To many, the word "education", instantaneously, brings the picture of classrooms, blackboards, benches and tables, students in uniforms. Adding to these are the vivid images of piles of books and scattered copies lying in front of weary faces, and many more that characterise a "traditional school".
"An educated person is one who can tackle the problems of the society," said Mr. Mustafizur Rahman, the managing director of a private enterprise. "We live in a society which has, in my opinion, grown rough and harsh. But, one cannot escape this society and its realities. Hence, a truly educated person is the one who can handle all the problems that one confronts in the society, and remove the obstacles ahead to move forward along the path of life." Hence, Rahman concludes that true education also includes acquiring the quality of tactfulness.
Every human being is more or less influenced by what they see and experience, which result in the formation of consequential ideas and the embodiment of these in their mind as "facts". But these are not necessarily the truths of life, civilisation and its elements. In case of Mr. Mustafiz, may be his haste and hurry in his professional life have sown these seeds in his mind, the result of which is the way he thinks. But we would certainly not claim his proposition either to be right or wrong because the statements people make regarding "education" are mostly normative. value judgement is essential.
Apart from acquiring skills for survival, there may be other meanings of education. Morality is considered by some to be a quality that makes a person "educated". "Life without virtue is equivalent to living in the blackhole of ignorance," informs a thoughtful student, Tanvir. Submerged in the philosophies of Aristotle Plato and others, Tanvir thinks that the aim or telos (a Greek word) of life is "virtue" and hence, education preaches, rather that teaches, virtue and morality. This further raises the question -- how much effectively and at the same time voluntarily, the ideals of morality are implemented by those who truly believe in them, because without implementing them in real life, these would remain trapped inside pages of books just as meaningless concepts.
Another individual, Simon, a student of English literature, said: "I believe true education lies in the ability to contemplate the world and society and find out their inner meaning. An educated person should have the ability to distinguish between ugliness and beauty and justice and injustice that colour the society into different shades. This does not necessarily mean that he or she would immediately go forward to correct the flaws of the civilisations. A similar thought provoking answer was given by Nawab, a student of Philosophy, who said, "Education begins with the recognition of ignorance."
No matter how diverse meanings of "education" can be arrived at by interrogating people, the society will continue to follow a certain common way. The way being the tradition of attending schools and some other institutions and acquiring degrees to qualify for some jobs. But Mr Shafiq, a high school graduate, informed us about his education life in a different way. "After completing high school, I gave up institutional education and devoted myself to the study of various subjects that interested me. From biology, physics, mathematics, to astronomy, I've read lots. But throughout the fifteen years beginning from the day I stepped out of high school, I followed my own routine, fixed up my own courses - took all the responsibilities myself altogether. But what I've done requires a lot of courage to do. I do not have any degree or certificates and hence I'm not eligible for any formal occupation. But only I know what kind of knowledge I possess." With a brief smile, he went on to say, "It is hard for many to believe what I did and some stare at me and consider me insane and comment saying that I've spoiled my life. But I never regretted my decision. But not all people can take rare steps like me because I am blessed with a huge ancestral inheritance of which I was the sole heir."
Undoubtedly, there are many people who even did not ever hear about a case like that of Mr Shafiq's. There do exist, although in insignificant number, people who tend to go against the normal trend of the crowd and discover new ways of acquiring education that are totally unlike the one prevalent in the society in this 21st century. But if we go back hundreds and thousands of years, then we would find that people who made fundamental inventions and discoveries, now included in academic syllabuses and textbooks, had no formal education as there were no systems of schools, colleges or universities. The foundation of what has evolved into the "university" today was laid down by Plato as the "The Academy", which managed to survive for 932 years in various forms. Moreover, even after the formation of the societal system of institutional education, many of the people to whom we owe much for their contributions towards the development of what we call "education" received no benefit from the system, yet gave so much to the system itself. For an example, we need not go far enough but look into the biography of Kazi Nazrul Islam.
Obviously one cannot say what would be the true meaning of "education" and what is the most ideal method of attaining it. These matters should be left to individuals to decide for themselves.