As we move through the last decade of this extraordinary century, which has witnessed unparalleled destruction and unimagined progress, the cruellest mass killings in human history and the most amazing breakthroughs in human welfare, the advent of weapons of unprecedented lethality and creative probings into outer space, we find ourselves at a crucial point in the long and tortuous history of the human race on Planet Earth. It is now quite clear that humanity is in the throes of a transition to a global society. We live in a shrinking world in which the malign heritage of conflict and competition will have to make way for a new culture of convergence and co-operation, and the alarming gap between the developed and the developing world will have to be bridged if the rich promise of the next millennium is not to evaporate in the conflict and chaos that is already overtaking many parts of the world. This is the basic challenge to education in the twenty-first century.
It is not that we lack the intellectual or economic resources to tackle the problems. Scientific breakthroughs and technological ingenuity have given us the capacity to overcome all those challenges, but what is missing is the wisdom and
compassion to apply them cre a t i v e l y. Knowledge is expanding but wisdom languishes. The yawning chasm will need to be bridged before the end of the century if we are ever to reverse the present trend towards disaster and it is here
that education in the broadest sense of the term assumes such vital importance.
National education systems are almost invariably postulated on beliefs that flow from pre-nuclear and pre-global perceptions, and are therefore unable to provide the new paradigm of thought that human welfare and survival now
requires. Outmoded orthodoxies and obsolescent orientations continue to deprive the younger generations of an adequate awareness of the essential unity of the world into which they have been born. Indeed, by fostering negative attitudes towards other groups or nations, they hinder the growth of globalism.
The astounding communications technology which today encircles the globe seldom uses its tremendous potential to spread global values and foster a more caring, compassionate consciousness. On the contrary, the media are full of violence
and horror, cruelty and carnage, unbridled consumerism and unabashed promiscuity, a situation which not only distorts the awareness of the young but dulls our sensitivity to the problems of human suffering and pain. What is urgently needed,
therefore, is a creative revolution in our education and communications policies. We need to develop carefully structured pro g rammes on a global scale based unequivocally on the premise that human survival involves the growth of a creative
and compassionate global consciousness. The spiritual dimension will have to be given central importance in our new educational thinking.
We must have the courage to think globally, to break away from traditional paradigms and plunge boldly into the unknown. We must so mobilize our inner and outer resources that we begin consciously to build a new world based on mutually assured welfare rather than mutually assured destruction. As global citizens committed to human survival and welfare, we must use the latest array of innovative and i n t e ractive pedagogic methodologies to structure a worldwide pro g ramme of education – for children and adults alike – that would open their eyes to the reality of the dawning global age and their hearts to the cry of the oppressed and the suffering.
And there is no time to be lost for, along with the emergence of the global society, the sinister forces of fundamentalism and fanaticism, of exploitation and intimidation are also active.
Let us, then, with utmost speed, pioneer and propagate a holistic educational philosophy for the twenty-first century based upon the following premises:
- that the planet we inhabit and of which we are all citizens – Planet Earth – is a single, living, pulsating entity; that the human race in the final analysis is an interlocking, extended family – Vasudhaiva Kuktumbakam as the Veda has it; and
- that differences of race and religion, nationality and ideology, sex and sexual preference, economic and social status – though significant in themselves – must be viewed in the broader context of global unity;
- that the ecology of Planet Earth has to be preserved from mindless destruction and ruthless exploitation, and enriched for the welfare of generations yet unborn; and that there should be a more equitable consumption pattern based on limits
- to growth, not unbridled consumerism;
- that hatred and bigotry, fundamentalism and fanaticism, and greed and jealousy, whether among individuals, groups or nations, are corrosive emotions which must be overcome as we move into the next century; and that love and
- compassion, caring and charity, and friendship and co-operation are the elements that have to be encouraged as we transit into our new global awareness;
- that the world’s great religions must no longer war against each other for supremacy but co-operate for the welfare of the human race, and that through a continuing and creative interfaith dialogue, the golden thread of spiritual aspiration that binds them together must be strengthened instead of the dogma and exclusivism that divides them;
- that a massive and concerted drive is needed to eradicate the scourge of illiteracy worldwide by the year 2010, with special emphasis on promoting female literacy, particularly in the developing countries;
- that holistic education must acknowledge the multiple dimensions of the human personality – physical, intellectual, aesthetic, emotional and spiritual – thus moving towards the perennial dream of an integrated individual living on a harmonious planet.