Humans are prudent in accepting and following well established norms and patterns. This is very much prevalent in the animal kingdom. Animals hardly change their habits and norms but the humans have the potential to break norms for better living. South Asians in particular have been norm and pattern followers but the West has walked beyond the norms and found many innovative products, processes, and systems which would ameliorate the human life.
The myriad of new products the world witnessed during the past five decades emerged from the West. The motor car, ship, air plane (though we claim that king Ravana used an aircraft over ten thousand years ago, we do not have authentic and bona fide evidence to prove the existence of Ravana's aircraft), and the many technological artifacts we use for better living were all born in the West. Many people believe that Japan too introduced new, hi-tech products but this is far from the truth. Japan has not invented new products but has been a great marketer of what the West invented. For instance, the motor cars, radios, televisions, and cameras were invented in the West but the Japanese added many features to these original products which attracted the customer.
Will the future of the world change, or are we already in the process of a great and unprecedented transformation? If so what will be the shape and colour of the new world order? What will be our plight if we continue to follow present norms and conventions, whether we are students or professionals? These are the important issues and questions one has to answer well before embarking on an educational or professional programme.
Let us start with our near past to understand how much the world around us has changed by now and how much it will change. The world in the 1940s and afterwards witnessed two very distinctive political camps: Capitalist and Communist. There was another camp called Socialist which was inclined more towards the communist camp. The communist camp, most unexpectedly, started dissolving in the late 1980s and by now the whole communist camp has disappeared. This paved the way for a single capitalist political camp led by the United States of America and the world feared that the USA would become a single world 'policeman'. However, the capitalist camp also, for reasons not fully explained, began to crumble and the most significant single force that shook the capitalist camp was the global recession during 2007-2009. Many capitalist nations witnessed job losses counted by the millions and had to utilize trillions of reserve dollars to save the dwindling companies.
The world rejoices today for emerging out of the recession but the prudent analysts equate the global recession to the Asian tsunami of 2004. The tsunami brought a light wave of sea water a few metres inland and this was a jovial experience for those who were by the beach. Minutes later the wave receded into the great ocean, opening the sea as a land mass, sometimes a few hundred metres of the ocean appeared as land. People rejoiced and ran into the 'new land' which was the deep sea before. The unfortunate ones did not know that a second scary and disastrous wave was looming. Minutes later the second wave washed many lives into the ocean.
The prudent economists and analysts foretell that the more scary second wave of recession is forming and will 'land' on the already weak capitalist economy soon. With communism and capitalism eliminated, what will be the next economic order? Are we ready for this new economy which will also transform the social order?
Will our conventional educational system be good for the new economic and social order? I see the new educational system that will thrive in the new socio economic order as having a fourth dimension. The present education has three dimensions: Knowledge which makes the learner 'educated' with knowing things. Skills, providing abilities to perform a particular craft like engineering or medicine. The third dimension is attitudes. The current education system places greater emphasis on knowledge and skills and less on forming and creating benevolent attitudes. This is why the world is full of the educated and the 'crafty' whose knowledge and skills can, apart from bringing benefits to the human society, damage the very human base.
The fourth dimension that is already emerging is "Human Values". Education founded on human values is emerging slowly and values will be the blending force or foundation for knowledge and skills. Knowledge and skills are said to be for living and values for life. The new order of education will see learners who are firmly rooted in values (for life) and gaining benevolent knowledge and skills for earning to lead a salubrious life (living).
-Prof Sunanda Degamboda
Dean, Faculty of Management and Finance
South Asian Institute of Technology and Management