Sunday Special: Reason for Education & Governance failing to Create the ‘Shrestha’

The Indian word ‘Shrestha’s commonly perceived to mean the best. But it is something more, it is not only being the epitome of goodness, integrity but also, includes physical and mental prowess. It denotes the acme of human beings. So, instead of using the other terms, I shall use Shrestha as it is.

Where are we going wrong? Our basic stupidity is to glibly believe ‘all people are equal’ and ‘a person is ‘good’ and ‘right’ for leadership, merely because more people voted for him or he got more marks in exams!

Today, our pillars of education, democracy, and governance are based on these false premises. We have ignored the age-old and time-tested wisdom of Bharat that ‘people are not equal’ and that literally, a ‘good’ person, a Shrestha, a Bharati is clearly defined as all those, workers or leaders, who are in “sur”, i.e. in harmony, because they are all “striving to become good, better, best, in and thru’ their daily vocation and life, by ethically working for good of society”. Only such a ‘good’ person as a leader, will ‘know’ and be ‘interested’ in working for good of society as a whole

Thus, education and governance must inspire us to ‘know’ and help ‘build our ability’, to strive for the ‘best’, by choosing an appropriate ‘vocation’, where we can excel and work for good of society. And, the process of schooling must be different for different people so as to identify and prepare us for different vocations in harmony with our inherent tendencies, character, competence.

We must recognize that there are very, very few ‘good’ persons, men of wisdom fit to make long-term policies for the sustainable good of a nation. Society has to discover a ‘good’ system to identify such persons and request them to be our guides, acharyas, mentors. And, we know from actual experience that the modern ideas of democracy or teacher-education is not at all the appropriate system to choose and create ‘good’ leaders who have the character to work for good of society.

So, Academia and Governance, supported by spiritually enlightened leaders of faith-groups, and sincere NGO’s working in the field of value education, etc. must take this responsibility for character-building and identifying ‘good’ persons to be our leaders, professionals, teachers, etc. and putting them in policy and decision-making positions.

The problems that Democracy creates: Since, quantity and not quality matters in democracy, we’re too obsessed with talking, thinking and planning schemes for servicing the poor, the illiterate, the villagers, the workers, just because they are the largest majority and our vote banks! The reality is that the more our political leaders and bureaucracy talk and plan for upliftment of the poor, the more the poor remain poor and miserable – “Garibi hatao”( remove poerty) has been the slogan for half a century, but garibi remains. Education and literacy for all is our slogan, we push everyone into learning the 3R’s; but not only does illiteracy remain, but we also produce unlimited numbers of unemployable graduates who have no ability or skill to stand on their own feet. So, they remain clerical job-seekers. Education, training, governance, have no focus on making us ‘good’ citizens or making us job-creators, not mere job-seekers’.

Modern systems are not creating the Shrestha: We forget that only a ‘good’ person and a leader will have spontaneous feelings of love, care, concern for all equally and the spirit of working for good of others. But our 3 R’s education and governance have had no plans and have failed miserably to create the ‘good’. In their absence, we have self-centered leaders who feel great by giving freebies and subsidies, instead of educating and equipping the vast masses, to be able to stand on their feet.

Schooling focuses on ‘information’ not on absorbing & assimilating ‘knowledge’: Education today doesn’t focus on ‘character-building’ and ‘nation-building’ assimilation of ideas, values, ideals. Moreover, the same ‘content’, which has no direct contribution towards becoming ‘good’, is taught and communicated as information to everyone, irrespective of the fact that people are unequal and therefore need different ‘content’ for their different vocations. The result is we get self-centered politicians and citizens, focused on personal growth, by hook or crook!

People aren’t Equal: We believe in a democracy that believes that people are equal and so, everyone is free to do and be whatever he wishes to be, irrespective of their inherent character, tendencies, competence. Not all of us are equal in character and competence, and the proportion of our selfishness and unselfishness differs widely. I may be an unskilled laborer but could be a very good and unselfish leader; I may be very good in learning but I could be very selfish, and so on. Ultimately, a Shrestha, the elite and role model for society, is he who is striving to move from selfishness to unselfishness, in and through’ his daily vocation and life. Of course, not all are equipped to be fair and just and only those who have the spirit of unselfishness more than selfishness should be nurtured as Srestha, leaders of society, in their respective vocation.

Whatever be our competencies and skills, teaching or farming, leader or worker, the common focus of schooling must be to educate and train us all to be enlightened citizens, the Shrestha, in our respective vocation, having the spirit of work as worship and spirit of love, care, and concern for all.

Since people are not equal, a common general education, bereft of character-building, cannot create the Shrestha. Schooling must recognize differences in students and allow them to learn and grow in their respective areas of interest, and nurture and educate them differently, to find an appropriate vocation or meaningful occupation, e.g.

  • A very few are good in learning so they should be trained to be in research, innovation, design, long-term planning, problem-solving, academia, teaching, etc.
  • Some have good leadership qualities and can be good at administering and managing.
  • Some are good in sports, computers, music, drama, communication, and various new opportunities now opening-up
  • Some are good as Result-producers – entrepreneurs, businesses, traders, farmers.
  • The vast majority are good as skilled and unskilled workforce, etc.

 Knowing this reality, we have to think of education, training, etc. in a way where education helps us to grow into a vocation in harmony with our respective inherent characteristics. Education merely for ‘information’, which Google can now provide if at all it is of any relevance, merely to get a certificate, degrees, etc. is no longer needed. Schooling must now recognize the different needs of people and focus on knowledge that can be assimilated and applied for nation-building and creating enlightened citizens and leaders, the Shrestha.

Conclusion: We seem to have forgotten a basic principle, ‘whatever the leaders do, that people follow’! No organization or nation can be ethical, efficient and effective, until and unless the top leader and leadership are Shrestha. Schooling must identify and nurture those who are fit to be the Shrestha, i.e. those who strive for becoming more and more unselfish, who strive for continuous improvement in character, in quality at work, and have intellectual honesty, openness, self-control, and have the willingness to work for good of society.

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