Many will agree that educating our young goes beyond just basic literacy or even imparting knowledge and skill sets to help them earn a living when they grow up. It should also aim at preparing our youths to function successfully in society, not only academically, but economically, socially, emotionally, and spiritually, by equipping them with the requisite life skills, attitudes, aptitudes, knowledge, and skills.
However, while all these may be true and important, the ultimate goal and purpose of education is to prepare and enable the young to live an upright life as adults.
The Bible places great emphasis on training our children in godly truths. For instance, Proverbs teaches us to “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
Parents today desire much for their children. Besides wanting normal and healthy physical growth, they also busy themselves in giving their progenies a head start in life through early provision of different forms of learning that modern society values – visual and performing arts, sensory cognition, language mastery, mental flexibility, and abstract reasoning, etc.
Experts agree that a child’s education begins with early stimulation in order to develop their learning abilities, and this is to be nurtured and built upon throughout their formative years. Many now hold the belief that babies start learning even from inside the womb, and it is common to see parents read and play music to their unborn children as part of prenatal education.
Indeed, young children and toddlers are very impressionable and are readily influenced, and much of what they learn comes from imitating others such as their parents, relatives, teachers, schoolmates, and peers. As the saying goes, “it takes a village to raise a child” – family and friends alike wield immense powers in helping to mould and shape a child’s values and cement their moral standards during their early years.
In fact, it is human nature to imitate and emulate others in actions and behaviour, and the significance is acknowledged in the pair of Chinese characters “教养”, which translates as the bringing up of children.
“教” is to teach through words, and “养” is to nurture through actions. Very often, we read or hear about the phrase “actions speak louder than words” in books about upbringing or through conversations with parents and behavioural experts. The simple truth is, children do indeed learn more from the talk that we walk!
Jesus Himself led by example throughout the three years that He spent with His disciples. Whilst He was preparing them to lead eventually, He also wanted them to do so with humility, as He told them, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:15, NIV)
The apostle Paul would later go on to set an example for the early Church in his imitation of Jesus Christ, and he often repeated the same message in his various letters addressed to the 1st century Christians as we can read from Philippians 3:17 and 4:8-9. Paul also reminded Timothy to be a role model for believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity (1 Timothy 4:12).
The mark of true Christian discipleship, therefore, lies in the moulding of a Christ-like character, and this is most effective through role modelling.
Thus, the most important purpose of education is more than just facilitating the transfer of knowledge; but also about character-building and how we can learn to live godly lives.
The most effective means of educating, whether in church or schools, is through practicing what we preach. It will be a sorry day indeed for educators and the notion of education itself, if all we can churn out are individuals who are brilliant in academic pursuits but are otherwise void of morals and character. This will only bring disaster, not only to themselves, but also to the people around them.
Bishop Dr Chong Chin Chung –
was elected Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore in 2016. He served as President of the Chinese Annual Conference for two quadrennia from 2008 to 2016.