There is a profound Indian view about teaching which declares that the first principle of teaching is that nothing can be taught. This paradoxical statement may seem at first sight incomprehensible. But when we look closely into it, we find that it contains a significant guideline regarding the methodology of teaching. It does not prohibit teaching, since it is stated to be the first principle of teaching. It does, however, suggest that the methods of teaching should be such that the learner is enabled to discover by means of his own growth and development all that is intended to be learnt. It points out, in other words, that the role of the teacher should be more of a helper and a guide rather than that of an instructor. This would also mean that the teacher should not impose his views on the learner, but he should evoke within the learner the aspiration to learn and to find out the truth by his own free exercise of faculties.
The truth behind this role of the teacher is brought out by the contention that ‘nothing can be taught’ to the mind which is not already concealed as potential knowledge in the inmost being of the learner. One is reminded of the Socratic view that knowledge is innate in our being but it is hidden. Socrates demonstrates in the Platonic dialogue, ‘Meno’, how a good teacher can, without teaching, but by asking suitable questions, bring out to the surface the true knowledge which is already unconsciously present in
 Professor Kireet Joshi , The Good Teacher and The Good Pupil, ed., Auroville Press, Auroville, 2005 (reprint), pp. 119-131. Plato, Protagoras and Meno, Harmondsworth, Penguine, 1985, pp.130-8.
the learner. As we know, Socrates and Plato distinguished between opinions on the one hand, and knowledge, on the other. They point out that whereas opinions can be formed on the basis of questionable sense experiences, knowledge which consists of pure ideas is independent of sense-experience and can be gained by some kind of experience which is akin to remembrance. In other words, according to Socrates and Plato, knowledge is ‘remembered’ by a process of uncovering.
Again, according to Socrates and Plato, virtue is knowledge. Therefore, what is true of knowledge is also true of virtue. Just as knowledge cannot be taught but can only be uncovered, even so virtue, too, cannot be taught but can only be uncovered. But here, again, it does not mean that there is no such thing as teaching or that the teacher has no role to play. It only means that the teacher has to be cognisant of the fact the learner has in him a potentiality and that his role consists of a delicate and skilful operation of uncovering what is hidden or latent in the learner.
There is, indeed, an opposite view, which is advocated mainly by behaviourists, who maintain that the learner has no hidden potentialities except some rudimentary capacities of reflex responses and that anything and everything can be taught to the learner by suitable processes of conditioning which can be designed according to the goals in view. Thus Watson claimed that learners can be trained to become whatever you design them to become. According to this view, everything can be taught; all virtues and values can be taught and cultivated by suitable methods of conditioning.
It is not our purpose to enter into a debate with behaviourism. But it is a fact that even behaviourism acknowledges that conditioning presupposes innate reflexes, and that the process of conditioning is dependent upon a reward-punishment system which, whether acknowledged or not, can be explained only if the learner has within him an innate drive towards some kind of goal seeking and fulfillment. In other words, even if we admit that external stimulation and conditioning are effective instruments of learning, it does not mean that stimulation and conditioning could work upon a subject that would be devoid of an innate capacity or drive to respond.
Moreover, the claims of behaviourism have been questioned by several rival theories of psychology. The school of mathematical logic, for example, rejects behaviourism and prescribes that the aim of teaching should be more limited and that the claims as to what can be taught should be more modest. It maintains that the aim of teaching should be to teach procedures and not solutions and that the methods should be so employed that the mental processes are taken in the direction of mathematical logic. The Gestalt psychology maintains that there are in the learner basic perceptual structures and schemes of behaviour which constitute some kind of basic unity. It underlines, therefore, the presence of an innate intuition in the learner and it prescribes intuitive methods based on perception, which are found largely in audio-visual pedagogy. Psychoanalysis has discovered an unimaginable large field of innate drives of which our active consciousness is normally unconscious. But Freudian form of psychoanalysis which posited eros and thanatos as the two ultimate but conflicting innate
drives in man, has been largely overpassed by Adler, Jung and others. Modern psychic research is discovering in the subconscious a deeper layer which can properly be termed as subliminal, since it is found to be the seat of innate capacities of telepathy, clairvoyance, etc. As psychology is advancing, we seem to be discovering more and more of what is innate in the learner. At the same time, we are becoming more and more conscious of the necessity to be increasingly vigilant about the methods which we should employ in dealing with the learner.
It is, however, sometimes argued that there is a valid distinction between knowledge and values and that while knowledge can be taught, values cannot be taught. But when we examine this view more closely, we find that what is meant is that the methods which are valid and appropriate in the field of learning in regard to knowledge are not applicable to the field of learning in regard to values. We may readily accept this contention, and we may insist on the necessity of recognising the fact that corresponding to each domain of learning there are valid and appropriate methods and that the effectivity of learning will depend upon an ever-vigilant discovery of more and more appropriate methods in each domain of learning. It is clear, for example, that while philosophy can be learnt by a process of discussion, swimming cannot be learnt by discussion. In order to learn to swim, one has to plunge into water and swim. Similarly, the methods of learning music or painting have to be quite different from those by which we learn mathematics or physics. And indeed, when we come to the realm of values, we must recognise the necessity of a greater scruple in prescribing the methods which can be considered to be
distinctively appropriate to this field.
One speciality of the domain of values is that it is more centrally related to volition and affection, rather than to cognition. At the same time, it would not be right to assume that value-oriented education should be exclusively related to training of volition and affection. This point needs to be underlined because of two reasons. Firstly, it is sometimes assumed that value-oriented education should be exclusively or more or less exclusively limited to certain prescribed acts of volition and that the value-oriented learning should be judged by what a learner ‘does’ rather than what he ‘knows’. In our view, this is too simplistic and exclusive, and we should avoid the rigidity that flows from this kind of gross exclusivism. Secondly, this is an opposite view – it is sometimes argued that learning is primarily a cognitive process and, therefore, value-orientation learning should largely or preponderantly be limited to those methods which are appropriate to cognition. This, too, is a gross exclusivism which should be avoided. While methods appropriate to volition and affection should be more preponderant, methods appropriate to cognition also should have a legitimate and even an indispensable place. This is reinforced by the fact that the striving towards values stirs up the totality of the being and cognition no less than volition and affection is or can be stimulated to its highest maximum degree, provided that the value-oriented learning is allowed its natural fullness.
Instruction, example and influence are the three instruments of teaching. However, in our present system of education, instruction plays an overwhelmingly important role, and often when we
think of teaching we think only of instruction. It is this illegitimate identification that causes much confusion and avoidable controversies. If we examine the matter carefully, we shall find that in an ideal system of teaching, instruction should play a much less important role than example and influence of the teacher. It is true that in the domains of learning where cognitive activities play a more dominant part, instruction through methods other than lectures and discussions should play a larger role.
In a system of education, where teaching and instruction are almost identified there is very little flexibility where example and influence can play their legitimate role. Moreover, our present system is a continuous series of instruction punctuated by homework and tests which accentuate the rigidity of procedure and mechanical adherence to schedule of timetable, syllabi and examinations. In this rigid and mechanical structure, the centre of attention is not the child but the book, the teacher and the syllabus. The methods which are most conducive to the development of the personality of the child such as the methods of self-learning, exercise of free will, individualised pace of progress, etc., do not have even an elbow room. Indeed, if this is the system of education and if we are to remain content with this system of education, most important elements of learning will for ever remain outside this system and we cannot confidently recommend any effective system of learning, much less any effective programme of value-education.
It is hoped that sooner rather than later, our system of education will change in the right direction.
An increasing number of educationists and teachers will come forward to break the rigidities of our educational system. It is possible to make our system more and more flexible and with the right type of training imparted to teachers, a more healthy system of education will eventually be introduced and will become effective.
To comment on our present system of examinations, apart from a number of undesirable aspects of our examination system, the one which is particularly conducive to what may be called “anti-value” is the tendency which promotes the idea that passing of an examination and earning of degree is the aim of education. Radical measures should be adopted to combat this idea and to introduce such changes in our examination system whereby the educational process can remain unalterably fixed on the right aims of education.
A radical change in the examination system is a necessary condition of any meaningful value-oriented education.
It is sometimes argued that values can best be taught through the instrumentality of a number of subjects rather than through any specific or special subject, whether call it by the name of “moral education” or “ethics”, or “value-education”. There is a great force behind this contention and a well-conceived programme of studies of various subjects should naturally provide, both in their content and thrust, the requisite materials for value-education.
The question, however, is whether our current programmes of studies have been so carefully devised as to emphasise those aspects which can readily provide
to teachers and students the required opportunities, conditions and materials for value-education. But even if our programmes of studies are revised, there will still remain the specific area of value-education which should receive a special, although not exclusive, attention and treatment. In other words there should be a core programme of value-education in the totality of educational programmes. This core programme should be so carefully devised that various threads of this programme are woven into the complex totality of all the other programmes of studies: and this can perhaps be done more easily, if we develop a curriculum for the development of Integral Personality. Here yet the central theme of value-education would not form a mere appendage of all other subjects but would stand out as the overarching and the supervening subject of basic importance. A suitable study of this core programme should form an important part of teachers’ training programmes in our country.
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