Gandhian philosophy of education in twenty

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1. Gandhian Philosophy of Education in Twenty-first Century Anurag Gangal* and Renu Gangal* Mahatma Gandhi is known as a practical-idealist. His own experiences…
  • 1. Gandhian Philosophy of Education in Twenty-first Century Anurag Gangal* and Renu Gangal* Mahatma Gandhi is known as a practical-idealist. His own experiences andprocess of formation of his precepts form the basis of all his activities and ideas. Hisideas and philosophy is drawn from various Indian and foreign sources. As such, hisunflinching faith in the power of nonviolence comes to him from Leo Tolstoy’s writings,Jain and Buddhist scriptures. Gandhi’s views and practice of civil disobedience are basedon David Thoreau’s writings and the familial environ in which Gandhi lived as a child.The Gandhian vision of Sarvodaya is, among others, built upon his reading of JohnRuskin’s Unto this Last where the philosophy of welfare of all is presented in a veryengrossing manner. Gandhi, indeed, has had an open mind, independent thinking and aninterdependent life style or way of life. His life is his message and it is replete withphilosophical landmarks in the area of education for modern age of ‘knowledge,information technology and globalisation’. Gandhian philosophy of education revolves around a few fundamental contours.These, apparently, are basic philosophical perspectives with an element of timelessnessattached to them. Consistency and Contradiction The first aspect relates to the Gandhian principle -- dialectics of consistency andcontradiction in the growth and development of an individual, a nation and aninternational federation. This principle applies at all levels equally alike. In MahatmaGandhi’s own words: I would like to say to the diligent reader of my writings and to others who are interested in them that I am not at all concerned with appearing to be consistent. In my search after Truth I have discarded many ideas and learnt many new things. Old as I am in age, I have no feeling that I have ceased to grow inwardly or that my growth will stop at the dissolution of the flesh. What I am concerned, with is my readiness to obey the call of Truth, my God, from moment to moment, and, therefore, when anybody finds any inconsistency between any two writings of mine, if he has still faith in my sanity, he would do well to choose the later of the two on the same subject. (Harijan, 29-4-1933, P. 2). 1
  • 2. Nai Taleem or Basic Education Second feature of Gandhian philosophy of education concerns Gandhi’s stress onhis New or Basic Education in 3Rs – reading, writing and arithmetic along with theprinciple of learning and earning through regular practice including extra-curricularactivities for children, adolescents, youth and adults alike. Gandhi’s experiments in hisTolstoy Farm -- at Phoenix in South Africa in 1904 - 1913 -- are replete with this featureof basic education involving daily manual work and vocational training also (Gandhi, AnAutobiography or The Story of my Experiments with Truth, Part – III, Chapter – V; Part – IV, Chapters –XIX – XXIII and XXXII; Harijan, 18 September 1937). Hygiene; manual work; learning andearning; extra curricular activities; reading, writing and arithmetic; vocational training;and character building are to be given top priority. The essence of this philosophy ofeducation rests in self-sufficiency, confidence and character building of an individual andthe nation alike. One must begin from the smallest unit of humanity. Constructive Programme Another significant facet of Gandhian philosophy of education is seen in hisConstructive Programme and also in his magnum opus, namely, Hind Swaraj or IndianHome Rule. In his Constructive Programme, Gandhi lays focus on discipline of a civildisobedient nonviolent soldier, communal unity, removal of untouchability, training forpromotion of khadi and other village industries, village sanitation, adult education,women as equal partners, economic equality, patriotism, prohibition, bravery andhonesty. Eleven Vows Gandhi points out eleven vows as absolutely necessary rudiments for propereducation in ethical values, imbibing Indian culture, personality development andcharacter building. He has taken up these so-called eleven commandments fromPatanjali’s ancient work Yogapradeepta. These eleven vows are satya (truth), ahimsa(nonviolence), asteya (non-stealing), aparigraha (non-possession), brahmcharya(selfcontrol, self-discipline and celibacy), sharirshrama (bread-labour), aswada (palatecontrol), sarvtra bhayavarjana (fearlessness and bravery), sarva dharma samantva(equality of all religions), swadeshi (using locally available resources and produced 2
  • 3. goods), sparsha bhavana (removal of untouchability). The first five vows, among theseeleven, are also known as the panchyama of Patanjali. Home Rule and Education In Hind Swaraj, Gandhi provides a vehement criticism of modern Westerncivilisation, education and massive industrialisation. About education, especially Chapter– XVIII entitled “Education”, he says: What is the meaning of education? It simply means a knowledge of letters. It is merely an instrument, and an instrument may be well used or abused. The same instrument that may be used to cure a patient may be used to take his life, and so may a knowledge of letters. We daily observe that many men abuse it and very few make good use of it; and if this is a correct statement, we have proved that more harm has been done by it than good. The ordinary meaning of education is a knowledge of letters. To teach boys reading, writing and arithmetic is called primary education. A peasant earns his bread honestly. He has ordinary knowledge of the world. He knows fairly well how he should behave towards his parents. his wife, his children and his fellow villagers. He understands and observes the rules of morality. But he cannot write his own name. What do you propose to do by giving him a knowledge of letters? Will you add an inch to his happiness? Do you wish to make him discontented with his cottage or his tot? And even if you want to do that, he will not need such an education. Carried away by the flood of western thought we came to the conclusion, without weighing pros and cons, that we should give this kind of education to the people. Now let us take higher education. I have learned Geography, Astronomy, Algebra, Geometry, etc. What of that? In what way have I benefited myself or those around me? Why have I learned these things? Professor Huxley has thus defined education: "That man I think has had a liberal education who has been so trained in youth that his body is the ready servant of his will and does with case and pleasure all the work that as a mechanism it is capable of, whose intellect is a clear, cold, logic engine with all its parts of equal strength and in smooth working order ... whose mind is stored with a knowledge of the fundamental truths of nature .... whose passions are trained to conic to heel by a vigorous will, the servant of a tender conscience ... who has learnt to hate all vileness and to respect others as himself. Such a one and no other, I conceive, has had a liberal education, for he is in harmony with nature. He will make the best of her and she of him." If this is true education, I must emphatically say that the sciences I have enumerated above I have never been able to use for controlling my senses. Therefore, whether you take elementary education or higher education, it is not required for the main thing. It does not make men of us. It does not enable us to do our duty. Moreover, I have not run down a knowledge of letters in all circumstances. All I have now shown is that we must not make of it a fetish… In its place it can be of use and it has its place when we have brought our senses under subjection and put our ethics on a firm foundation. And then, if we feel inclined to receive that education, we may make good use of it. As an ornament it is likely to sit well on us. It now follows that it is not necessary to make this 3
  • 4. education compulsory. Our ancient school system is enough. Character-building has the first place in it and that is primary education. A building erected on that foundation will last. And it is worthy of note that the systems which the Europeans have discarded are the systems in vogue among us. Their learned men continually make changes. We ignorantly adhere to their cast-off systems. They are trying each division to improve its own status. Wales is a small portion of England. Great efforts are being made to revive a knowledge of Welsh among Welshmen. The English Chancellor, Mr. Lloyd George is taking a leading part in the movement to make Welsh children speak Welsh. And what is our condition? We write to each other in faulty English, and from this even our M.A.s are not free; our best thoughts are expressed in English., the proceedings of our Congress are conducted in English; our best newspapers are printed in English. If this state of things continues for a long time, posterity will - it is my firm opinion - condemn, and curse us. Is it not a painful thing that, if I want to go to a court of justice, I must employ the English language as a medium. that when I become a barrister. I may not speak my mother tongue and that someone else should have to translate to me from my own language? Is not this absolutely absurd? Is it not a sign of slavery? Am I to blame the English for it or myself? It is we, the English-knowing Indians that have enslaved India. The curse of the nation will rest not upon the English but upon us. Gandhian Philosophy: Twenty-first Century Relevance After having stipulated fundamentals of the Gandhian philosophy of education, anattempt will now be made to see their relevance in modern context of the twenty-firstcentury. Despite perceptible differences between the present-day societal / developmentalneeds of edification vis-à-vis Gandhian philosophy of education, there are so manyfeatures of timelessness in the Gandhi’s principles of education and its relevance today. The unbridled pursuits of modern day perceived needs and ever risingexpectations in this high-tech savvy and ‘knowledge-thirsty’ world often makes manbelieve in what one sees the most in print and electronic media – corruption, dishonestyand violence in the familial, corporate world and national and international politics. Itappears as if there is a well established network of all these inhuman tendencies. In addition to such apparent pejorative trends, requirements of modern educationalso go simultaneously more in the direction of obtaining technological training andcompetence in the emerging scenario of globalisation, good governance and civil society. What is the relationship between the rising expectations and emergingglobalisation on the one hand and the Gandhian philosophy of education on the otherhand? 4
  • 5. This relationship is easy to grasp when a distinction is made between technical /technological / professional training vis-à-vis ‘education’. This difference between thetwo is necessary to understand for Gandhi as well. Technical, technological andprofessional training is primarily job and profession specific. ‘Education’, however, ismore fundamental in nature. It involves carving out a fulsome human being from thebasic live resource of a man and woman coming to this world like a tabula rasa.Education does not mean merely obtaining of various Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees,certificates and diplomas. Education prepares a man and woman for a life truly human innature – full of an independent, interdependent, self-sufficient, fearless, mutuallycooperating and highly cultured existence with a deep sense of social commitment andurge for public welfare. This type of education is possible in the twenty-first century only whenindividuals and nations alike keep away from absolute personal aggrandizement ofpolitical and economic power in the interest of public welfare oriented political will,proper intention and societal commitment. In the interest of mere human survival, onehas to end certain practices and start anew with what Mahatma Gandhi has suggested inhis Hind Swaraj. Ethical principles and character building provide the real bases to everyhuman action – on individual, national and international planes. The direction of not onlythe Indian education but also global education system has to be set right through root andbranch transformation. What if materialism of the West and spiritualism of the East meet!-----------------* Anurag Gangal (Ph. D.), Professor and Head, Department of Political Science; and Director, GandhianCentre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Jammu, Jammu.* Renu Gangal (Ph.D.), Principal, Atman College of Education, University of Jammu, Jammu. 5
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