Character formation is a cognitive and behavioral process of learning, adapting, and assimilating basic ethical norms and civic values. It is the enculturation of the masses in established social values and personality traits that ultimately leads to sustainable inclusive development. Individual and collective sense of responsibility, honesty, civic sense, responsibility, diligence, discipline, resilience, punctuality, sincerity, justice, integrity, transparency and rational judgment are values universals essential to character building.
Although the family, peer groups, society and the media as agents of socialization play a considerable role in enculturation, educational institutions bear the greatest responsibility in shaping the character of the nation. An educational system has two main functions: one, to equip aspirants with knowledge of the specific field through pragmatic pedagogical practices and a culture of reading; and second, to infuse ethical codes and established beliefs that lead to a better understanding of oneself and one’s environment. Although all education systems across the world basically function in the former, the holistic productivity of a country’s education system is judged by how auspicious it is in the latter.
This is because characterless raw knowledge is a tool of exploitation and persecution. The education system that places little emphasis on character building ends up producing token literates who are not only unable to contribute to development but also prove, in most cases, national responsibilities. Enlightened education cultivates mutually beneficial individuals and collective social traits. It equips students with the cognitive, cultural, social and physical skills necessary for a promising career; refines his personality; and enables them to respond to the demanding dynamics of life. Unfortunately, our education system is way behind on both fronts.
It is almost incompatible with the dynamics and requirements of the time. The national education system built on colonial legacies, outdated curricula, distorted historical narratives, excessive religiosity, and elite-centric approaches cannot equip students with the cutting-edge knowledge base needed to ‘contemporary period. This is evident from the fact that while the world can work wonders in quantum mechanics, AI, virtual reality, the Internet of Things, we are entangled in classical notions of Newtonian physics and Internet connectivity issues. Our education system promotes a herd mentality designed around falsified historical accounts, mythical propositions and conservative approaches to life. It is loaded with colonial heritage and short-sighted rhetoric. The national curriculum, content and moral aspects have been so carefully crafted that they feed ill-founded narratives dear to the ruling elite – a remnant of the colonial legacy.
Meanwhile, character development is a secondary important element in most educational institutions in Pakistan. The traits that forge national character are hardly practiced and professed. Although Islam and ethics are taught in some educational institutions, they are more theoretical than applied. Civic apathy, incompetence, procrastination and fractured parenthood speak to the flaws in education. Moreover, the disturbing trends of intolerance, racism, xenophobia, blind political, ethnic and religious allegiances, political engineering, rampant corruption, terrorism and bigotry are primarily manifestations of a education without character. You have to rethink your existence if you think that only illiterates harm Pakistani society.
If that had been the case, national players and leaders from so-called elite formations would not have taken the country this far. In the context of the moral crisis facing the country, the need for character education is extremely high. We must not lose sight of the bitter reality that our current educational system will fail to meet the needs and tests of modern times. The assimilation of morals and core values of character education into national curricula, educational practices and university culture would go a long way towards producing a population of integrity.
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