The word ‘Democracy’ has its roots in the Greek term ‘demokratia’ that means ‘rule by the people’. It is a political system in which rule of the people is supreme. For the successful functioning of the democracy, proper education of its citizens is highly required. Only the educated and well informed citizens can make apt decisions for the proper functioning of the democracy. In words of Franklin D Roosevelt, “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. Thus, the real safeguard of democracy is education”.
Democracy in order to be reality and a way of life, has to be introduced from the very beginning of education and its values need to be practiced in educational institutions. It is a form of government in which there prevails the rule of majority. It is government of the people, for the people and by the people. This is a political connotation of the term democracy. Socially, it connotes absence of all distinctions based on caste, class, creed, religion, birth, religion, language etc. Everyone is guaranteed fundamental rights, and equality of opportunities is given to all for the fullest development of personality. Thus, it is social justice which is central to the understanding of the democracy. Dignity of individual is accorded a primacy in it. In other words, there exists a paramount faith in the worth of the common man. It is an order in which every individual gets limitless opportunities to blossom according to his/her potentialities and in which power and responsibilities are shared on a mutual basis without any confrontation and conflict.
There is an inseparable connection between democracy and education. It cannot be thought of in segregation from the spectrum of education. Bernard Shaw mentions the value of education in a democracy by saying “Democracy implies election of the corrupt few by the ignorant many. Therefore, education is the major means to enrich the strengths and overcome the weakness of the people. It is also a means for the widespread diffusion of democratic values”.
It is crystal clear that democracy can function properly only if all its citizens are properly educated. The principles of democracy should reflect in aims, curriculum, methods of teaching, administration and organisation of the schools and colleges. Education in a democracy is meant not for a microscopic minority but for a macroscopic majority. Its main objective is to produce democratic citizens who can not only understand objectively the plethora of social, political, economic and cultural problems but also form their own independent judgement on these complicated problems.
Education must inculcate the spirit of tolerance and ignite the courage of convictions among the citizens. It enables them to realise their hidden potentialities fully so that they can contribute fully to the success of democracy. Since democratic education absolutely favours maximum individual development, curriculum in a democracy should be flexible so that it can cater to the diverse tastes and temperaments, aptitudes and abilities, needs and interest of the pupil. Further it is essential that democratic curriculum should take into account the local conditions and environmental demands. There should be a provision for inclusion of vocational skills in democratic curriculum.
Since democratic education de-emphasises excessive mechanisation and indoctrination, it encourages pupil’s participation in teaching-learning process. It provides ample scope to think and reflect. Therefore, democratic trend gives rise to pupil’s active participation, enquiry, judgement power and thinking. Democracy ensures discipline through cooperative activities of children. Discipline in democratic education is based on the conviction of doing right thing in the right manner and at the right moment. Success of democracy also depends largely on the teacher – his/her outlook, attitude and the way of life. The teacher occupies an important place as he/she is the best medium for spreading democratic principles and ideals in the school and society. He/she is an agent of change and a facilitator of democratic culture in the educational institutions.
If we look into the early history of India, one finds that in ancient India education was modelled on the Gurukula system in which emphasis was placed on the direct relationship between the guru and shishya. Wide range of subjects was covered and focus was on the overall development of the shishyas. But the present Indian education system has failed to focus on the overall development of the individuals. It is ailing with number of issues like increase in dropout rate, producing rote learners etc. It does not generate or fortify the type of knowledge that is relevant to the changing needs of Indian society. There is need to inculcate necessary value framework in our education system in order to take country to the higher level of human development. For the progress, the country needs committed youth who accord priority to the national interest than to the personal interest.
Educational institutions should now shift their focus from rote learning and cramming information to the understanding of the basic concepts, applying them in the practical world and focusing on the overall development of the children. These institutions should act as replica of community where democratic ideals are not only taught theoretically but also are practically done through its multifarious activities. In all, they should serve as the institutions of change and responsibility towards the democracy. Both at the leadership level as well as at the public level, education act as the vehicle of bringing well informed decisions which would inflect the knowledge and conscience of the decision makers.