. It is only recently that we have been drifting away from it. But I shall hold on to my faith that things will get better.


Clevelanddesi March 21, 2012 at 7:21 am

Not buying needless stuff from corporations is one way to defeat the corporatocracy. Democracy is a illusion.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: