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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Education to awaken leadership

R Manandhar

If we want a better country, we need our people to become leaders of their lives and their society

Does education produce leaders? The answer could be `yes' and `no'. If education helps to solve societal problems, it is `yes'; if not, it is `no'. Every year, we hear about break out of diarrhoeal diseases in Bajura, food scarcity in Karnali, flood devastation in Tarai districts, problems of waste disposal in cities, among others. What is the role of edu cation in responding to these prob lems? Is there any change in the way problems are addressed since more and more people are getting educated?

We know what normal ly happens when a problem arises. People become anxious and start asking for support from the government and NGOs.As usual, government mechanism is so sluggish that by the time it responds, people would already have suffered a lot. And there is lots of criticism about the negligence and inefficiency . But once the problem is temporarily gone, everyone forgets everything.

Even media coverage is limited to when the problem is intense. My supposition is that if education awakens leadership in people, they should be able to feel the problem and think for a change.The question is not only about societal problems but also management in organi sations. Peter Singe quotes Edwards Deming in his management classic The Fifth Discipline, "We will never transform our prevailing system of management without transforming our prevailing system of education." Deming further says, "The relation between a boss and subordinate is the same as that of a teacher and student. The teacher sets the aims, to which the student responds.

The teacher has the answer, the student works to get the answer. Students know when they have succeeded because the teacher tells them. By the time all children are 10, they know what it takes to get ahead in school and please the teacher -a lesson they carry forward through their careers to please bosses while they fail to improve the system that serves customers."
American economists Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis find the social relationship in schools mirroring hierarchical division of labour in the work place. In both places, motivation is extrinsic -in schools you get grades and at workplace you get pay and promotion.
Our education system mainly focuses on reproduction of knowledge. Stale knowledge is ineffective in making a change. A live example is that knowing bribery is wrong does not stop it from happening. Ability to think is more important.We hear teachers complain that students are copying answers from class notes, books and now from the internet.

My question is, why give questions to which answers can be copied from somewhere? Why not ask questions that require original and individual thinking?The other important power of a human being is `feeling'.
This is an important factor for leadership. Democrats in our country are against militarisation of civilians, but our school system itself resembles martial arrangement. Without feelings, how will educated population think for their communities?

They would prefer escaping to new places. Nepal's education is producing cheap labour for rich countries.
If we want a better country , we need our people to become leaders of their lives and their society. Education can do this, but it needs a shift from the present system of overloading information to encouraging people to think and feel freely. Hence, as Deming advises, "Education needs to stress on love rather than fear, curiosity rather than an insistence on `right' answers, learning rather than controlling."

(The author is a leadership trainer and consultant associated with `Kabule -The Wise Leader'.He can be contacted through

source: The Himalayan Times, 3 April 2011