Democracy typically represents a fair and equitable distribution of power in society. When a person has the power to express and govern his or her life in a way befitting to him, society becomes democratic. This is a simple definition of democratic government. Living in a society based on participation, empowerment and democracy, shouldn’t education be participatory, empowering and democratic? But, what is democracy in Education? This question leads to one of the most crucial problems confronting the nation today.
Democratic education infuses the learning process with the democratic values of meaningful participation, personal initiative, equality and justice for all. The traditional education system considers the young people as passive recipients of knowledge rather than as active co-creators of their own learning. In a vibrant learning community, however, they are valued as participants instead of products of the education system.
The first step towards democratizing education is considering every individual as unique. The learning style and need of every individual is unique likewise. Democratic education helps young people learn about themselves, engage with world around them, become positive and contribute as members of society.
The principals that can be involved to concretize democracy in education are:
Diversity – The academic curriculum needs to be structured in a way to maximize autonomy. It should be designed so as to foster creativity and diversity amongst the students. This design would encourage the students to have a unique perspective and insight into things they comes across. This way every individual would be able to contribute to the society.
Autonomy – The educational resources should be designed in a user-friendly form. The learners should be able to guide themselves according to their own aspirations, wherever possible. When needed, the instructors or teachers should be guided. Expressing themselves on various platforms should be initiated and the voices of the students should not be suppressed. The Central Board of Secondary Education in India has a vibrant curriculum in alignment with the needs of the future. Along with their publications like CBSE Textbook Solutions, emphasis on teacher training is also recommended periodically. To make this initiative even more successful, learning centres can come up with forums, providing students the opportunity to place their opinions. This will enable the involvement of students in the educational planning and decision making process of the education committee.
Interaction – Learning results in a process of indulging oneself in community or societal activities. Secondly, the knowledge of that community or society is a resultant of the cumulative interactions of different individuals. Similarly, education needs to be an interactive learning program. This will give a platform for the students to grow as mature individuals, enabling them to express their viewpoints during different circumstances.
At the end, the main aim of education is the harmonious development of the individuality of the citizen. The education should give importance to both individual and social development. Education must develop socialism both in thought and action of the people. Studies show that educational environments engaging young people as active participants in their own learning are linked with higher student attendance and student achievement, greater creativity and conceptual learning, and increased intrinsic motivation and determination in learning.
Democratic education is important as it has the potential to carry a broader societal impact. People who experience democratic educations grow up to be self-determined and caring individuals, will lead in building a more vibrant and just society.