Innovations related to Contents of Education
Contents of education need to be innovated, keeping in view that there is a great need to develop profounder pedagogy in learning various subjects of study.
A great emphasis needs to be laid on learning languages. The following innovative ideas regarding learning of languages may be recommended:
The mind should be accustomed first to notice the word thoroughly, its form, sound and sense; then to compare the form with other similar forms in the point of similarity and difference, thus forming the foundations of the grammatical sense; then to distinguish between the fine shades of sense of similar words and the formation and rhythm of different sentences, thus forming the formation of the literary and the syntactical faculties. All this should be done informally, drawing on the curiosity and interest, avoiding set teaching and memorizing of rules. The true knowledge takes its base on things, arthas, and only when this is mastered, knowledge proceeds to formalize its information.
There has been a great deal of discussion on the learning of mother tongue and several other languages. Innovative ideas are recommended for experimentation:
(i) Programme for preparing a good base in regard to the mother-tongue; and after the first five years, introduction of other languages; or
(ii) Introduction right from the beginning to 3-4 languages, which are similar to each other;
(Note: It has been contended that modern children have more than one mother-tongue, and even at home, children tend to speak in three or four languages; hence, effort should be made to teach these languages simultaneously on the basis of sound pedagogy for teaching and learning three or four languages);
(iii) In the three-language formula, Sanskrit has come to be greatly neglected. This neglect should be remedied. An innovative idea is to introduce Sanskrit right from the beginning along with the mother-tongue and English. In the context of the globalised world, it has also been suggested that apart from English, another fourth language also should be taught right from the beginning. In this connection, one of the foreign languages could be encouraged, particularly those which since they have been recognized as international languages at the UNO: Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish. It has also been suggested that English has a great similarity with French, and French has a great similarity with Sanskrit. Hence, the four-language formula, consisting of Sanskrit, mother-tongue, English and French, could be experimented upon, and sound pedagogy could be evolved for this purpose.
(iv) It has often been suggested that the students of North India should study one of the languages of Southern India, and students of South India should all study Hindi which is not only a language of large parts of Northern India but also the official language of India.
Against this contention, it is argued that the study of Hindi, Sanskrit and additional Indian language is excessive and it is often recommended that it would be more useful if one of the three languages of India could be substituted by an international language, apart from English. In the innovative schools, experimental courses can be organized which would respect all these varied recommendations in order to gain experimental knowledge for further development of teaching and learning languages.
(v) It will be seen that these experiments will take advantage of experiments which have already been made in our country or elsewhere and the results of these experiments need to be pooled together so that further experiments can be built up on the basis of successes and failures of the past experiments.
Since the learning of language constitutes the basic foundation of learning to learn, a great emphasis should be laid on the learning of languages, particularly between the ages of four and eleven. It seems desirable that the curriculum of the first five years of the school education should largely be devoted to the building up of a strong foundation in three or four languages. The emphasis should be on reading, writing and comprehension, and children should be able to take dictations without any mistakes in spellings. It is rightly maintained that once the foundations are well secured, much of the later programmes of learning can more easily be carried on through innovative methods of learning, such as through worksheets, programme books, reference books and various other written materials which
can be made available to the children. These new innovative methods will encourage learning different subjects at one's own pace of learning and in accordance with the interest one has for one subject or the other. Thus many programmes of education can be made optional, and this optionality would also help students to develop expertise in a given preferred subject even at an earlier stage. Even the learning of languages can have optional courses, so that those who have literary taste can have advanced or specialized courses in literature at an earlier stage, while others who wish to develop expertise in the grammatical aspects of the language, in the art of transliteration and translations and in secretarial practice (involving shorthand and stenography, and computer) can have advanced courses in these aspects at an earlier stage. An innovative school should have the possibility of various kinds of subjects with various kinds of options in learning and mastering one aspect in preference to the other.
An important experiment that needs to be carried out relates to the idea that education should not be limited only to the training of the head but also in the training of the hand and the heart.
Consequently, the following innovative programmes of participation by manual work can be proposed for student, right at the beginning of the primary level in connection with:
(a) Agriculture; (b) Horticulture; (c) Handicrafts;
(d) Recitations and dramatics; (e) Music and dance; and
(f) Experimental science and simple techniques.
All these could be made optional in innovative experiments, and depending upon student's interests, a number of combinations can be allowed without making anything compulsory and without any formalized or strictly sequential programming of syllabus.
In any case, it would be also innovative if all the above subjects could be learnt by students without subjecting them in classroom situations. In other words, interesting programmes regarding themes of these subjects could be expounded through four alternative methods:
(1) Demonstrations, recitation and dramatic programmes, Dance and Music programmes, Slide shows/Film shows;
(2) Explorations resulting in discoveries;
(3) Project work leading to Inventions; and
(4) Correlation and project work.
Timetables should be so organized that the innovative schools can have daily some free hours where these programmes of demonstrations etc. could be held for small or large groups of students, and students can be encouraged to participate in them without being burdened by the pressures of the timetable of fixed hours and tests.
Arithmetic and Mathematics:
During the first five years, the emphasis should be laid in the innovative schools on learning four operations of arithmetic: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Emphasis should also be laid on mental calculation, even though in our times calculators are available and students tend to ignore the value of mental calculations. As far as other aspects of
mathematics are concerned, they can be introduced marginally for average students, systematically and intensively for talented students; and they need not be insisted upon those who do not have initial interest in them, since at higher stages, more compact courses can be provided to them if they wish to pursue such scientific or technical subjects where the study of mathematics forms an essential part.
There is one important domain of studies which has come to be neglected under the colonial system of education, but which is extremely important for what is called man-making education or for character development or for integral development of personality. Thus subject should be developed in such a manner that emphasis falls upon the theme of self-knowledge and self-control. And the programme should be so built up that humanistic, scientific, artistic and technological subjects get interrelated and the values of physical, vital, emotional, rational, ethical, aesthetic and spiritual development get interrelated through an innovative and experimental pedagogy. And in this programme, study of stories and biographies should be the main instrument; elementary ideas pertaining to psychology, science, morality, art, spirituality, religion, and yoga should be provided at different grades to students. A great emphasis should be laid on studying definitions in regard to difficult ideas and topics. Finally, opportunity should be provided to study these subjects in Rooms of Silence and through methods of introspection, contemplation and meditation as also through voluntary activities of conduct and practice.
A Manual will be brought out in this connection in due course.
One of the great deficiencies of our current system of education is the neglect of physical education. Even when some place is given to physical education, its place in the programme of studies is only marginal.
In the innovative programme of physical education, a comprehensive study and practice should be emphasized. This programme will include lessons in health-care, in diet and in methods by which students come to appreciate the value of developing proportional, symmetrical and beautiful form of the body. Emphasis should be laid on right habits which are conducive to the development of sound mind in sound and healthy, and proportional, symmetrical and beautiful body.
This programme should also include courses in gymnastics, athletics, aquatics and games as also exercises in asanas and pranayama under expert guidance. Daily one hour should be allotted for every student so that engagement with physical education and with games would ensure lifelong foundation for physical health, strength and agility. This programme should also include the study of anatomy and physiology, considering that the knowledge of human body is an essential aspect of what everyone as a human being ought to know.
This programme should also include elements of first-aid and study of those elements of allopathic, homeopathic and Ayurveda which are directly relevant to the cure of ordinary physical ailments.
Finally, this programme should also include the study of the inter-relationship between the human body and the
environment; students should also be encouraged to participate in programmes of adventure and programmes which demand high level of endurance.
It is important to correlate the programmes of physical education with the development of right attitudes that include self-control, discipline, team-work, obedience to the decision of the umpire and sporting spirit which accepts success and failure with equanimity. Man-making education, value-oriented education and physical education are intimately interrelated with each other, and a systematic twelve-year programme of physical education should be developed as a part of the programme of educational innovations.
A good deal of new thought needs to be centered on the study of History of India and of the World.
The innovative lines for the contents of history and pedagogy of history that need to be developed may be mentioned as follows:
(a) Indian history, with its uninterrupted continuity of more than five thousand years, has a rich account to be conveyed to students; this long panorama of Indian history has special dimensions which impose a larger load on Indian students and teachers than the study of other national histories imposes on their counterparts in most of the other countries. How to present this vast panorama to Indian students needs to be discussed among top historians of the country, and new guidelines need to be evolved.
(b) Very often, the history of Northern India overshadows
the history of Southern India. How to create in the minds of students an overarching picture of the whole of India demands innovative thinking and innovative experimentation.
(c) Study of suitable selections from the vast Indian literature will encourage appreciation of the overarching tendency towards synthesis as also appreciation of diversity in the ever-expanding largeness of comprehensiveness and unity.
(d) For the study of World History, a subject which can be suitably named, could include the following topics: "Evolution, Humanity and the Future", "Human Unity", "National Integration", "Humanity and Environment", and "Civilization and Culture." A further suggestion in this context would be that these topics, when properly developed pedagogically, may help us in pruning the load of a number of subjects. They will help the system of education in reducing the load of books on students.
There is a strong argument in favour of introducing a subject like "Home Science" during the last three years of elementary education, considering that this subject could be very useful to all boys and girls in the development of the art of living and in management of homes which are indispensable for healthy, protective and economic framework of living. This subject may also be considered to be conducive to the simultaneous training of hand, heart and head. In determining the programme of home science at the elementary level as also at the higher levels, important elements of the Indian system of education which was related
to the study of sixty-four sciences and arts could also be used for guidance.
As far as the other subjects are concerned, innovations can be suggested on the following lines:
In the current system of education, there are no options or only marginal options in the curriculum related to class I to class X. This compulsion in regard to the prescribed subjects and absence of optionals is in many cases injurious to student's natural growth on the lines which are suitable to their interests and capacities as also to their needs of specialization on one or two preferred subjects. Hence, while determining the contents of education, the following innovative ideas may be considered and different kinds of options should be offered:
It is true that education should aim at providing to students a large background. But it does not imply that the studies relevant to the large background should necessarily be compulsory or the curriculum of these subjects should uniformly be the same for all students. What is important is that students should be exposed to a number of domains which are relevant to the arts and sciences of living and to the harmonious relationships between humanity and the universe and to the general progression of humanity towards a brighter, happier and harmonious future of the world. Therefore, all the subjects which can be covered under this general formula can be sought to be given through what can be called methods of explorations and demonstrations, the aim of which would be to cultivate interest in various subjects. Contents of explorations and demonstrations
should be limited to those interesting parts which are likely to appeal to the students and which would help them to determine their preference in regard to the maximum level to which they would like to study in a systematic manner. Hence, there should be a possibility of providing freedom to students to study different subjects leading up to the preferred level. Hence, contents of courses of studies could be, in each subject of interest, at three levels: Average or minimum level; Advanced level; and Specialized level. If innovations in the courses and contents of courses are carefully worked out, the following three results are likely to follow:
(i) Students' interests in many subjects will flower, and since nothing will be compulsory, students will study with joy and increasing pace of progression;
(ii) Students will be able to determine how much load of studies they would like to undertake at the initial stage and subsequently at higher levels;
(iii) Thirdly, students will be able to study faster in regard to chosen subjects, and they may even attain in one or two specialized levels, which are normally reserved for college education. If some students are interested greatly in music, they can reach a high level of proficiency even within six or seven years, if they are not burdened with studies of those subjects in regard to which they do not have the needed interest or ability.
In search of interdisciplinarity and redesigning overarching subject of study that would be conducive to the aims of integral development of personality as also to the
development of a tool for summing up the past and the present that would foster visions for a better future of humanity, four inter-related inquiries may be fostered through extension lectures or exhibitions as also through films and interesting books that may be prescribed for general reading:
(i) Is there a secret which we can educationally provide to a child whereby it can grow continuously and yet remain a child, like Newton, playing with pebbles on the shores of the ocean of knowledge?
(ii) Is there knowledge, as in the Chhandogya Upanishad, possessing which all can be known?
(iii) Is there a subject, the study of which would necessitate synchronization of the pursuit of wisdom, heroism, harmony and skill as also synchronization of personal development with the needs of collective development of humanity?
(iv) Is there a tool of the acceleration of the study of the lessons of history that would open the gates of the unfolding of the future?
These enquiries have become-urgent because there is, today, exponential growth of information, in the expanding ocean of which the individual is likely to be drowned without discovering a remedy that lies in the integration, essentiality and unity.
There is also a need to provide to the students the possibility of an adequate equipment to "read" the Book of Nature, of which Jawahar Lai Nehru spoke. For it is the ability to read
the Book of Nature that facilitates the exercise of the faculties of the total being by means of the concrete urge of experience. This was the main thesis of the original experiments of Gurudev Rabindra Nath Tagore. The interrelationship between humanity and environment, the interrelationship between humanity and human evolution, humanity and the theme of integration — these are all interrelated themes, and they need to be encouraged.
UNESCO has spoken of learning to be as also of learning to learn, learning to do and learning to co-operate. UNESCO has also spoken of life-long education, and of the need to create learning society. These are wide horizons, and our innovative efforts should be guided by the need to build roads that may open up on these wider horizons.