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Democracy and education: The inseparable duo

Wajeeha Khalil
The majority of the global populace treasure democracy, yet for many, it still remains an elusive dream. Democracy as representation of the collective will of people cannot simply be functional by merely pushing a button, rather it is a process which the people initiate by conscious decisions and sustain it by subscribing to its principles in theory and practice.
In its modern form, representing the alterations necessitated by the onset of technology and human wisdom, democracy has evolved in accordance with the exigencies of the day. Yet, it just bears striking resemblance to 300BC, when it was first conceived, in ancient Greece. While democracy is sustained through constitutional and bureaucratic means, it requires an auxiliary socio-cultural climate to flourish.
The society must be constitutive of participatory governance, political pluralism, gender equality and an inclusive education system. There exists a reinforcing relationship between democracy and education, as only a learned mind possesses the magnanimity and intellect needed to grasp concepts such as liberty, equality, justice, rights and responsibilities of the state and people.
The democratic system needs a political and critical mass as the public sphere remains to be its social constituency. Democracy, by and large, is moreeducation_1 successful in those societies where the masses are politically conscious and aware of their rights as well as of their duties.
Education and literacy both have a pivotal and transcendental potential to solidify democracy. The relationship between knowledge and power is explicitly addressed by Michel Foucault who posits that knowledge produces a certain type of society. Through his rationale, an education system based on principles of reason and logical thinking is likely to be recurred within the society as well.
On the contrary, if an educational system promotes mediocrity, bigotry, rote learning, siege mentality and intolerance towards other religions and minorities, the results would be disastrous for the country and democratic institutions as the citizenry would be narrow-minded and fanatical, seeing the world through the cynical lens.
Our educational system is anti-democratic and does not promote the democratic system. Instead of impacting any class harmony, it reinforces class divisions and biases, because of the conflicting streams of education, i.e., private, public and madressah education. Democracy is all about the space and encouragement to ask questions and our education system curbs even the tendency to question. Pluralism, co-existence of divergent views and tolerance of the ‘other’ are hallmark of democracies and these don’t find much breathing space here. Democracy and education are two virtues congruent with each other, and if our democratic system reserves strong value for reason and rationality, we can help in establishing a more humane and literate society.

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