VIDYA BHARATI NATIONAL ACADEMIC COUNCIL ANNUAL MEETING
CHAIRMAN VIDYA BHARATI NATIONAL ACADEMIC COUNCIL
28 FEBRUARY, 1999
TREHAN SARASWATI BAL MANDIR
Let me at the outset congratulate Vidya Bharati for having organised this major meeting of the academic council, so as to give us all an opportunity to reflect and share our perception and the direction in which we need to work in the next few years.
At the stage where we stand today and as we strive to move forward, there is bound to grow more and more insistently the awareness that education is an evolutionary force and that it ought to be made a most powerful instrument of the evolutionary mutation towards which humanity seems to be proceeding. This awareness is bound to impel a thorough revolution of education in which the aim would be to cultivate, sharpen and transform the faculties and powers of personality leading towards an unprecedented perfection that would enhance man's capacities to collaborate consciously with the upward march of evolution.
It is imperative that humanity rises in maturity so as to make the right use of scientific discoveries and inventions in order that they are not utilised in the service of lower urges but for raising the heights of cultural life.
It is also necessary that nations of the world co-operate with each other in assuring environmental protection and raising the standards of life even of the least developed countries.
And, above all, pursuit of scientific knowledge and valueoriented education should be raised to such a high level that human beings are aided in becoming global in their consciousness as also capable of generating the practice of universal brotherhood, reflecting Indian ideal of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.
In practical terms, we shall need to propose radical changes in the aims, methods, and contents of education.
A significant fact in this context is that there has been in India intensive experiments which embrace all these ideas and many more. It is true that these experiments have not yet made any appreciable impact, but there is a growing need to recognise the value of these experiments and to allow their results to have an influence on the new orientation that Indian education needs so urgently and imperatively. The Indian experiment began indigenously with the modern renaissance in India, and it was nurtured by the pre-independence nationalist movement. In due course, it absorbed deeply the western ideas of new and progressive education. But, at the same time, it took a great care to integrate them with the profoundest concepts of our own educational psychology. For this reason, the Indian Experiment has been rather slow in showing its results. For its data were larger and the elements which had to be harmonised were more difficult and more numerous.
The mature fruit of the Indian Experiment is to be found in the concept of the fourfold personality. It has been pointed out that there are four central values and powers of personality, and , if these are rightly balanced throughout the process of developments, and if healthy equilibrium of these powers is upheld progressively, then the youth could be assured of a continuous life-long integral development of personality that would constantly release freshness and creativity, enthusiasm and courage, and spontaneous dedication and consecration to all that is highest and noblest. These four values belong to the deepest and highest being, but their expressions are to be found in varying degrees, in all our instruments, body, life and mind. These four values are: Knowledge, Power, Harmony and Skill in works.
It is, indeed, recognised that this is an extraordinary programme, which implies a life-long process of integral development, in which physical, vital, intellectual, ethical, aesthetic powers are to be purified, sharpened and perfected under the overarching inspiration and progressive guidance of psychic and spiritual consciousness. But it is underlined that it must begin right from the beginning, and even earlier levels of education must be so restructured as to permit the development of the student on new lines.
It is premature to say whether the ideas and experiences generated by the Indian Experiment will be able to revolutionise the Indian educational situation. But there are bright prospects. Firstly, there is an irresistible demand among large sections of people to replace as soon as possible the educational system that the British designed for India. This demand is persistent, and it is likely to become insistent. Secondly, India cannot afford to perpetuate the rigidity and inelasticity of the present system of education, if India has to attend the needs of very large number of children and youths who cannot all be accommodated in the formal system of education. Thirdly, the Indian Experiment is at once Indian and international, and with the growing tide of radical ideas that are growing everywhere in the world, India is bound to look more and more searchingly within its own experiment where these radical ideas have been assimilated. And, finally, India needs a new kind of manpower not only for higher purposes of evolution but even for its economic prosperity and for cultural efflorescence. And it is likely to be recognised more and more increasingly that the Indian Experiment has a special relevance to the creation of the needed new kind of manpower.
Let us make certain specific proposals that may guide us in providing new educational orientations for the near future. And it may be underlined that these are only preliminary in character and need to be followed up by more radical proposals as we move forward.
In the first place, India needs to take a decision that in pursuance of the Indian educational experiment, as also of the latest educational thought of the world, India should aim at realising and actualising the ideal of learning society, and India should co-ordinate and involve all sectors of society in the teaching-learning processes. And we have to realise that the sovereignty in the learning society rests in the child and the youth. As a result, the child and the youth should be kept in the centre of nation's care and concern.
One of chief characteristics of the learning society is that it should reject the idea that only a few should climb to the higher levels of achievement and that the rest should remain content with lower ranges of activities and fulfilment. Education for all aiming at the integral upliftment of all is a natural corollary of the idea of the learning society. And the two basic requirements that follow, in the context of the Indian situation, are universalisation of elementary education and elimination of adult illiteracy. Therefore, a top priority must be given to the realisation of the goals of these programmes within a fixed timetable. Programmes of midday meal and garments for girls should be adopted all over the country. A special emphasis must be laid on the education of girls and women. Special measures should be taken to encourage education among disadvantaged groups, particularly among the physically handicapped and scheduled castes and tribes.
While efforts should continue to strengthen and consolidate the gains achieved so far, a special emphasis should be laid on innovations and certain radical changes. Non-formal education should be developed as a full-fledged alternative system at all stages of education. Suitable linkages between the formal and non-formal education should also be forged. Non-formal education should encourage multipoint entry system, and it should be made flexible so as to suit the learners' needs from the point of view of space, time and curriculum. The formal system, too, should be so refined that it can provide to students of non-formal education a choice of lateral entry into it at appropriate levels of studies.
Harmony of Man with Nature has been the chief theme of our culture, and the quest of man of himself and the universe has been the chief theme of education. These themes are closely interrelated, and it is increasingly realised that this interrelationship needs to be effectively reflected in our educational system. Education promoting culture, and culture promoting education, will characterise the new effort. Culture depends on large and wise strides of imagination, emotion and thought, on works of art and craft, on beautiful arrangements of things, plants and flowers. Therefore, facilities should be created, both at the national and local levels, to encourage teachers, students and educational institutions to promote fine arts and activities of imagination, local folklore, folk art and craftsmanship, and to weave artistic sensitivity and sensibility into every educational activity. Right from attention to the neatness and beauty of handwriting to the harmony of forms of thought and composition, various activities of learning should be encouraged so as to transmute them into experiences of creative expansion and progress. Cultural refinement will be sought not only as an aim of education but also as integral element of the educational process.
That every Indian student should receive an adequate exposure to Indian culture seems obvious, and vet, despite previous efforts, much remains to be attempted and achieved to promote among students the study, understanding and appreciation of Indian culture. This involves an arduous task, as it implies not only reorientation of textbooks but also preparation of learning materials, promotion of exhibitions and films, and creation of proper environment and atmosphere through which the aims and manifestations of Indian culture could be properly communicated to students at new various levels of education. This task should be encouraged, and a special effort should be made to underline the need to study Indian culture not only to appreciate its past glories but also to chalk out the paths of Indian future. Not revivalism but rootedness, reconstruction and new creation should be the central motive.
It is universally acknowledged that the educational needs of the rural India have not received the attention that they deserve, despite certain laudable schemes which have brought about salutary changes in certain aspects. The vast human potential in the rural India has remained untapped, although powerful currents of Indian culture have continued to irrigate the minds and hearts of the rural people. The Indian peasant has often been found to possess untutored wisdom and instinctive sensibility to realities of life. But what is instinctive in him needs be brought out in awakened selfconsciousness, and this demands a new approach. Learning materials have to be so designed that they are relevant to the rural environment and ethos. Technical know-how, which needs to be transferred to the rural areas has to be judiciously determined. In particular, scientific and technical knowledge regarding alternative and non-conventional sources of energy must receive highest priority in the educational programmes. Consequent upon the increasing development of agroindustrial complexes in rural areas, there should be a growing demand for the relevant talent and skills, which, in turn, should impose a special dimension to education. This need must be met adequately and effectively. Rural employment schemes must also be linked with specially designed relevant programmes of education. And, overarching these efforts, there should be launched for the youth in the rural areas a massive programme of education that would centre activities of physical culture, general knowledge and basic skills. This programme should be promoted and monitored by a staff exclusively charged with it.
Considering that mediocrity of linguistic competence obstructs the development of intellectual processes of thought and reflection, a major thrust of the new educational policy should be to promote among students and people increasing capacity of linguistic comprehension, articulation and excellence. Emphasis should be laid on correctness of pronunciation, spelling and expression in the languages learnt and taught at various levels of education, formal and non-formal.
Educational reconstruction should necessitate certain fundamental innovations. The following programmes should particularly be promoted:
Research is indispensable, not only for attaining educational excellence but also for securing increasing rate of economic growth, productivity and development. High priority should be assigned to the promotion of research, both scientific and humanistic. The learned councils or research institutes of advanced studies should be encouraged to co-ordinate their research efforts and to develop the manpower that can continue to remain at the frontiers of knowledge and lead the growing generation to reach these frontiers rapidly and fruitfully. In particular, encouragement should be given not only to discover new and rich contents of ethical and spiritual domains but also to open up a new domain where the modern trends of science can meet and converge on the ancient and renascent knowledge of the secrets of spiritual perfection.
A new orientation in the teachers' training programmes has become inevitable. Consequent upon the explosion of information, increasing relevance of education to all domains of the world of work, and increasing stress on the themes of unity and integration, international understanding and peace, and individual and collective excellence, new demands are being made on the teacher. The role of the teacher is undergoing a process of rapid change. The teacher as a taskmaster is fading out of the educational scene, and the teacher is being increasingly looked upon as a guide and an inspirer. The teacher is also expected to contribute significantly to the task of integrating education with development. He is required to become an innovator and inventor of dynamic methods of education. And he is also expected to become a leading agent of change. He is also called upon to play an active role in the fashioning of a learning society. It is against this background that major changes need to be introduced in the aims, methods and contents of programmes of teacher education, both pre-service and in-service.
Appropriate to the new and heavy demands on the teacher, working conditions of the teacher should be improved, and measures should be taken to raise the status of the teacher. At the same time, the teacher should be expected to set a high standard of performance and discharge of responsibilities.
A question may be raised if we have the needed resources, in terms of finance and manpower, to implement all this that we have conceived. The answer to this question cannot be given merely in terms of statistics. The answer must lie in what we, as people would like to give to our children for their highest welfare. If we take a voluntary decision to generate a will to change, to turn human life into the divine life, then we can visualise in the coming years, a period of fruitful and successful implementation of the needed ideas and programmes.
Having struck this optimistic note, may I now make a suggestion. Ours is an academic council, and the major task of an academic council to stand at the frontiers of knowledge and to envisage appropriate methods by which students can be enabled to reach those frontiers as rapidly as possible, and as competently as possible, so that they can become our colleagues in pushing back the boundaries of the present frontiers of knowledge. The pace of progress must be accelerated in such a manner that the pace synchronises harmoniously with the increasing abilities and progressive growth of the personality of the students.
With this view in mind, we need to be engaged in the activity that concentrates upon the situation of Indian students, the pressure they have to bear in assimilating the great heritage of India and at the same time in assimilating the best of the world heritage and the best lessons of modernism. Considering that the cultural development of India has uniqueness of being continuous since the early Vedic times to the present day, and since the Indian spirit has shown tremendous power of assimilation and synthesis in spite of various kinds of attacks upon it and in spite vi varied experience of rise, growth and decline and resurgence, the Indian student, in attempting to understand and assimilate the lessons of India's cultural history has certain unique problems, which students of other countries do not confront. It is for this reason that those who have attempted to frame the required curriculum of Indian history and to prepare the relevant teaching-learning materials have not succeeded adequately, and academic councils even in the universities and institutions of higher education have not been able to give a satisfactory reply to numerous questions that arise in the task of framing relevant curricula and syllabi.
My question is whether we should not undertake this difficult but extremely important issue. I am that many distinguished scholars and educationists present here have devoted their time and energy on this issue; much valuable work also has been attempted and a very creative work has been accomplished. But I feel that we need to go farther.
In four areas, at least, we could begin a fresh inquiry in which results of our past labours can be made use of. The first is, of course, curriculum of Indian history and Indian culture. Study of geography can also be included in this task. The second is the curriculum of languages that are being taught to our students, since languages carry in themselves the living experience and message of the culture in which they are born and have developed. The third curriculum needs to be framed in respect of value-oriented education with special emphasis on rational, ethical, aesthetic and spiritual education. Finally, we could also develop curricula in respect to those areas in every subject where the contributions made by great pioneers of India need to be highlighted.
I shall be happy if this important subject receives due attention of our Meeting and a timetable of action is chalked out by this Meeting.