The focus of this second article of the series on the indispensable role of education in national recovery and development is on the question, “What is education?” Or, “Who is an educated person?” The question of who is an educated person is an important one because there are all kinds of ideas as to what education is and who is an educated person. Therefore this article will seek to answer, as succinctly as possible the question, “Who is an educated person?” The introductory article on national independence and the role of education in it observed the following key points:
What is independence? The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines independence as “freedom from political control by other countries,” This definition is about political freedom or national independence whereby a country declares itself independent of other countries or freed from political control by other countries. It is achieved when a country or a group of people can manage their own affairs (political, economic and social) without interference from others. That is what Liberian gained in 1847.
Since Liberia declared herself independent in 1847, she has been slow in actualizing the dreams and aspirations of her founding fathers, to be the beckon of light to the then “dark” continent of Africa by converting the African peoples to the Christian faith. She has neither done much evangelism nor has she led the way for socio-economic advancement for other African countries to follow; rather she been lacking behind in these areas though she contributed immensely towards the political emancipation of other African countries.
The civil war (1989-2003) exacerbated the slow progress to human resource, economic, social and infrastructural development of Liberia. In fact she lost much of the already little and slow progress made.
One of the said things that have happened to our educational system as a society is the invasion of corruption. Over decades corruption has come in, grown and taken deep roots and will take concerted efforts and years to defeat and marginalize it. All Liberian sectors are to blame to a lesser or greater degree for this national failure.
The well known visionary and innovative scholar, Nicholas Negroponte has noted: “No matter what global problem you are dreading… the solutions will always include education, never is it without an education component and sometimes cannot be done without education.”
The question “who is an educated person” implies the purpose of education. The word education has all sorts of meanings and connotations. Its origin, educare, means to lead out. Education occurs when, knowledge, skills and habits are formed, through teaching, training and research, usually transferred from one person or generation to another. It always involves both teaching and learning. Another definition of education is any experience that has a formative influence on a person is a form of education.
Education can be formal. Formal education is usually well structured and involves learning lots of theories and formulae. It can be informal like the poro or sandi societies or apprenticeship by observing and doing (practical).
Whatever form it takes the overall purpose or objective of education is to cultivate competence, efficiency, and to build character.
Martin Luther King, Jr. sees the purpose of education as two-fold: (1) utility—to make people useful and to be able to contribute to the wellbeing of society; and (2) character—to instill lasting values in people. Lasting values include putting God first, integrity (honesty, fairness to self and others), hard work, sharing the good things of life (God’s blessings) with others, and respecting the feelings, opinions and rights of others. Competence and efficiency without character or morals could be dangerous. A trained mind without morals could be the worst criminal! That person could use his/her well developed mind for dishonorable purposes! For example, some of the IT gurus are Cyber criminals (rogues)!
Education is not learning everything but learning how to learn. So a sound education aims at competence, efficiency, creativity, initiative, and possessing lasting values of a divine-influenced and directed life, and seeking the welfare of others and society in general. A well educated person is one who is equipped to live a better life and to help others live better lives.