How can Plato and his Academy help re-imagine today’s education?
Plato was a Greek philosopher born between 428–423 BC. His teacher was Socrates, a great philosopher himself. One of the most famous works of Plato is known as ‘The Republic’. The book is a dialogue between his teacher Socrates and other characters including his brother Adeimantus and Glaucon. The book depicts Plato’s desire to establish a definitive definition of Justice. In order to achieve the desired outcome of justice, he examines human psychology, develops a set of educational practices and puts forth ideas like equal opportunity for women as radical social reforms. Out of all those mentioned above, the focus of this article will revolve around the educational practices suggested by him in order to create a ‘just society’. Plato also is the founder of ‘The Academia’ in ancient Athens. Academia can be considered as the first Institute of higher learning in the western world. Aristotle, the teacher of Alexander, the great was a student of Plato and studied in this academy.
Plato considered Education as the fundamental method to achieve individual as well as social justice. He advises individuals to strive for excellence i.e. to realize the full potential of themselves by acquiring the required knowledge to be just. According to him, no one can be just without knowledge, which holds true even today. He held that social justice can only be achieved when all social classes in society stay in a harmonious relationship. The only way to achieve that is by providing an equal opportunity to education right from an early age in order to be able to compete fairly with each other. Without an equal opportunity to education, an unjust society to bound to get created.
As a modern society of 2016, most of the human race still face social as well as individual injustice, though the reason for the same is known for almost 2500 years. If reasons provided by Plato for this injustice are to be believed, then a deeper look at the current education system may hold the key to a solution.
A country like India can provide a perspective to look at the problems related to education and social injustice. Approximately 35 million youth go for higher education in India each year whereas only about 12–14 million graduate with a degree and join the industry each year. NASSCOM (which represents the Indian software industry) has come out with a finding that 83% of Indian graduates are unemployable in high growth industries. It simply means that though all of them went through the process of education, their education was not adequate enough to equip them with the knowledge needed in the high growth industries. This leads us to the presumption that the provider of the knowledge (i.e. the teachers / the institutes) did not have the required knowledge and infrastructure to impart knowledge effectively. India, as a country has massive deficits of quality teachers and the number, is dipping at an alarming rate. The problem can be solved by a combination of actions which sets a goal/outcome at the outset of the journey of knowledge to make teaching great again and learning more fulfilling yet liberating experience.
OBE (Outcome Based Education) is a model worth considering in the current situation. The core principle of OBE is to put students at the center, let them choose a goal for themselves as an outcome of their educational endeavors and finally let the whole universe conspire to help them in achieving their educational objectives. Education is no more about only knowledge sharing irrespective of an outcome; rather education today stands as a pivotal pillar of the society along with the other pillars like Enterprises (which intend to use the knowledge) and the parents who provide the moral and financial support to pursue education. According to OBE, all of these pillars have to come together, set a goal for education and let the individual pursue it till the goal is achieved. This may be the solution for creating social as well as individual justice in the current society; this may be the modern definition of Plato’s theory of justice.
“Education is teaching our children to desire the right things” — Plato