This Scheme is rooted in India’s struggle for freedom, during which there was a programme of national education. Prominent leaders of that era advocated that a national system of education should be evolved, which would train students in the spirit of nationalism and in the development of integral personality. As a result, certain institutions came to be organised, and experiments were conducted to find an alternative system of education which would be radically different from the system provided by the British under the inspiration of Macaulay.
After independence, it was felt that these experiments require to be nourished, particularly because a practical alternative system had still not emerged, and pioneering experiments needed to be conducted and supported.
It was in answer to this need that the Scheme under review was conceived and adopted for implementation. This was around 1960.
The policy to support the development of a new system of education, which would be non-Macaulayan but rooted in the Indian spirit, continues to be a matter of high priority even today. In a recent statement of the Hon’ble Minister of Human Resource Development on January 18, 2002, we find the following statement which is directly relevant to the above scheme:
“As is very well-known, Macaulay had explicitly stated the purpose of the education system that was introduced under his initiative by the British in India, namely, to create a “class Indian in blood and colour but English in taste, in opinion, in morals and intellect” who would be interpreters between the British and the teeming millions that they ruled. Unfortunately, the scheme of education that was introduced has even now continued to persist with peripheral modifications. If we examine that scheme objectively, and in the light of the basic foundations of Indian culture, we shall find that it knocked off four main elements with perilous consequences. First of all, it eliminated the study of poetry, music and art, which constitutes perfect education of the soul; secondly, it eliminated the study of philosophy, dharma and spiritual knowledge – three elements which are the supreme components of the Indian heritage; thirdly, while it introduced some elements of world history and world geography and modern science, it presented the dominant British view of history and disturbed the Indian view of science, which always looked upon scientific inquiry as a part of the holistic quest in which Science, Philosophy and Yoga had a sound system of interrelationship; and fourthly, it omitted altogether physical education and skills of art and craft and others related to science of living, which were kept alive in India throughout the ages. What has been lost in terms of pedagogy and richness of contents of knowledge and skills has not been remedied, and urgent steps are necessary to review the entire scheme so that we can provide to our students a genuine national system of education, which is at the same time open to the benefits of modern knowledge and modern ideals of progress towards Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.”
It may be noted that the Scheme of Financial Assistance to Institutions of Higher learning of All India Importance is so designed that it can foster experimentation of educational research in this difficult area where non-Macaulayan system of education can be attempted to be created. Relevance of this Scheme is greater today than ever before, considering that the central focus of educational policy since 1986 has shifted to innovations in education, which encourage learner-oriented methodology and which are devoted to the ideals of international understanding, national integration and development of personality, and value-orientation. This is the one scheme, − and there is none other in the Ministry, − which is exclusively devoted to the fulfilment of these aims of NEP of 1986, as far as higher education and relevant innovations are concerned.
There are two important aspects of the Scheme, which need to be emphasised:
Several innovative institutions were beneficiaries under this Scheme but many of them opted out to become deemed universities. They have joined, in many respects, the usual mould of university education, which is largely fashioned in the mould of the Macualayan idea for Indian education.
Three institutions which are receiving grants under this Scheme continue to retain their spirit of innovations and boldness of experimentation. These three institutions are:
It is to be noted that inspiration behind all the three institutions has been derived from the educational writings of Sri Aurobindo. As is well-known, Sri Aurobindo was the first Principal of the National College which was established in 1906 in Calcutta. It was Sri Aurobindo who gave to the country the basic work of the philosophy of national education in his books, particularly “A National System of Education”, “National Value of Art”, “The Brain of India”, and “The Synthesis of Yoga”. It is also to be noted that the spirit of all those teachers and researchers who have been attracted to the experiments proposed by Sri Aurobindo through above institutions has been remarkably noble and self-sacrificing. There are no sanctioned posts in these institutions, and they receive no salaries as in any ordinary institutions, but they are maintained by the institutions on a modest scale. They are all fully dedicated to the promotion of educational research at the highest level, and they are able to embody in their own personal lives exemplary character, where they work not to earn livelihood but they live to embody highest values which can be expected from ideal teachers.
If the Scheme under which these institutions are being supported, is wound up, these institutions will not survive, as UGC cannot support them. Since it has been the declared policy of the Government to support value-education as well as such innovations in the education system, this Ministry cannot agree to a proposal that will put an end to all such institutions. It is unthinkable that the Ministry should be instrumental to extinguishing this rare light of nationalism and innovative education which is still burning and making very important contributions.
Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education (SAICE) at Pondicherry has made original experiments relating to lecture system, syllabus-system and examination-system, and these original experiments have resulted in the development of a new theory of integral education and of what is called Free Progress System. The work done at the Centre has been a great inspiration to the whole country and even several international institutions have derived continuous inspiration from this Institution. Educational ideas developed by this Institution are being adopted all over the country, and it is expected that the future development of this Institution will result in the creation of a new Model of Education, in consonance with the highest aims of educational innovations.
Sri Aurobindo International Institute of Educational Research (SAIIER) has specialised in the production of teaching-learning materials, which can gradually be adapted in the main stream of education in the country, which itself is in need of a great overhauling. Its publications like “The Good Teacher And The Good Pupil” and “The Aim of Life” are now being studied by universities in India so as to develop a special course in value-education. The work of this Institution has come to be recognised by UNESCO, and the former Director-General, Mr. M’Bow had been for years a Member of its Advisory Council. It is well-known that four Resolutions were adopted by the UNESCO to support the cause of this Institution. Recently, a High-Powered Committee constituted by the Minister of Human Resource Development visited this Institute and submitted a voluminous report on the importance of this Institute. In its concluding recommendation, this Report states:
“SAIIER is a powerful centre of Educational research. The work done so far is extremely valuable. The future development, which has been envisaged in the Development Proposal, deserves unstinted financial assistance by the Government in order to transform SAIIER into a world-class Institute capable of making major contributions to the contemporary educational and cultural needs of the country and of the world.”
The Mother’s Institute of Research (MIRA) has specialised in another field of higher education, which is directly relevant to the studies in the Sri Aurobindo’s works which are now being widely studied in different universities in the country. It is very well-known that 60 volumes of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother break a new ground in the fields of psychology, philosophy, poetry, art, social thought, political philosophy, science and spirituality, yoga and studies in consciousness. It is also well known that these works are extremely difficult, and even experts find them challenging. They constitute a powerful heritage for the students of today and tomorrow in our country. The question is as to how these difficult works can be so presented that they become accessible to students and teachers. As a result, this Institute has produced a number of relevant books which bear the testimony of painstaking research of a very high level. These books are now being studied by teachers and students in various universities. This Institute also underlines the need of presenting their works in different languages in India, considering that a large number of students in our universities and colleges are now studying their subjects through their regional languages.
The work that this Institute has been conducting is extremely useful, and the importance of this work persuaded recently our Hon’ble Minister for Human Resource Development to pay a personal visit to that Institute. The books produced by this Institute are of varied nature and cover a variety of subjects. They are also making research through conduct of seminars and workshops, and their contributions to the theme of value-oriented education has been increasingly acknowledged in our country.
This Scheme has served very well the objective for which it has been formulated, and the continuance of this Scheme is indispensable, considering the following grounds:
More funds also need to be allocated, since institutions covered under this Scheme are in need of developing new programmes, bolder programmes and they cannot be undertaken without larger funds allocated to them. As this Scheme will become more and more known, many other institutions are likely to be inspired and to develop themselves into new models which are necessary, if the country is ultimately going to develop a new system of education that was envisaged so ardently by the leaders of National Struggle for Freedom. The dream of these leaders has not yet been fulfilled, and this Scheme is likely to be one of those instruments by which their dream may significantly be promoted. The past experience has proved the efficacy of the Scheme and the future promises to be even more fruitful than ever before.
In conclusion, therefore, it is urged that the Scheme should continue to operate and that larger amounts of allocations be made to these institutions under this Scheme during the 10th Five Year Plan and beyond.