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No recourse but discourse

  • Published at 01:05 pm December 13th, 2018
WT, Dec 14, vol 6, Pg 18
Photo: Yeshi Kangrang

Discussing the importance of philosophy in school, an event titled ‘Philosophy in our schools -a necessity, not a luxury,’ was jointly organized by Heritage School and the Edward M Kennedy Centre on the occasion of World Philosophy Day.

One of the prevailing practices among students in the education sector of our country is the tendency of memorization without understanding. Consequences of it are severe as it leaves the students with incompetency in analytical ability or logical reasoning on any particular topic. A relevant example to this argument is the difference between the high pass rate in public exams like SSC or HSC and the number of students with good grades who fail to pass university admission tests which require such competencies. However, Philosophy as a discourse can help students to enrich them with cognitive development, analytical ability, ethical and logical reasoning with knowledge about life. Yet, the importance of philosophy is often underestimated in almost every level of our education system. 

Former professor at Department of Philosophy, University of Dhaka, Galib Ahsan Khan thinks a human being should be introduced to this discourse during his or her childhood. There are three major streams of philosophy - meta-physics, ethics and logic. Currently working as a professor at University Grant Commission (UGC), he believes the last two streams are good enough for the school level. “Logical and ethical tendencies are there since the early childhood age. Given that reality, children should be taught these in school,” he adds.   

Discussing the topic of incorporating philosophy in mainstream education Dr Mark Bartholomew, principal of Heritage School expressed that people’s attitude towards something is highly based on basic philosophical procedures. He says, “Learning physics and getting good grades are certainly important, but in end these features of education are not enough.” 

Ultimately, we have to ask ourselves about the nature of love or enquire whether war is ever justified. It’s not enough that someone tells us the answers, because each  answer will be different. Therefore, Philosophy is integral to our survival in this world,” states Bartholomew.

A ninth grade student of Government Laboratory High School in Dhaka, Ahommed Takbir Araf said, “Last year, I was exposed to philosophy for the very first time. During the span of one year, the best thing to happen to me is that I am now capable of expressing my thoughts in a more structured way than before.”

Ranked as second in Bangladesh Philosophy Olympiad this year, Araf’s favourite philosopher is Aristotle. “I believe that every single man is a philosopher, because every man thinks, even if it’s for one second in life. I will try my best to spread the knowledge of philosophy among the students of our school, so that they can discover the beauty of the subject,” said Araf as he shared his aspiration to open a club based on philosophy. 

While sharing experiences from the last two years of International Philosophy Olympiad, Mohammad Salim Miah, founder of Bangladesh Philosophy Olympiad, said, “Our children are doing well in international platforms, but they could have done better if there was an earlier incorporation of the discourse with the students.”

“Philosophy enriches human beings with the knowledge of history, ethics and logic. This enables them to become argumentative and capable of solving issues with proper logic. And the lack of such discourse at school level is holding us back,” he added grimly. 

Ethics and logic should be incorporated in the school curriculum. It is encouraging, and also optimistic for the nation that Ethics, one of Philosophy’s core parts, has been included in the national curriculum under the title Religion and Morality in primary and secondary levels. 

While conveying his stand in this regard, Galib Ahsan said, “Ethics should not be associated with religion, rather it should be neutral. Morality is something that should be applicable for all human beings, whether he or she is a believer or an atheist.”

The role of family is equally important when it comes to anything related to the next generation. In this regard, Galib Ahsan said, “Parents should be conscious of how they treat their children in matters of the academic sphere as that can also present possible moral crises at such a young age.Essays or leaflets on ‘the necessities of morality and logically thoughtful mindset of children’ should be distributed among parents at the beginning of every school year.” This approach of treating children will prove to be beneficial for them in future. 

The champion of last year’s Bangladesh Philosophy Olympiad, Marzana Hossain Meghla, thinks lessons of philosophy can alter the way one perceives life. “Being acquainted with the notion that different people have different perspectives, I no longer infer negatively when something is not about or not in favour of me.” The ninth grader now fuels herself with motivation even if there's a setback.

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