Chitral Today
Latest Updates and Breaking News. Editor: Zar Alam Khan.

Civil society has to be driven by competence as well as ethics: Aga Khan

The Aga Khan has often been counted among the world’s richest men — his personal fortune is estimated by Forbes at about $800m — and he is known to keep the company of famous people. But rarely are his conversations about profits or bottom lines. Instead, the spiritual head of the Ismailiya sect, who bridges the divide between spiritual and material worlds with ease, likes to dwell on the changing nature of civil society, future leaders and the need for ethics in modernizing societies. In an interview with Ranjan Roy during his recent visit to Hyderabad to inaugurate Aga Khan Academy, part of his global network of not-for-profit schools, the 76-year-old spelt out his vision.
Aga-Khan1You want ethics to be an integral part of school curriculums? When you are teaching ethics as a subject, you teach it as a continuum of all subjects. Whether you are teaching ethics in terms of history, science or communication, it becomes the premise on which you are trying to educate young men and women. Children get an understanding about the relationship between what they are learning and the ethics of what they are learning.
And you want free-market economics and comparative government to be taught to young children?

Aga Khan: I am worried about countries which have inherited economic systems and the time it takes them to turn those around. Here I am talking about the former Soviet bloc countries where it has taken much, much more time — more than anybody had expected — for them to transform into pro-liberal productive economies. If you have a society which is regulated for 50 years where the individual is taught by the government about what is right and wrong, he can’t be creative and think for himself.
You talk about ethics and ethical service in everyday life. What exactly is the latter?

Aga Khan: Ethical service, I  would say, is a vehicle that is available to support civil society. Civil society has to be driven first by competence. Secondly, it has to be driven by ethical behaviour because otherwise it would leave itself vulnerable to attacks. I think because of an increased dependence on technology we are moving more and more towards being individualistic rather than becoming integrated with society.
Do individuals increasingly lack an ethical compass? Which is why most freedoms go past a certain set of limits. Freedom has been taken to a point where unethical behaviour has become acceptable.

Aga Khan: That is what I am apprehensive about and we see it many parts of the world. That kind of freedom enables the individual to behave in ways that are unhelpful to society, to its institutions. You can see it the banking world, you see it in the media world, and you can see it in social relations.
Apart from being ethical, what attributes should define an ideal high school graduate from your global school network?

Aga Khan: We could hopefully create young children who could go to any national or foreign university. They would be at a minimum trilingual and would have had life experience in at least two countries if not more. We will be talking to faculty members whose interest could be stimulated by moving from one country to another or there could be fellowships.
How will you continue to widen your academies and schools? I have turned the whole thing around and I have dropped it in the lap of our financial people. I told them, look guys you better start thinking about the future of society, you can’t go on indefinitely looking at profits and giving yourself dividends. We are looking to see whether we can create a financial vehicle which is located somewhere between what I would call social philanthropy and capitalist financial institutions. If it does work, it will support health-care, education, etc.–Times of India


You might also like

Leave a Reply

error: Content is protected!!