(A theme that demands central attention)
We may recall that the great struggle for freedom had, in its early moments of resurgence, placed national education as an essential aspect of its core Programme for achieving India's independence. Under the inspiring leadership of the greatest educationists, radical experiments were carried out. National education was visualized in its widest implications so as to foster both nationalism and internationalism, and the lessons learnt from the great systems of education that had developed in India since its ancient period as also from progressive experiments which have been carried out in modern times in different parts of the world were also sought to be incorporated. Results of all these experiments need to be pooled together so that a new Programme of educational innovation can be initiated and developed. There is an urgent need to eliminate from the present system which, since the establishment of Macaulayan system in our country, has proved to be injurious to the growth of the spirit of India and the spirit of universality and universal fraternity.
Today, several innovations are being advocated, particularly with regard to child-centered education, value-oriented education, vocational education, and various aspects of curriculum and examination system. Care and education of the girl-child has rightly come to be emphasized; there is much talk of need of reduction of load of books; the integral development of personality has also come to stressed; study
of environment in order to inculcate the spirit of environmental care has also been acknowledged; importance of scientific, original and critical thinking has also been advocated and education that can relate science and values has also received special emphasis; the objective of promoting international peace is also sought to be promoted; education for the promotion of human rights as also fundamental duties is also being underlined; the role of art in education and the role of physical education are being increasingly supported.
While these desirable objects and Programmes need to be welcomed, the question is whether the present framework of education is capable of implementing these objects and Programmes in adequate measure, and whether they measure up to those visions, standards and ideals which have been put forth by the pioneering educationists of our renascent India. This is not an academic question, but it is central to the development of the road map of educational development of India. We are multiplying schools, colleges, and universities, but all this expansion sub-serves more and more insistently those objectives which Macaulay had envisaged in 1835. Our entire employment system is tied up with the present scheme of schools, colleges and universities. Parents are naturally driven to that very scheme so as to educate their children in order to enable them to enter employment market. Teachers are being trained to subserve that scheme; policy makers are under a constant pressure to expand the education system, and huge funds are being deployed to sustain that scheme. There is not much time available to parents, teachers, educationists, and policy makers to think of educational reforms in any radical and sustained manner.
Will there be a place and an institutional arrangement where educational innovations receive central attention, and where the great ideals of education are conceived, developed, experimented upon on a regular and sustained basis? Not occasional conferences, seminars, or working groups, which normally end in recommendations and nothing more. There must be created, at the national level or state level, a permanent commission for educational innovations, which should be statutory, and which should have powers not only to conduct reflections on the required educational innovations, but also to conduct and promote experiments which can sustain a methodical effort so as to bring about concrete implementation of innovations, which can measure up to those standards and ideals which were advocated by the pioneering educationists during the freedom struggle, as also those which the greatest educationists of the contemporary world have put forth to meet the needs of today and tomorrow. This Commission must have inbuilt power and ability to conceive that aim of education, that methodology of education, and that content of education which will respond to the highest care that we need to bestow on the new generations. It appears, as we ponder over the problems at a deeper level, that the present system will need to be greatly modified, and even an alternative and parallel system will also need to be envisaged, experimented upon and developed, so that students may have choice to be enrolled in one system or the other, depending upon which system will suit them. An alternative system, when created, will have to stand on footing of equality with the other, in terms of equivalence by virtue of recognition and by virtue of availability of opportunity to enter into the world of work.
If the argument which is advanced above, although briefly and inadequately, seems plausible, we need to think of launching upon a long-term Programme of action. But such a Programme of action can be sustained only through a new institutional framework which should be set up under appropriate legislation.
A few ideas on this subject are offered:
1. A legislative bill should be conceived and drafted;
2. The proposed bill should envisage the setting up of a permanent statutory commission;
3. The proposed commission may be named "Commission for Educational Innovations";
4. The main objective of the commission will be to conceive, experiment upon and implement such educational innovations that will transform the objectives, contents and methods of education in the light of the aspirations that inspired the visions of the ideals of national system of education during the freedom struggle;
5. The commission will also take into account the lessons of progressive experiments carried out in the different parts of the world that have aimed at the integral development of students, which would harmonize the values of physical education, aesthetic education, rational education, ethical education, and spiritual education;
6. A schedule will be annexed to the legislative bill, which
will indicate some specific lines on which innovations can possibly be conceived, and it could also specify certain concrete instances of innovations which can serve as guidelines for the Commission, which will have freedom to conceive, propose and implement other innovations which are not listed in the schedule;
7. This list of innovations will be related to aims of education, educational methodology and contents of education as also to training Programmes of teachers;
8. Character development that involves man-making education (to use the famous term of Swami Viveka-nanda), and which involves self-knowledge and self-control, will receive central attention of the proposed Commission;
9. Integral development of personality which will foster capacities of knowledge and wisdom, courage and heroism, universality, mutuality and harmony and skills of various kinds will also receive central attention;
10. The aims of vocational education, professional education, liberal education and scientific and technical education will be sought to be supplemented by pro-founder aims that are central to the inmost Spirit of India, and they will be sought to be fulfilled by means of a flexible and evolutionary curriculum;
11. A new framework of educational structure will be sought to be envisaged so as to harmonise the needs of individual attention with the increasing pressure on expanding the size of educational institutions, and new methodologies of education will be sought to be developed, which will harmonize the development of
faculties of the head, heart and hand as also those methodologies which can be developed by increasing freedom of self-learning, collective learning and learning through participation in large audiences to which stimulating exposures can be suitably administered by the mass media;
12. Care will be taken to develop methods, aims, and contents suitable to learning to know, learning to do, learning to co-operate and learning to be;
13. Care will also be taken to ensure implementation of methods of learning by exploration, discovery, invention and creative expression through art, music, poetry and through various kinds of crafts;
14. Subjects which are extremely important to every human being, but which have been neglected or ignored will be sought to be developed, even while the load of books will be sought to be reduced by careful and adequate pruning of all that is obsolete and irrelevant as also by redesigning courses through a system of optionals and a system of alternative goals of achievements, depending upon individual needs and capacities of growth and need to pursue ordinary standards, advanced standards or specialized standards;
15. Innovations will be sought to be developed which will encourage participatory processes of learning, project work, field work, manual work, and works that stimulate discipline, diligence, persistence, and needed patience and needed speed;
16. The Commission will provide financial assistance to educational and research institutions devoted to the
development of educational innovations and creation of innovative model of educational methodology and teaching learning material. The Commissions will also be empowered to conduct and develop centers, organizations and institutions with exclusive objective of experimentation and research in innovations, particularly those listed in the schedule or other radical ones as may be approved by the Commission, and with the objective of the evolution of a new system of education, a new curriculum, and new methods of testing that can be considered appropriate to the ideas, ideals and specific suggestions made by great educationists who pioneered educational experiments during freedom struggle as also those who have endeavored to eliminate from the present system those aspects which, since the establishment of Macaulayan system in our country, have proved to be injurious to the growth of the spirit of India and the spirit of universality and the spirit of universal fraternity;
17. The Commission will also develop and conduct or aid in conducting training Programmes of teachers, both pre-service and in-service, in order to create an ever-increasing cadre of teachers who can serve and sustain the Programmes of educational innovations;
18. The Commission will seek and obtain due recognition for the new courses, new testing systems and the new teaching-learning material at the hands of the present authorities empowered to grant recognition and also at the hands of a new authority that it will be authorized to institute for recognition that will open the gates for the students qualified in the new system of education for higher studies as also for entry into the world of work
and employment in terms of equality with students who qualify themselves in the present system;
19. Finally, the Commission will be entitled to take all necessary steps by which educational innovations are promoted and implemented, and thus set in the country a new dynamism for a fresh pursuit of excellence.
It is true that many educational innovations have been thought of, and many of them have been proposed for implementation. It is also felt that in due course of time the task of implementation will redeive due support, and we can look forward to the development of a better and more enriched, less burdensome and yet more fruitful system. Why do we, then, propose to create a commission for innovations at the national or state level? What is the imperativeness of such a commission?
The answer to this question will be found, if we review the history of Indian education since 1835 when Macaulay placed before India the aim of creating in the country a class of people that will be externally Indian but otherwise British. He had declared that all that was important in the Indian heritage could be contained only in one small shelf in a huge library of knowledge and wisdom derived from the West. It has been widely acknowledged that Macaulay has succeeded in the aim that he set up for education, and that in spite of great educational experiments of the Gurukul system, of Shanti Niketan, of Nai Talim, and of the blazing message of Swami Vivekananda and radical experiments proposed and conducted by Sri Aurobindo, nothing palpable seems to have happened so as to arrest the onward march of the Macaulayan system. Reports of Dr. Radhakrishnan and of Dr. Kothari and of many others have stirred the minds of educationists and policy makers, but what is the net result in terms of the change that was so fervently advocated by the pioneering educationists at the turn of the last century? The real fact is
that all that has gone in the background, — basic education has been declared to be a failure, Shanti Niketan itself came to be declared as a university for purposes of instruction and examination, — a notion abhorrent to Gurudev Tagore, the founder of the Shanti Niketan, and the rest has been adjudged and almost condemned by the application of the criteria flowing from the Macaulayan system. There does not even seem to be any prospect for any radical change. If we feel contented with a few innovations that are being proposed but which will be declared in due course of time incapable of implementation, and if we do not underline the necessity of radical thinking and radical innovations and radical means of implementation, it seems that the reformists of education are fighting a losing battle. Radical measures are imperatively demanded, and a creation of a commission for innovations is only a small step, and that, too, can succeed only if it is accompanied by a number of measures which also need to be contemplated at this stage.
But why not a committee that can recommend innovations and leave the task of implementation to the government and existing authorities? But this has been tried for more than fifty years. The results are deplorable. The existing authorities are preoccupied with^conduct and smooth running of the present system. Principals of the schools are occupied with maximum percentage of success of their students in the examinations set up by Macaulay. Many Vice-Chancellors congratulate themselves when they are able to conduct examinations on time. Councils of educational research are occupied with churning out text books (with annual fanfare of controversies in regard to some portions) and they are in a rush to make the text books available to the students with some tolerable or intolerable delay and the
government, central or state, has no special machinery through which innovations can be rightly conceived and rightly implemented.
Educational innovations cannot be reduced to inorganic mechanics of nuts and bolts. Innovations are organic in character, they need to be conceived and matured by process of incubation; even if conceptions are sound, they cannot be implemented unless they are enthusiastically received by teachers, and unless they are sufficiently internalized and absorbed in their nerves and fibers of motivation. New Programmes of teachers' training need to be undertaken, -preparing teachers of teachers, and subsequently those teachers who will participate in the first steps of experimentation. Generalization of innovations can only be a long-term proposition. Again, innovations require new sets of teaching-learning material; and even the best educationists find it difficult to prepare this material, and that, too, in a form that would be pedagogically appropriate to the demands of the proposed innovations. There is also the question of utilization of new methodology of education, and also the question of utilization of emerging media of communication. All this and much more is involved in the task of conceiving and implementing educational innovations. A patient and long term work is involved; every step of the work needs to be planned, executed, monitored, evaluated, revised and worked out to some satisfactory level of achievement.
But this is not all.
We often speak of creating a national system of education. At one time, there was a great deal of confusion on the meaning of "national system". Even now, the phrase
"national system" connotes, to many, a system of the revival of the past and lessons in Chanakya and Bhaskaracharya in place of Newton and Einstein, in place of Mill and Rawls. In this sense the idea of national system comes to be rightly rejected. What is truly national? The true answer lies in the discovery and renascent formulation of the national spirit. There are three indisputable facts that emerge from an unbiased study of the Indian heritage. The first fact is that there is in India an overwhelming influence of the Upanishads, and it is this influence which accounts for the undeniable spirituality and profuse growth of number of religions, mutual understanding and harmonization among which has been an extremely important issue in the development of what may be called the heart and soul of India. The second is the robust intellectual and philosophical quest, resulting in the development of number of sciences and copious systems of rigorous speculations, systems of knowledge, and codes of various Dharma Shastras. Intellectualism of India is a necessary part of the national spirit. Thirdly, India has exhibited inexhaustible vitality and continuity which is exceptional in many respects. That India has declined from time to time, and deplorably in the last few centuries cannot be denied. The causes of the decline only underline the need to take special measures by which defects and imperfections of the past can be remedied; but the remedies will be effective only if those three aspects of the spirit of India are properly acknowledged and nourished. We need to create new forms of the spirit of India that are relevant and appropriate to the progressive climate of the country and the world. A national system of education, therefore, should not mean revival of the past or turning to the past, away from the present and the future, but recovery
of the deeper secrets of India's spirituality, India's intellectuality and India's vitality, and the national system of education has to be designed in such a way that these three aspects are properly underlined and presented to the growing generations in the forms that are suitable to the contemporary climate and to the future needs of India and the world. This is not an easy task, and such a task cannot be left to a committee and its recommendations. A serious attention to this task will necessitate a radical change in the very aim of education that will strike at the very root of Macaulay's prescriptions, the injurious effects of which still continue and multiply. Only a permanent Commission can promise the possibility of the fulfillment of the needed work, if it is mandated to work out a new system of education, vibrant with the soul of India, and capable of inspiring in the new generations a true spirit of nationalism, which is not limited to self-glory, but, true to its own sense of universality, dedicated to the task of serving internationalism and unity of human kind.
But apart from the aim of education, we are in need of the evolution of new methods of education and new methods of evaluation. On the one hand, there is today an effort to expand and universalize not only elementary education but also secondary education; on the other hand, there is an increasing awareness of the need to maintain an optimum size of the classrooms. Dilemmas resulting from these contrary pulls have to be confronted and resolved by innovative methods. Methods of demonstrations, explorations, discoveries and inventions need to be appropriately incorporated in the system. The lecture system will need to be supplemented or greatly modified by employment of audio-visual methods, methods of project work, and
methods by which individual's capacity of using freedom with discipline will also need to be developed. The present pedagogical methods of teaching various subjects will need to be revisited. We speak of reduction of load of books. It is a very laudable recommendation, but it has revolutionary consequences for the methodology of education and for the entire system of education, and this matter needs to be worked out patiently, assiduously and effectively.
The present methods of education have repeatedly come under adverse criticism. No satisfying formula has yet emerged. This is a very vast subject, but it needs urgent attention and remedies are not only to be thought of, but experiments have to be carried out, results of experiments have to be assessed, and solutions have to be implemented with great care and after meticulous preparation.
Once again, these tasks require a permanent Commission for educational innovations.
Finally, there is a need to revisit the entire domain of contents of education. Are we providing our students that essential knowledge which is really necessary for human and humane development? Are we providing enough options, considering that students of various inclinations and abilities demand different kinds of skills and different kinds of mental equipment? The present system is being defended as a liberal system of education and as a rational system of education. Is it really so? A number of students are in dire need of vocational education, which requires equipments, tools, and workshops, which our schools can hardly provide. The Macaulayan system is found to be adequate for clerical jobs and for preparations that aim at access to professional education. But even in this regard, how much is actually
achieved? How much do we provide to the students in a compulsory way, which the students retrospectively find to have had any utility in their lives? And what about physical education, what about art education, and the contribution it can make to the education of the inmost soul? Are we teaching the history of India and the world in the right perspective? This is a very sensitive question, but we have not yet dealt with it with that scientific rigour and that sensitivity which are required. These are only a few illustrations relevant to the domain of contents of education. How are we to deal with these and many other issues?
Here also, it will be found that there is necessity to set up a permanent Commission for educational innovations.