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OP-ED: Is our education making us happier?

  • Published at 07:52 pm August 21st, 2020
e learning education
Photo: BIGSTOCK

Knowledge is a journey, not a destination 

The other day, I received a bunch of happiness tips that had been going around in the corporate social media environment. 

Those tips are taught by a Harvard teacher who teaches positive psychology. The subjects focus on happiness, self-esteem, and motivation for providing the students the tools to succeed and face life with more joy.

Let me cite some of the tips: Thank God for everything you have (meaning gratitude), practice physical activity (exercise), face your challenges (courage), be nice to other people (humility), take care of your posture (health), listen to music (meditation), what you eat has an impact on you (health and nutrition), develop a good sense of humour (ventilate).

There were more, but I thought I would stick these ones only.

Harvard tips. Very wise. Deep and very self-awakening. And when an institution like Harvard comes up with these words, many would certainly give importance and perhaps would also try to follow them.

I had a different thought when I read the tips. For thousands of years, the yogis as well as all the prophets in history have been saying all this to people across the world. 

These words aren’t new to humanity, but we haven’t been listening to the wise men of antiquity. When an institution like this happens to say these, we all get excited.

But what are the reasons that have created our unhappiness? 

What led us to think, for a university, that the time has now come to teach positive psychology to the students? 

Into the rat race

To my mind, over the past few decades, institutions like Harvard, fand or that matter, all universities, have been creating job-seekers who would, after completing their education, hop into the rat race of proving themselves as skilled professionals in the commercial world. 

These institutions create an educated populace who are essentially meant to join that rat race of happiness that ultimately creates all kinds of unhappiness.

Now let’s go back to schools and colleges. What are these schools and colleges teaching the children? They are telling them to score ridiculously high and get themselves admitted into the best universities of the country or of the world to become the best professionals of the world. 

In my school and college, our teachers taught us to compete with my friends, be better than the other. We grew up with the psychology of being better than the people around us. 

And when we became professionals, the same competition remained -- we were competing, “rat racing” against our colleagues.

This seeds of this rat race are sown at a very early age, and continue throughout university life.

Then, in our professional life, the companies are also competing with each other. 

Every company has to be the best and the employees will also have to play their roles in the process.

The sense of competition is stressful, a feeling which irrecoverably imprints itself on human minds if he or she carries it for a long time. 

We harbour this sense of happiness and, in the end, we become a bunch of successful but unhappy and unsatisfied people.

Take institutions such as IBA (Institute of Business Administration), for example. Our children are racing in hoards to study business administration, hoping to get a great job right after they complete their graduation. 

However, in reality, everyone is not getting their much-coveted jobs, and are falling into an abyss of stress and unhappiness.

Despite this fact, the institutions keep pressing our children to study what they are teaching to become happy in life.

Does it depend on the individual?

Yes, we may argue by saying that happiness depends on the individual and how that individual utilizes the education in his or her personal life. Yes, education helps us to think more intelligently, and after that, we form our own individual worlds in our entities. 

And for a country like ours, education acts as the vehicle of emancipation for the masses in deep poverty. 

Yes, if we educate a farmer, he or she can produce better and earn better. Their stress is poverty and hunger; they don’t care about their mental health.

And yes, for billions across the world, happiness is to earn a handsome income. 

I believe the institutions of higher education now realize the fact that they shouldn’t only teach the students to chase money; money is an essential part of life, but satisfaction and happiness are perhaps more important than that. 

However, the companies need to understand this. They must also create an atmosphere for professionals in which they can perform happily and enjoy their work.

The research has defined happiness as a state of high mental well-being in which people “feel good and function well.” 

I also heard someone saying that happiness is a way of travel, not a destination. 

If my education and orientation are only showing me the destination, I will forget to travel and earn the true knowledge that I need to feel good and function well.

My humble proposition to all the teachers and institutions across the world would be to turn the textbook or classroom education into a vehicle for knowledge. Seeking knowledge is a journey, not a destination; it never ends. 

If we can inspire students or professionals to seek knowledge, there may not be an unhappy lot in the world.

Ekram Kabir is a yogi, a story-teller, and a communications professional. His other works can be found on ekramkabir.com.

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