Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam




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Q1: What do you mean by Human Values in education?    

A1: Education system today concentrates on providing to its students the skills to do things (which are of economic value).  In other words, it concentrates on providing “How to do” rather than “What to do” or “Why something should be done”.  A result of this is the production of graduates who are neither aware of their surroundings nor of their own self, and face life with difficulty.

The education system does not prepare students for dealing with life. It prepares them only for profession or jobs. They have to learn by themselves to deal with life, which includes examining ones goals, identifying and sorting out conflicts, dealing with relationships in family and friends, understanding society and a mutually enriching relationship with nature. This requires ability to think critically about everyday matters of life.  Education does not address issues of commitment either.

Thus, the education system is failing to develop critical thought which leads to clarity and commitment among its students.  This situation has prevailed for quite some time, but what has made this lacuna more glaring today is the recent reduction in such exposure in early schooling and in family.

Education system must try to develop not just skills but also an understanding of what should be done, and commitment to choose and do what one considers as right.

 

 

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Q2: What do you mean by values or human values?

A2:   Just identifying one’s aspiration is not enough. We need to know how to fulfill our aspirations, how to go about actualizing our goals. Generally, we tend to pursue our goals in variety of ways as per our appraisal and beliefs. We keep on making experiments, learning from these and accordingly improving our understanding. This is how human beings have been moving on, right from the primitive ‘Stone age’ to the present day world of modern science and technology. Complete understanding of human values gives us a definite way to fulfill our aspirations.

Basically all of us are aspiring to be happy and whatever appears conducive to our happiness becomes valuable to us. Values form the basis for all our thoughts, behavior and actions.Once we have known what is valuable to us, these values become the basis, the anchor for our actions. We know what we are doing is right and will lead to the fulfillment of our basic aspirations. Values thus become the source for our happiness, our success, our fulfillment. Without an appropriate value framework, we will not be able to decide whether a chosen action is desirable or undesirable, right or wrong. Hence there is a prime need for correct understanding of the value domain.- Value Education is the input necessary to fulfill  this need. When we live with the correct understanding of values, we are happy in continuity, otherwise we feel deprived, frustrated and unhappy. What are the values that you hold worthy in your life? Have you verified them to be conducive to your happiness? It is important to explore the value domain in sufficient detail through value education. We also need to understand the universality of various human values, because only then we can have a definite and common program for value education. Then only we can be assured of a happy and harmonious human society.

 

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Q3: What does the Human Values as an academic course try to achieve?

A3:  The Human Values course(s) tries to achieve two goals. First to develop a critical ability to distinguish between essence and form or between what is of value and what is superficial, in life.

What makes it difficult is the fact that the ability is to be developed not for a narrow area or field of study, but for everyday situations in life.  It covers the widest possible canvas.

It should be mentioned that frequently people assume that a course on Human Values teaches values.  This assumption is not correct. The course does not teach values but encourages students to discover what is valuable for them.  Accordingly, they should be able to discriminate between valuable and the superficial in real situations in their life.

The second goal of the course is to draw attention to the fact that discrimination leads to commitment.  It is not sufficient to develop the discrimination ability, it is important to act on such discrimination in a given situation.  Therefore, experiments or practical’s are important. The difference is that the laboratory is everyday life, and practical’s are how you behave and work in it. One of the foci in the course is or needs to be on observations which are mainly on the self, the other and relationships. Such observations and their analysis would be shared and discussed in the group discussions. Faculty member’s role is in pointing to essential elements to help in sorting them out from the surface elements (in pointing to the basic principles under which incidents take place, so that different incidents can be understood and explained). The group discussions would also provide support to a student in performing actions commensurate to his / her preferences born out of his/ her understanding. Hopefully, this would lead to development of “commitment” for behaving and working based on one’s values.

 

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Q4: Human Values are like counseling on how to become a “good” individual. It is a highly desirable activity. But why is it a part of academics?

A4:      Goal of education is to develop not just skills (or questions of how) but also ability to decide on questions of what and why. The latter questions are extremely important, and they have been left out of modern education system - not just in India but throughout the world. As a result, we find that students are ill-prepared to think about and face such questions in real-life. Such a lacuna is increasingly being noticed in education throughout the world. In fact, this lacuna is said to be the reason behind increasing violence in family and society, and exploitation of nature.

There is also a difference between counseling and a Human Values course. Counseling is usually done when there is a problem being faced by a student and he seeks help. Counselor suggests a course of action to the student, in other words, gives do’s and don’ts in the situation. Human Values course, on the other hand, is very different. It is not in response to a specific problem being faced by a student. Its subject matter is general, namely, life itself. The desired outcome is that the student develops ability to deal with different life situations -and thereby leads satisfying and happy life in accordance with his values (or human values).

 

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Q5: An academic course should discuss philosophies, and theory of ethics or human values.

A5:        To address the view that academics only deals with “high theory”, let us consider the example of computer science.  There is a well developed theory of algorithms and computability. There is also a body of knowledge on software engineering and program verification. However, the first course in computing is not on any of the above, it is on programming. In the first course, the student learns how to think procedurally and write programs. Even though there are many alternative programming languages, only one of them is picked. In fact, while teaching that programming language, comparisons with other languages are avoided so that the student does not get confused. The second course on data structure is similar. While teaching the course, a teacher may refer to concepts which would be covered in future courses, but little else.  A student majoring in Computer Science does full courses later on Algorithms, Theory of computation, Principles of Programming Languages, (Program Verification) and Software Engineering. Thus, the first course exposes and explores, even develops a practical skill.

Teaching of Human Values course may follow a similar line.  The first course would draw the attention of the student to his own goals, conflicts in them (if any), to his relationships with family and friends, to roles and links in society, and relationship with nature. Concepts and a terminology (like a programming language) is provided. The focus is on making student connect with these things in his/her real life.  The above course can be followed by several theoretical courses as well as Humanities Project(s).

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Q6: What about evaluation in the Human Values course for the purpose of grading?

A6: To As you know, there is only pass-fail grade in the HV course. The faculty mentor know the level of discrimination ability and commitment of every student in the discussion during the lecture and practice session, but the pass grade is given based on the seasonal examination and regular university examination (the details of course content and evaluation system is available with “ syllabus” link at main page of AKTU website).

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Q7: A course should have regular work including home assignments. There should also be reading material etc. Does the Human Values course have these?

A7: The Human Values course at AKTU Lucknow does give home assignments to students in asking them to watch themselves, and observe how they interact with their friends. For example, when do they get angry, how well do they utilize physical resources, etc.? They are expected to share their observations in the class. However, not everyone does it to the same degree. It should also be mentioned that the students study today when they perceive that a course or subject is very important from the point of view of job, or because of grade point average. Human Values course does not qualify in the student's mind on either of these two counts. On the other hand, there is a lot of work pressure from other courses. As a result, students give it a lower priority, and do not take their home assignments in HV that seriously. The home assignments on the self are not easy to do either. It is not something you sit down to do! However, it is possible to give more structured (and less difficult) home assignments. For example, one can give readings on which students can be asked to write a critical summary. These can be discussed in class, where some students may be asked to present or lead the discussion. Parts of movies may also be shown, on which discussions can be organized.

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Q8: Would there be a lot of variation in the HV discussion groups ? Not all faculty might be able to conduct the discussion along the lines you mention.

A8: This is a new course, different from all others. It would take sometime to develop it. Even when a new course in engineering is designed, there is a lack of teachers and suitable material. The first time the course is taught, it is taught experimentally.  That is how the teachers get trained, and textbooks get written.

By running the course for 7 years at AKTU Lucknow a fair amount of material has been developed. It can be further refined and made available to the faculty mentors and students.

It has also been observed that regular meetings of faculty mentors to prepare for each class are extremely helpful to the faculty mentors in conducting discussions.

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Q9: What has been the experience of running Human Values course at any other Institute?

A9: At IIIT-Hyderabad the course is evolving in a positive way. In the first year, my group discussion with scenarios ran quite well in the first semester. My student group was quite forthcoming. However, as this was a completely new area for me, it was difficult at times to sort out the issues.  When some students argued why show-off is important, it was difficult to draw attention to the essential aspects of the situation.  As the semester progressed, I started getting a hang of it.  But in the second semester, somehow the group ran out of steam.

In the second year, group discussions went on fine. In the second semester that year, the discussions ran a little better as we were able to focus on the self and sharing of experiences.t can be further refined and made available to the faculty mentors and students.

The third year has run quite well for me and both semesters have been satisfying. The second semester has allowed us to focus on sharing of experience, and it came out during course feedback that the students appreciated this aspect quite clearly.

the first year it was conducted, there were many prejudices among senior undergraduates students because of which they made fun of the 1st year students regarding the course. The environment has undergone such a major change now that the 4th year students (who teased the then 1st year students, and who themselves have not gone through the Human Values course, even they talk positively about the course. All the three batches who have gone through the courses are affected. Many students have been sensitized to a degree that they have become much more aware of their surroundings and this is reflecting in their behavior and work slowly but sweepingly.

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Q10: An academic course should discuss alternative approaches. An academic course should discuss philosophies, and theory of ethics or human values ?

A10: The goal is to develop discrimination ability and commitment. Value education is an extremely good vehicle for these goals. It does not refer to God, to scriptures, to religions, or any such thing. It says that one should be able to decide oneself using sahaj svikriti or natural acceptance within oneself.  If there are alternative methods which can be effective, one can experiment and try them.

By running the course for 7 years at AKTU Lucknow a fair amount of material has been developed. It can be further refined and made available to the faculty mentors and students.

It has also been observed that regular meetings of faculty mentors to prepare for each class are extremely helpful to the faculty mentors in conducting discussions.

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Q11: What are the impact on young students in engineering?

A11:  The course  was included as a compulsory part of the academic curriculum at AKTU Lucknow in the very first attempt to introduce it on a such large population . It has led to a major rethinking among the second year students. They have been reflecting on what their goals are, the place of money in life, the joy one derives in relationship, and in seeking knowledge and not merely on jobs and the money they get out of it. They have become relaxed in their self, and become more sensitive to relationships with their friends and family, and regarding society and nature. After that the course is adopted by around 36 universities in india and abroad .

 

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Q12:  What are the impact on the people from different walks of urban life?

A12: People from different walks of life are affected by the workshop. Many realize the lack of time they give to their family in their relentless pursuit of wealth, and even more importantly, the way they behave with their children, spouse or old parents.

Many such people are affected profoundly and come back to further workshops with their family members, again and again.

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Q13:  Is it help full for Farmers and rural folk?

A13. Rural folk today are in a state of demoralization. They are being told that they are backward, and need to be developed; that they are ignorant and do not know what is good for them; that they need to study English and IT without which there is no future. The present political structure and political parties has led to a breakdown of the community decision making. High powered marketing along with TV has led to a loss of community life and led them to yearn for Pepsi and the "luxury of city life". They do not realize what they possess - clean air, clean water, and a stronger possibility of a wholesome life with fulfilling relationship in family and community.

Experience of rural people who attend the workshop has been that they feel a sense of empowerment regarding themselves and what they can do at their own place. Rather than treating farming as an unworthy activity, they see value in what they are doing. The importance and necessity of physical labour for all, comes out as a corollary.

Established business men who have done the workshop have taken up sustainable or "zero-input" farming where all the required resources for farming is generated from farm land itself. Several experiments in renewable energy are also in full swing. They are deriving happiness out of farming and physical labour.

 

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Q14: Values are relative, they may even be personal. How can Human Values course be taught when the subject matter itself is relative?

A14: Let us take an example. There might be a society in which beggars are killed, another in which they are cared for and provided opportunity to lead respectable life.

Q: But you have chosen a strong example. First one is clearly bad!

A: I thought you said values are relative. Are you accepting that they are absolute (at least sometimes or at least in this case)!

To state it in terms of Value based Education, ethnical values (or practices to be more precise) may be relative, but human values are not. Human values are innate and universal, that is, they are present in every human being and are the same. But this is only a proposal, there is no insistence on you to accept it. Everyone can verify this on the basis of his Natural Acceptance.

Coming back to the course, the goal is not to give values, they would be discovered by the student in himself or herself. The goal is to develop their level of consciousness, their level of self awareness which leads to development of discrimination ability in the student. As part of such a development, the student discovers (or re-discovers) values. For example, even in the scenario regarding beggars, the faculty mentor need not comment on righteousness of action no matter how obvious the answer might seem. In the course, we follow the golden rule of avoiding speaking on do’s and don’ts.  So the faculty mentor need not say one action is wrong and the other right. Instead, one has to help the student develop his self-awareness which in turn results into the ability to discriminate.

 

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Q15:  What the workshop of Human Values and Professional Ethics is not?

A15:(a)  The Workshop is not a course in moral science. It does not tell you DOs and DONTs. It does not tell you what you should become, or what you should do. (It only seeks to connect you with your Self and encourages you to seek answers within self.)

       (b) The workshop does not talk about rewards and punishments in an after-world. (The goal is happiness here and now. It puts forward the proposition that the basic human values are inherent and intact in all of us, what is needed is to be aware of them. When we follow what is innate in us, we derive joy and happiness. The listener is free to do self investigation and self exploration and come to his own conclusions.)

        (c) The workshop does not say physical facilities are unimportant and must be shunned. It rather talks of prosperity in every family. (It says that there is place for facilities in life and encourages people to fix their place in their own life. This also requires separating needs from desires generated by TV and consumerist culture, where the irony is that accumulation of wealth is accompanied not by a sense of fulfilment but by a sense of depravation, The workshop presents this aspect forcefully.)

        (d) .The workshop is not the representation of an organization or society. It does not insist on any specific faith or any specific belief. (It only proposes and asks its listeners to investigate and explore into their own inner self and connect to what is innate and intact in all of them as something which is universal, natural and all-fulfilling for them as well as others. They can do this irrespective of their own religion or faith or beliefs.)

 

 

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Q15.0: What are the experiences of earlier Workshops of Human Values and Professional Ethics?

A15.0:  The approach is holistic, covering a large canvas, and it has made a tremendous impact on people from different walks of life. Some experiences are given below. Although, the concerns of each of the groups is different, what they realize at the end is that there is a need for human values and relationships and that is founded upon the knowledge in the self.

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 Q16: What are the basic guide lines of human values ?

A16: Now that we have identified the need for value education, let us also visualize certain effective and widely acceptable guidelines which will enable the introduction of value education in the present system. Given below are broad guidelines to decide on what would qualify as an appropriate input in value education:

Universal :

Whatever we study as value education has to be universally applicable to all human beings and be true at all times and all places. In addition, it need not restrict itself to a certain sect, creed, gender or nationality etc. So it has to deal with universal human values.

Rational :

It has to be amenable to reasoning and not based on dogmas or blind beliefs. It cannot be a set of sermons or Do’s and Don’ts.

Natural and Verifiable :

We want to study something that is natural to us. Being natural means, it is acceptable in a natural manner to all human beings. When we live on the basis of such values that are natural to us, it leads to fulfilment, leads to our happiness and also is conducive to other people we interact with, as well as with nature. We also would like to verify these values

ourselves, i.e. we don’t want to assume something just because it is being stated here or written in a book, rather, each one of us will want to verify these to find out whether they are true for us. This has to be done by both checking for validity within ourselves, as being naturally acceptable as well as something which we can implement in our living and observe its outcome to be fulfilling.

All Encompassing :

Value education is not merely an academic exercise. It is aimed at transforming our consciousness and living. Hence, it has to permeate into all dimensions of our living, namely, thought, behavior, work and understanding/realization; as well as all levels, namely, individual, family, society and nature.

Leading to Harmony :

Finally, value education has to enable us to be in harmony within and in harmony with others. Hence, when we live on the basis of these values, we start understanding that it will

 

Prof Vinay Kumar Pathak