What Is Education About?

I did not intend to write about education today. I was going to write more on The Leadership Journey, but a small incident made me change my mind.

While I was driving in today, a Mercedes parked at the entrance to our building. I waited for the owner, the boss, to alight from the car, as his driver held the door open for him deferentially. The old man sat there in the car, cool as cucumber, talking on his phone, not bothered about the fact that he was holding up traffic. I moved my car around, parked it, and when I came back, I noticed that he was still sitting there, making a second call. It was only when I told him that he was holding up the traffic did he reluctantly alight from the car.

As I walked off, steaming, I asked myself the following question for possibly the one hundredth time: what is education all about? 

Evidently the man was financially successful. Else, he would not have been able to buy a Mercedes, or risen to a level where his company gave him one.

I assume therefore, that he was fairly well educated, and had passed through school and college with good degrees.

So, he got:

  • good grades
  • a good education
  • A good salary and career
  • a Mercedes

Somewhere down the line, his education also gave him

  • an ego
  • insensitivity
  • arrogance

But, it did not give him good manners, or a good civic sense.

So, what is education all about? Is it only about the first set of criteria, without building the person as a whole?

I have read some stuff recently about the maths scores in the USA versus the maths scores of kids in places like Finland and Korea. The author was sad that the kids in the US were not as mathematically bright as the kids in Korea. I know that kids in Korea have very long days, with school, tuition etc. Not much fun for the kids.

However, there is very little literature on one of education’s objectives being to turn out better human beings.

Education, especially in this very important aspect, is not the responsibility of schools and colleges alone, but is also the responsibility of family.

There are simple principles that can be taught, and these principles cut across boundary and culture.

Education should, above all, teach us to respect.

  • Respect our neighbors
  • Respect society
  • Respect other’s beliefs and religion
  • Respect nature
  • Respect our work

It can be a long list, but if we start by teaching ourselves, and our kids the meaning of respect – which, is not kowtowing to your boss or brown-nosing him/her – I think we would have come a long way down the road.

The Last Mile will be easier to travel



  1. by education I assume you mean the institutionalised type? isnt it partly the institution’s and partly society’s role in building this sense in our children? kids do what they see and i am guessing kids in this gentleman’s vicinity are not learning much.

    1. In this case, yes, I am referring to institutionalized education explicitly. Implicitly, I also include non-institutionalized education, and this has a huge impact on the values that children grow up with

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