Every individual human being is born with potential and purpose. It is the environmental situations, backgrounds and circumstances that create disparities in the levels of realization of this potential and its achievement. The most important requisite for leading a life directed towards accomplishing personal aspirations is empowerment.
Empowerment is not a privilege or a grant handed down by people in power to those who are powerless. It is rather a state of being, a way of existing -where one has control, responsibility and freedom of one’s own life. It is the power to make choices.
At the same time, it doesn’t imply living like a loose cannon. Therefore, both ‘to empower’ and to ‘rightfully live empowered’, education is an inevitable tool. These two terms complement each other in ways more than one. A person’s mind and thoughts need to be well groomed and developed to be able to think productively. His awareness needs to sharpen and perspectives need to broaden to be able to take control of his life i.e. to feel empowered.
This is largely how the concept of empowerment is discussed and understood. It can also be safely stated that both: education and empowerment, have been the focal point of countless socio-political discussions, major policy initiatives and certainly more than a million researches and books.
On registering the scale of coverage these topics have received, some questions about their manifestation in public life also arise. Questions like – Do we see satisfactory levels of education in our country or society? Do we feel empowered? Which section of the society still needs to be uplifted to feel empowered? Or How many children are able to go to school and how many drop-out? Apart from all of these, educators, policy makers and society also need to juxtapose education and empowerment and then ask – Is the Education that Children are receiving, empowering them?
As much as we talk about education and empowerment separately, their alignment with each other is even more important. It is needless to establish the role of schools. With changing times, this role has only widened in scope and intensified in importance.
Hence, it has become imperative that schools be those places for students where they learn and imbibe the essence of all big and small life lessons, rights, perspectives and ideas that are only limited to intellectual discussions and scholarly articles. Simply put, the education imparted to children must go beyond making them ‘literate’.
If we want to see human beings valuing each other and treating each other as equals, we have to move away from the culture of first is best and last is weak in the classrooms. If we wish to see vibrant minds talking about new ideas, we need to encourage curiosity and freedom of expression in classrooms.
Empowerment only feels an inaccessible and grand concept when limited to academic and sociological spaces. Once we start reinforcing its tenets in the most basic ways and in the most common places, it starts growing endogenously. For this to happen, there are some ways in which the visions of schools can be rewritten or at least revisited.
WE ARE HERE TO REACH ‘OUR’ BEST
An environment that encourages competition works best when it’s coupled with an atmosphere that also values individual differences. This is the biggest challenge for schools and classes to overcome. A conscious effort has to be made to encourage and acknowledge improvement as much as excellence. The first ranker in every class has to stop being the ‘apple of teachers’ eye’. This is not to say that any student excellent at academics is necessarily a wrong example or nerdy or non- enterprising in other activities. It only means: working on our tendencies to ‘standardize’ excellence. The class must be an inclusive space that accommodates individual differences while imparting essential lessons.
WE ARE HERE TO ASK AND TO EXPRESS
It is a guaranteed fact that having a voice, a say, an opinion, gives every individual the first feeling of empowerment. The freedom to express is enshrined in many constitutions of the world but is not followed the best where it is most required. For ever child, school is the first place of interaction outside family. A free flow of thoughts, ideas and opinions here is a must. What topic is ‘uncomfortable’ to discuss or what project is ‘risky’ to work on when there are teachers and professors to guide students?! Instead of pushing students into an ivory tower, rightfully addressing their questions as well as educating them on various topics, however uncomfortable but present anyway around them, shall be a much more responsible approach towards education.
WE ARE HERE TO ACCEPT.
Acceptance is elementary in making a child feel valued. It doesn’t come in the way of teaching right and wrong, as argued by many. It is more to do with fostering a non- judgmental environment. A place free from a constant need to prove merit. A place where errors are corrected not punished for being there at all. In conclusion, all that we wish to see in a progressive, productive and proactive society, we need to reinforce in school and classroom environments. It’s a fairly obvious chain to understand. The children of today grow up to be citizens of tomorrow. This would make the society; this would make a nation. A truly educated and empowered one.