During career counselling sessions of specially girls I often hear a type of logic from parents that goes like this, ‘she must take a good degree which will help her in future in case she runs into difficulty’. ‘Times are bad and she must be able to stand on her feet if required’. This logic has an emotion of apprehension bordering on fear behind it. The word ‘if required’ and ‘in case of difficulty’ are telling of the philosophy behind the girl education. Such parents though appearing wise and mature are actually in confusion. They think they are thinking the best for their child but they are not actually. They think they are modern enough to want to spend on the education of the girl child but it seems to be more out of fear of the uncertain future and not for the love of the child. They love the child as all parents do but only in a restricted way I would say. For love of the child means wanting and desiring the child to grow and bloom and flower to her maximum potential. But I don’t hear that at all from parents.
What I hear is negative logic instead. What I hear is ‘survival- logic’. She should be able to fend for herself and her family if needed. She should not starve and become dependent on someone. To be independent economically and to stand on one’s own feet is a great goal no doubt about it. One of the primary aims of education is to enable you to earn your livelihood. But is that all? Is education all about the building of the capacity to earn your money to feed yourself? Is education to enable you to build skills for the job market? What about the higher goals of education?
Swami Vivekananda said that education is to tap the divinity within. Education aims to expand the intellect and toughen the mind. We seem to have failed to grasp the meaning of education in totality and seem to be stuck on making our children just economic machines to earn money. The entire focus seems to be on money making as if that is the primary and the sole purpose of life. Development of the mind and expansion of the intellect is of utmost importance to build a strong character, something we as guardians do not talk about much. Development of the mind means allowing and encouraging our children to ask questions, any type of questions under the sun. Expansion of the intellect means the freedom to argue, discuss, engage in discourses with adults thus enabling to develop their own opinions even to the extent of being in contradiction with their opinions. But no, how many parents will tolerate their children expressing themselves without fear in a safe atmosphere where he can air his confusions. A child cannot ask questions to his teachers because no one has time to go beyond the curriculum and at home a more or less similar state prevails that no one has time from their routine chores to answer the confusions of their wards. It can be considered an indulgence of sorts for he had better study and get good grades rather than asking ‘weird questions’ for which parents have no answers. As a compensation for their weakness parents might assume a superior attitude of ‘we know it all’, ‘do as I say’ and ‘don’t ask silly questions’. Parents can shout down their children with their false ‘ego’. Let’s not talk about divinity at all for the moment!
Apparently we want education for our children in a restricted way- education not for blooming of the mind but for degrees and eventually jobs, that too only in difficult times. That is where it all begins and ends at. It completes the circle of ignorance.
To make matters worse, many parents in the name of freedom would leave the choice of career to the girl but make it very clear that the choice has to be restricted to the courses that are available in the city only because ‘we cannot allow her to go out and study!. Mothers will say apologetically that they can allow her as she trusts her but her father will not hear about it and that is beyond her control for she has no say in the matter!’ This is another type of restriction. One girl wanted to do a course that was available only in another city but she was coerced to change her choice leaving her frustrated for life.
So empowerment of girls will not take place with just degrees in the name of education. We must allow them to develop their minds as well, think for themselves, choose and build careers, make choices of their life and tread their own path. There can be no full empowerment with half hearted measures.