Children are taught numeracy and literacy at the expense of an all-important holistic education. As Aristotle said centuries ago: “Education of the head without education of the heart, is no education at all”

In 2013, I embarked on a journey that took me right into the heart of darkness. I was impelled by the impassioned plea by civil society in India for change for women and girls after yet another brutal gang rape – 23-year-old Jyoti Singh on a bus in Delhi.

Men and women across the country tenaciously protested for more than a month demanding respect, safety and autonomy for India’s women. I set out to make a film that would amplify those admirable and inspiring voices.

I interviewed seven rapists over 31 hours in a bid to understand them. How can we hope to change them, if we do not understand them? The whole journey was characterised by profound reversals of expectations. The rapists were ordinary and normal men – two of them even sensitive — not the monsters the media had prepared me for.

We must teach respect, empathy, ethics . . . in short, human rights

That said, they expressed no remorse for their actions. In fact, they were indignant they were being made out as an example when “everyone was doing it”. But when I discovered that six of the seven had not finished secondary school, I rather complacently thought I had identified
a key factor.

Then I interviewed their lawyers. I was more shocked by the misogyny of the lawyers. It is clearly not about access to education.

All the insights combined to a blindingly clear understanding of the problem: the disease is a ubiquitous, systemic, programmed mindset that encourages men to a sense of entitlement and accords comparatively less, or even no, value to women and girls.

If, from the moment they first draw breath, we teach men such views and encourage them to have such attitudes, how on earth do we expect them to behave?

The world has been bent on access to education: rightly so, given that today 62 million girls are without access to the basic human right to be educated. We have begun to focus also on quality of education.

But we are still not focusing on the most important factor of all: content of education. The best teachers teaching every single
one of the world’s children will still not achieve our most important mission of all: which has to be the creation of a free, safe, and equal world.

I believe we must urgently focus on WHAT we teach.

We are teaching literacy and numeracy only; we are neglecting the all-important holistic education of the world’s children. We must teach them respect, empathy, ethics and moral values, gender sensitisation: in short, human rights.

We must empower and transform mindsets in children and young people. And we MUST do this on a compulsory basis and from the first day of a child’s journey at school, because, as neuroscience tells us, the window in which to cognitively modify a human being is frighteningly short – generally speaking between 0 and 6, and more specifically understood to be between 3 and 5.

The Equality Studies Global Initiative [ESGI] recognises holistic education as the primary engine of progress and aims to build the foundation for individual and societal progress with concomitant social and economic rewards for all nations.

By adopting and applying these principles, governments and their education
authorities unlock all the tools needed to succeed on a lifelong journey of learning, empower and transform children and young people’s mindsets.

As Sir Ken Robinson, an ESGI partner, has previously said: “If you’re involved in education in any way you have three options: you can make changes within the system, you can press for changes to the system, or you can take initiatives outside the system.”