All roads lead to education | Sunday Observer

All roads lead to education

22 May, 2022

“What we call a financial crisis is really at its core a crisis of management, and not just a crisis of management, but a crisis of management culture. In other words, what you had is a detachment of people who know the business from people who are running the business.”
– Henry Mintzberg

Albert Einstein has once said that “we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”. There is no better time for Sri Lankans to understand this concept today since we are all trying to find solutions to, perhaps, the most serious financial and political problems the country has ever faced.

Unfortunately for the citizens of the country, our law makers, the group that has been chosen to manage the country, have not shown any sign of such an understanding yet. More than fifty percent of solving a problem involves understanding the problem and the way it has been created. Any solution that does not address the root causes of the problem is bound to fail in the long run, though it may serve the purpose of getting the politicians reelected in the short run.

Lack of knowledge

If that happens, then that will show the lack of knowledge and understanding the voters have about the process of solving their problems. If we are to learn from the history of the world, we should be focusing on short-term solutions immediately that can be converted into long-term solutions without digging the hole any deeper than what it is now.

One would first have to put the fire out and then start looking for the cause of the fire so that one can implement safety precautions to stop similar things from happening.

As Prof. Mintzberg says, if there has been a detachment of people who know the business from people who are running the business, in this case running the country, then it will also be the responsibility of the citizens of the country for allowing that to happen.

Instead of wasting time pointing fingers at others, it is time each and every one of us accept that responsibility and genuinely think about all the possible ways to help solve the problems collectively.

Intellectual discussions, analytical thinking, and collective action with the intention of reaching a common goal, in this case getting out of crisis, are key ingredients in formulating sustainable solutions to any problem.

Unfortunately, for Sri Lankans, their lawmakers have no clue about such things as intellectual discussions, analytical thinking, and collective action towards common good.

Only collective action they would agree on is safeguarding their own self-interests, including hanging on to their lucrative positions in the Parliament. Therefore, it is up to the citizens in general to put their critical thinking hats on, engage in intellectual discussions, and come up with viable solutions that the law makers, as public servants, can formalise through relevant procedures and implement as soon as possible.

This is where one would start seeing that all roads to such solutions are going to go through education, not just the formal education, but the process of learning in general.

The formal education process can certainly be designed to train a child from the primary level itself to approach a problem with critical thinking and to discuss pros and cons of possible solutions with peers in a civilised manner.

They could also be taught to respect the opinions of others and to value cooperation over competition and finally to implement the best solution with the intention of achieving common good.

Then through the secondary level the child can be exposed to age appropriate social, economic and political issues with opportunities to learn the basics of each of those subject areas through a curriculum designed to make an adult with critical thinking abilities who can engage in a civilised intellectual discussion with the intention of reaching an outcome of common good.

Secondary education

At the end of the secondary education, that means when the child is leaving school as a young adult reaching the age of 18 or 19, he/she should not only be equipped with the right to vote, a weapon that can make or break a nation, but also with an awareness of what is meant by a ‘balanced society’.

A healthy society balances the collective responsibilities of the public sector, private sector and the communal concerns of citizens, the civil society, sometimes referred to as the ‘plural sector’.

Associations, foundations, NGOs, think tanks, religious orders and even some non-profit organisations such as research institutes, universities and hospitals can be members of the plural sector.

In a healthy society, the public, private and plural sectors hold each other responsible for their respective duties while helping each other for the betterment of the society.

Collusion between the public and private sectors disregarding the voice of the plural sector is what is often seen as corruption, though collusion is sometimes seen between firms within the private sector and between political parties or among groups of politicians against a common enemy.

Another important concept for the development of human society is ‘cooperation’. The education system of a country must make sure that the concept of cooperation is well understood by the stakeholders.

Countries with examination-oriented education systems where merit is evaluated only by the examination results and degree certificates tend to promote competition to an extent where even primary school students are reluctant to help a classmate by lending a book or sharing information.

Sri Lankans, unfortunately, have the first-hand experience of negative consequences of such an examination-oriented highly competitive formal education system where most of the people even after completing postgraduate degrees still have trouble with understanding the value of focusing on common good.

Collective efforts

If a person can have a good understanding about how he/she is going to contribute to the collective efforts of improving the conditions for all living beings on the planet, then it will be very easy for such a person to put the country before his/her self-interests.

If such a person becomes a politician, then it will be his/her second nature to put the country before the party and the party before him/herself. It will be easier for such a politician to focus on self-improvement only as a way to serve, not only his/her family and friends but also the whole nation, better.

Self-improvement, for such a person, would not mean stealing public money or robbing the central bank of the country.

Most of the humans spend the better part of their lives just attempting to meet core human needs. That means, most of what we do is motivated by one or more basic human needs. If most of our actions are motivated by similar needs, then why do we see various types of motivational factors and different types of actions in achieving these, more or less, similar goals?

This can be due to different levels of awareness we bring to the relationship between our needs and our actions. Since the key components affecting the process of achieving such awareness could be cultural, religious, social, and economic, the education system should address all such aspects of life preparing the learner for a life of service to humanity rather than for a life of a selfish professional who is only focused on consuming as many resources as possible.

The writer has served in the higher education sector as an academic over twenty years in the USA and fifteen years in Sri Lanka and he can be contacted at [email protected]