Formal education, morality, and life skills

Azaz Zaman

11 April, 2019 12:00 AM printer

Formal education, morality, and life skills

Azaz Zaman

Last week, I was very ill and went through a period of convalescence to recuperate from my serious illness and to recoup my lost strength to write again. Today’stopic—being on my mind for a while now—has been brought forth by several personal experiences, especially after coming into contact with several individuals. For instance, one of my close relatives — who is well educated and, at the same time, holds a vice-president position in an established company— is our family curmudgeon: a grouchy, surly person. In spite of being formally educated, his vitriol—abusive and venomous language used to blame others—spewed forth from a deep-seated skepticism and anger that has consumed his whole life. He is so parsimonious that he depends on his wife’s trivial income from school teaching, although he has several crores of money deposited in his bank accounts. There is hardly any bad quality that he doesn’t possess—from telling lies to misapplication of fiduciary property to beating his own wife. Likewise, a university professor—one of my ex-colleagues—was loathed by most of the faculty members of his department for his obnoxious character. Consequently, it’s not incongruous or bizarre to ask the following questions:

Is the formal education flunking to engender morally sound human beings? Are we getting enough life skills though formal education to lead a psychologically happy life? Does formal education buoy us up to carry out something for humanity? By the way, what do we mean by formal education? Formal education is the hierarchically structured, chronologically graded ‘education system’, running from primary school through the university. In addition to general academic studies, a variety of specialized programmes and institutions for full-time technical and professional training is also regarded as formal education. Frankly speaking, my-20-years-of formal education, regrettably, didn’t provide me the required life skills to lead a happy life. Sad!

 We have always heard that education is the best way to improve any society. Subsequently, providing education has been the main goal of our Government, spending millions on it. In addition to that, many NGO’s are working for it, putting a great effort to help some children learn. But, why the rate of crime has increased in the country even when the literacy rate has gone up by 10-15% from the time of independence? The purpose of education is to make the people social beings, but the statistics show that 30 % of the people who committed crime are highly educated and many criminals have some basic education.We all know that some of the corrupt officials and ministers in our country are consummate academicians, economist, and lawmakers. Even after getting the high grade and quality education, such people commit crime.

What a disgrace! Naturally, the question arises: what is the formal education doing?

The issue has come to such a level that we are compelled to consider moral education as a different stream than formal education. The need of the hour is to impart moral values to the children from the start by the parents and teachers, realising the value of moral ethics in human life. In my view, being a morally sound human being is more important than just being a learned professional. Now, in order to become a true human being, you need to have both life skills and moralities. From my won reaped experience, I have delineated some ways here to get hold of basic moralities and other essential life skills:

Observe everything

Always keep your eyes and heart open. I do. There are things happening, all around you, all the time. Every scene of events brings forth a lot of lessons for you. Life is a great show—an impressive parade of things worth experiencing and leaning. Admission is free— just keep your eyes open. As a university lecturer, I always tell my students that “Life is my best school”.


Life experiences are only two kinds: the experience of ourselves and the experience of others. Our own experience is slow, labored, costly, and often hard to bear. The experience of others is a ready-made set of directions on knowledge and life. Their experience is free; we need not to suffer their hardships; we may collect on all their good deeds. All we have to do is observe! Observe especially the good man, the valorous deed. Observe the winner that you yourself may strive to follow that winning example and learn the scores of different means and devices that make success possible. Observe the loser that you may escape his mistakes, avoid the pitfalls that dragged him down. Observe the listless, indifferent, neutral people who do nothing, know nothing, are nothing. Observe them and then differ from them. Observe, my dear! Observe!

Read books/articles on life issues

Read as much as you can. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that successful people never stop learning. One common trait of the world’s most successful people is that they read…a lot. They’re not looking for entertainment, they are looking to educate themselves.You can read books or articles on the internet/newspapers. Nevertheless, books are the mystery of human creativity. Books play an important role of a teacher, guide, and friend in our life. Books are the manual of life. So, read more, my dear!

Learn from good stories

I just love stories either religious or general. The religious books are also full of different stories. Studies have shown that the human brain loves good stories. A Harvard neurologist discovered that when humans tell each other stories, their brains release a chemical called oxytocin. Oxytocin, he wrote, tells our brains that “it’s safe to approach others” and it motivates cooperation with others. Therefore, read, listen, or watch short stories on YouTube to take life lesson from those.

Learn from YouTube

If you’re like a lot of people, you probably use YouTube for listening to music, watching videos of latest movie trailers to social pranks to Sunny Leone’s marriage, or just for procrastinating on homework.While it is a platform for all of those things, there’s a whole other side to YouTube you may have never considered. YouTube has hundreds of channels that can teach you any subject you could ever think of (as well as dozens you didn’t even know existed). Numerous educational and motivational videos are built and made available on YouTube to offer today’s modern, digital generation with tonnes of resources and ideas for spicing up their learning experience. Many brilliant minds have given their time and energy to build some superb YouTube videos on different life skills. So, take advantage of it and recuperate your life skills. I always do.

Learn from your religion

It doesn’t matter if you’re an atheist, devout follower of your faith, an agnostic, or anywhere in between—there’s wisdom to be learned from the world’s religions. There are voluminous universally applicable teachings from sacred religious texts everyone would benefit from learning. For example, the teaching—"Treat others as you would want to be treated yourself”—is expressed in most of the world religions including Christianity, Confuscianism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Taoism, and Zoroastriantism. Likewise, my religion—Islam—has taught me the most imperative life skills along with moralities, filling my heart with love for others.

To conclude, remember animals have knowledge but only men can reason. The better you can reason the farther you separate yourself from animals.The process by which you reason is known as logic. Logic teaches you how to be sure whether what you think is true is really true. Logic is the supreme avenue to intellectual truth. Don’t ever despair of possessing a logical mind and becoming more sagacious—having good judgment. Finally, please, please don’t wait for your school, college, or university to teach you moralities and life skills. Learn it by yourself!


The writer is a Lecturer in Finance at Bangladesh Army International University of Science and Technology (BAIUST), Cumilla Cantonment. Email: [email protected]