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PART 1: AIM

What according to you is the goal of education?
Choose from any of the following:

The purpose of education is:
1. to impart knowledge
2. to propagate an ideology
3. to sharpen mental skills
4. to make the student self-reliant
5. to discipline the body
6. to control the learner
7. to train for freedom and responsibility
8. to create high achievers
9. to prepare for life’s choices
10. to develop personality
11. to generate better human beings
12. to train for careers
13. to subdue evil tendencies
14. to meet market expectations
15. to indoctrinate
16. to control the learner
17. to impart wisdom
18. to create social concern
19. to develop latent talent
20. to become rich and famous

Don Bosco had a precise goal underpinning all his educational activity. To youngsters he describe it in simple terms as "true happiness in this life and the next" (see Message). To co-educators and collaborators, however, he was more explicit. Working in the Christian context of his country and his times, he expressed the aim of his educational work as forming “Honest Citizens and Good Christians”. This singular aim was the driving energy that led him to begin and develop a multitude of initiatives for young people, most of whom came from Christian families in Europe, and later, in South America.

Our situation in 21st century South Asia is very different. As South Asians we are a world within a world, a continent within a continent. Some would even say ‘a universe’ – of different cultures, classes, creeds and perspectives. Our societies are multi-ethnic and socially stratified. In recent years, the spirit of enterprise has boosted some of our economies, and has generated an extremely demanding competitive culture. Simultaneously, corruption is rampant and is affecting all levels of society. The majority poor have to struggle hard to survive. Religion is all too often reduced to ritualism. Inter-cultural and inter-faith disputes hinder us from making progress.

The fundamental needs of our societies in South Asia today are honesty, openness to differences, selfless dedication to working for justice and peace and a spirit of integrity.

Can we then reinterpret Don Bosco's educational goals for our context as "Honest Citizens and True Believers"? Whether we are Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis… or simply believers in our ability to live and work together as human beings for an equitable society, we need to educate our children and youth to honesty and integrity. 

Assuming that such a goal is acceptable to participants of this course, implementing it in the Don Bosco Way would be extremely demanding for educators and parents. Educating to honest citizenship and true belief challenges us:
  • to be well-integrated individuals, capable of blending our rights and duties as citizens with our core values as believers,
  • to reason with an inclusive mindset that does not discriminate against those who are different from us and that shuns the path of prejudice and violence at all cost.
  • to work hard and creatively so that the ethical foundations of our societies are not compromised, so that we are able to establish peace, equality and justice for all.
If we make this educational goal our own, we would have to specify further for whom it is targeted (focus) and how it can be made concretely realisable (method).

PHOTO: Flavio Insinna as Don Bosco in the film, Saint John Bosco - Mission to Love, directed by Lodovico Gasparini for Rai Uno
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FURTHER READING:
- South Asian data available as a pdf file
- Don Bosco's message to youth