Colloquium 2011 – Personal Reflections

During this week in Lithuania 31 people from 11 different countries met together and with the help of inputs from experts discussed and analysed if education as it is structured can really form up a whole person.

The first thing we noted was the fact that education is normally oriented to form a functional person. I.e. that education is oriented to form up people to do jobs, so society looks at its people as those means which without them it would not survive. This led to the fact that education is not actually forming persons but “functional machines” which are needed to society. This is a somewhat generic statement so it does not refer to a whole reality but it is still in some way true.

To see how we can truly form up persons, one has to define what he means by person. A person is not only defined by the participation and role in society. Also a person cannot be defined when on its own. A person is defined by the relationships and actions it has with others and the world. As Christians the greatest example of personhood is found in the triune God. This is because in our Triune God we can see the perfect relationship between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Also in genesis we find that we are made in his liking and so we can only know and be who we are (humans/persons) when we meet God and act as He wills. Nonetheless God never impose himself on us since He respects our freedom. God lets us free to shape ourselves in our unique manner. Still this doesn’t mean that God just let us to drown in our own mistakes. He himself has come in the world as a human and lived as a true human so that we may have an example to look at and learn from.

This shows the fact that a person in itself cannot be shaped or formed but can only be led to grow in its unique way. As God did to us we have to do to each other. We must respect each other’s freedom and so we can never impose a system or a structure. We can only give out what we learned and what we did so that others can learn and shape up their own knowledge using ours. Pope Benedict XVI in the encyclical “Spe Salvi” writes that one can never overlook freedom and “freedom must constantly be won over for the sake of good”. (Spe Salvi Par 24).

As a conclusion we arrived to the fact that for education to form a whole person it (the educational system) cannot just give knowledge but it must give the opportunity for the students to shape up that knowledge and add their own unique experiences so that through this exercise they are also forming up themselves. In this manner one is not only exercising what he got from formal education but now he can also add the other knowledge he got through informal education and non-formal learning. In this manner people could feel more complete and also knowledge could find its practicality and wholeness in the persons mind.

Sergio Fenech

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