Permit me to begin with the recent survey that is being conducted by the International Forum for Indian Heritage, which has issued a questionnaire to a number of Indian schools so as to elicit responses from students in regard to their experience of our current educational system. I had recently an occasion to study a few illustrative samples of answers that have been received from students from different parts of the country. Three general remarks are common: (i) the present system of education is not at all inspiring; (ii) it does not contribute to the all-round development of personality; (iii) there is keenness to study Indian heritage. I am sure that when this survey will be completed and results are brought out, educationists in our country and NCERT in particular, will have valuable material for reflection and action.
Cry of the National Soul
There is, unmistakably, a cry among our students to bring about a radical change in our system of education, so as to make it more meaningful, more purposive, more value-oriented, more skill-oriented, more interesting and less burdensome. There is a cry of the soul of India, it appears, which wants to communicate itself with the coming generations so that its wisdom and its value-system can be nourished, strengthened and developed further in the light of the needs of the critical conditions through which humanity as a whole is passing today. This is not a new cry; this cry was reflected throughout the freedom struggle, when the greatest educationists of India proposed and inspired experiments in education so as to combat the Macaulayan system of education which had come to be imposed under assumptions which were entirely antagonistic to the national system of values and national system of education. What is, however, new at present is the cry of the students, and we need to discern in it a deep call to educationists to undertake a fresh journey of research, − research in objectives of education, research in contents of education and research in methods of education.
It is against this background that the programme of the NCERT for a national consultation of value-education in Indian schools needs to be welcomed. It gives us a very important opportunity to pool together experiences that have been gained by a number of institutions through their efforts of implementing value-education and to derive from them practical strategies of moving forward in the right direction through a well-planned programme of action and implementation.
NCERT’s Approach to Value-Education
NCERT has looked upon the programme of value-education, not as an exercise in adding an extra subject in the curriculum but as an important innovation that can be woven into the entire curriculum, so that the process of teaching and learning acquires a new meaning and purpose and imparts to the educational process a force of inspiration and a new quest.
It must, however, be admitted that although the concept of value education came to be advocated in explicit terms since the last two decades, it is only recently that we find the beginning of serious action so as to provide centrality to value-education. And as we reflect upon the present stage, we find that we need today much profounder research and develop much more effective strategies. And it seems inevitable that if we are allowed to go up to the logical conclusion of this effort, we shall be obliged to arrive at a radical formulation of the entire school curriculum, which will be in consonance with what students of our country are demanding implicitly or explicitly.
Value-Oriented education: Process of Exploration, not of Prescription
For philosophical reasons, I prefer the phrase Value-oriented Education instead of value-education. For the term value-education seems to imply as though we have a list of do’s and don’ts which have to be prescribed and which have to be obeyed. Indeed, there is no doubt that there are values which can be listed and regarding which there could be a national consensus. Our own Constitution, in its very Preamble, speaks of liberty, equality, and fraternity; Article 51-A speaks of Fundamental Duties, which have been sufficiently enumerated; UNESCO has also underlined the values of international understanding and world peace; it has also recently spoken of pillars of learning so as to emphasise the values of knowledge, of action, of living together, and attaining integral selfhood. There has been also throughout the ages acknowledgement of three values of Truth, Beauty and Goodness. Nonetheless, the argument that values are relative and subjective and that they are not founded in any ascertainable stuff of knowledge has a good deal of force and needs to be taken into account while formulating a sound pedagogy of education. Many of us, who have been gaining experiences in school education in India, feel the need to propose value-education as a process of exploration rather than as a process of prescription; they admit that even though a number of values can be enumerated, value-judgements require a profounder analysis so as to arrive at some kind of objectivity. We find that what is most important in education is to draw the attention of our students to what may be called the dimension of value, which is universally present in all human beings, despite varied formulations of that dimension and varied expressions of that dimension. And this task can best be performed if the dimension of values is presented as a subject of exploration, a subject of discovery, a subject in regard to which one has to arrive at one’s own conclusion and one’s own satisfaction in regard to the criteria of objectivity and veracity. In this context, therefore, it would be much more sound if we are to employ the expression value-oriented education instead of value-education.
This is only a preliminary remark.
Let us now turn to some of the most serious concerns.
Three Foundation of Value-oriented Education: Strategies to Foster Them
There are, it seems, three important grounds on which a sound process of value-oriented education can be established. There is, first, the process of widening of consciousness; secondly, there is a process of deepening of consciousness; and, thirdly, there is a process of heightening of consciousness. Pedagogically, we have to find out by what physical or subtle environment and by what facilities and equipment, we can foster these three processes. All the three processes are rooted in the development of what is called concentration. As we all know, Swami Vivekananda laid such a stress on concentration that he made a remark that if he knew earlier in his life the value of concentration he would have devoted his time to concentration rather than to reading a number of subjects. He pointed out that concentration is the real key to knowledge, and that one who is capable of concentration can command any knowledge through the process of concentration. Swami Vivekananda’s remarks are based on pure psychology and applied psychology, and it is independent of any ideological bias. We can, therefore, safely propose that a proper environment should be created in schools in which concentration can properly be fostered.
Again, Swami Vivekananda suggested that one of the best aids could be to keep one place apart, where silence can constantly be preserved and maintained. Proper environment is thus created in that place where as soon as one enters into it, one is invaded by silence and one is enabled to attain the state of concentration with much ease and facility. Drawing a clue from this suggestion, which can be corroborated by numerous other leaders of the practices of prayer and meditation, it may be recommended that every school should have a Room of Silence, where any student can freely go for practising concentration and for experiencing states of quietude, calm, tranquillity, silence and peace. A facility of such a Room of Silence has been found in practice to be very useful, and students have greatly been benefited, not only in gaining the experience of silence but also in receiving sense of freshness, inspiration, discipline and internal and external harmony.
Widening of Consciousness: Values through Astronomy, Geography and Mathematics
On the basis of the process of silence and concentration, it is easier to develop the process of widening, deepening and heightening of consciousness. But still some other facilities, too, can be recommended.
First is related to the development of what may be called an elementary laboratory of astronomy. There is no greater method of widening our consciousness, at least at the elementary stages, than the observation of the sky and the horizon beyond the horizon. Astronomy has brought to us astonishing sense of wideness of the universe and even of the expanding universe. The idea of galaxies, and galaxies beyond galaxies, of distances and light years, and of amazing phenomena of planets, and stars. We may also recall that one of the greatest secrets of ancient Indian education was its stress on the study of astronomy right from early stages of the curriculum. Study of jyotisha was considered to be an important ingredient in the process of widening of the consciousness as also of imparting to children direct experiences of the scientific processes of observation, experimentation and verification. Perception of wideness was itself regarded as a value, since it is in wideness that human consciousness finds one of value-satisfactions in terms of vision, understanding, and locating one’s own place in the totality and vastness of the universe.
Incidentally, it may also be recalled that the study of mathematics in our ancient Indian system was rooted in the study of astronomy. And mathematics was thus understood more easily in its rationale and utility by students. In the present Scheme, in contrast, astronomy has hardly any place in our school curriculum. As a result, we know how much difficulty we encounter when we are required to explain the rationale of the study of mathematics. Similarly, in the system of ancient India, geography was taught as a part of astronomy, and a great emphasis was laid, at the elementary stages, on earth’s geography in relation to the vastness of the universe. This is, again, in contrast to the kind of geography that is being taught in our schools under our present scheme; our emphasis on geography in the curriculum is marginal; it is largely taught as a dispensable appendix to history or at best as a subject of minor importance. That astronomy, mathematics and geography have intimate connections among themselves is greatly lost in our present scheme of education. That these three sciences can be a direct help in widening of our consciousness has been lost sight of, and if we want to liberate ourselves from the present limitations, we should recommend that in every school we should have a combined laboratory of astronomy, mathematics and geography, through which lessons of widening of consciousness can be taught and mastered.
Deepening of Consciousness: Values through Languages, Poetry and Art
Next is the process of deepening of consciousness. The most important method of this process is that of introspection, which can lead us to the depth of ourselves. To know oneself and to control oneself is the surest basis of science of living and of the profoundest studies to which we can be led in our exploration of values. This nourishes states of consciousness and virtues which are in themselves stabilised states of values.
Again, in our ancient pedagogy, the central emphasis of education was laid on introspection. This emphasis was completely knocked off the scheme that we have at present, for that scheme has no access to the profundities of the studies of consciousness which were so greatly valued in our culture. We may recall Kathopanishad, where Naciketas is told that shreyas, the good, is to be preferred to preyas, pleasure, and that we have to turn our senses inward, even when by impulsion they normally turn outward. Shreyas, the process of value-oriented education, was thus founded on introspection and on the discovery of that which lies in the depths of our being, − depths that Kathopanishad describes poetically as the depths of the cave of the heart.
We have seen that the Room of Silence can be a powerful instrument of fostering the process of concentration, but it can also be used as a facility for students to develop introspection and enter into the depths of the inner being.
There is also another dimension of the process of deepening of consciousness, and that is the dimension of poetic or artistic experience and its corresponding values. In all poetry and art, our consciousness plunges into the depth of the experience of the object, and by dwelling in the depth there is gained the aesthetic experience in which the object vibrates in the form of an image which has in its wings the power of expression through which is manifested a rhythmic word or a significant form which symbolises inner meaning and value.
There is a great need to combine the scientific pursuit of the value of truth and aesthetic pursuit of the value of beauty, and one of the best means of doing so would be to provide facilities in which language, art of recitation, art of singing and art of painting are synchronised. Again, it is to be noted that in the ancient pedagogy, children were taught language at a deep level through poetry and recitation in which tone and pitch were given particular attention, and clarity of pronunciation was specially emphasised. Chanting and singing were employed in the learning of language, and while on the one hand, the scientific study of language reached its climax in mastery of the science of grammar, the artistic study of language through poetry that could be chanted and sung had its climax in higher realms of aesthetic experience. Science and art when fused into each other, the values of truth and beauty are experienced in their harmony. In our present scheme of education, teaching and learning of languages is highly artificial, and they are so perfunctory that our knowledge in this domain remains practically barren. In our experience of school education, we find a number of children who show interest in writing poetry, but our curriculum has little room for nourishing budding poets. On the other hand, science of grammar is taught in such an unscientific manner that one rarely arrives at the roots of the secrets of grammar. These are the problems that we have to confront, if we want to integrate the processes of learning languages and the processes of value-oriented education. We must provide facilities for learning languages where grammar and poetry can be harmonised and where poetry and song can be harmonised and where poetry, song and drama can be harmonised and where deepening of consciousness can be so nourished that poetry and art can flourish harmoniously in the development of the personality of the student.
Heightening of Consciousness: Values through Methods of Demonstration, Dramas & Exhibitions
Next is the question of heightening of the consciousness. At the lowest level, consciousness is heightened through imagination and through multiple experiences of mystery and wonder. Facilities by which this task can be facilitated pertain to the realm of demonstrations, dramas and exhibitions. Unfortunately, we have not yet developed mature pedagogy through which quest of science is excited through demonstration, in which the quest of heroism is excited through drama, and in which quest for illumination is excited through exhibitions. That there are peaks and peaks of achievements, and that there are heights beyond heights is to be presented to the students through methods and instruments which our pedagogy must furnish to our schools. This is the great and difficult task, but if we are in search of strategies by which value education can be properly implemented, then this pedagogy must be developed.
In this context, we may recall the profound depth of Natyashastra, the purpose of which was to impart to students imaginative experiences of heightened imaginations and higher vistas of experience through dramas, which were not merely a play of dialogues, but which were a powerful portrayal of the growth of personality and its power of action and its resultant effect in life’s destiny. These profound ideas of pedagogical instruments which were available in our indigenous system of education do not exist in our system. As a result, in our educational system there is great poverty, poverty of a quest to reach higher heights. We must remedy this great deficiency.
We may now come to another major concern in the field of value-oriented education.
Values of Indian Culture: Question of National System of Education
This is related to the exploration and study of the values of Indian culture. The first question here is as to what are these values, and our second question is as to how we can deal with them in our programmes of value-oriented education. These questions are also related to the development of what may properly be called the national system of education. For the system of education that we can properly call national should aim at imparting to the coming generations the arts and sciences and values that relate to the accumulated experience in national history of the relationship between the human beings and the universe and the normative harmony attained in building up this relationship. A national system not only has its eyes on deriving lessons of the past but also on determining the paths of the future. A national system, even while underlying its past glory, must prepare the younger generations to arrive at greater glories in the future. It is a mistaken view that national education in science should teach only what was known to Bhaskara, Aryabhatta and Varahamihira and reject modern truth of modern science because they come from Europe. National system should keep us abreast of the march of the truth and knowledge, fit ourselves for existence under actual circumstances, and our education must, therefore, be in form and substance as advanced as it can be, even when it is well founded on the lessons of the past and our national history. As Sri Aurobindo has pointed out, “We do not belong to the dawns of the past but to the noons of the future.”
But having clarified this point, we should affirm that the major question for the national system of education is not merely of what we should learn, but what we should do with our past fund of knowledge and how we shall relate powers of the human mind and the peculiar cast of the Indian mind, its psychological tradition, its ancestral capacity, and deal with our culture and values which are of supreme importance. And it is these elements that we should explore and study and ensure that our system of education underlines those elements.
Four Central Values of Indian Culture: Need for Research
There are, we might say, four important realms of values which are central to Indian culture. These are values of spiritual quest, values of robust and critical intellectuality, values of ethical and aesthetic expression of life-force, and values of physical strength, health and perfection.
Our educational system must provide for an exploration and recovery of these values, even though they are greatly blunted in many ways today. They should be brought forward, chiselled to their finest possibilities and harmonised in the manner that is proper to the genius of India.
May I suggest that this work has only recently started, but we need to develop this task much more earnestly and with an overarching importance.
Values of Physical Culture
Shariram adhyam khalu dharma sādhanam – such is the Sanskrit adage, which declares that healthy body is the instrument of dharma, and dharma does not mean religion but the law of the growth and development of life towards its normative ideals. In the light of this statement, it is not enough to give some place to physical education, but we have to go farther and relate the values of physical excellence with the ideals of life.
Ethical, Aesthetic and Scientific Values: Their Synthesis
Indian temperament is highly ethical and aesthetic; it is highly scientific, too. The history of Indian culture shows us that it had attained a fine blending of the aesthetic, ethical and scientific values, and this synthesis was over-topped by values inherent in philosophical inquiry. Unfortunately, this entire realm of harmonising ethical, aesthetic, scientific and philosophical values is totally absent in our present scheme. Dharma is not a subject in our curriculum; aesthetics is not a subject in our curriculum; philosophy is not a subject of our school curriculum. How are we then to deal with the dimensions of values in respect of these subjects? And how are we to raise the question of synthesising the relevant values to the values of scientific inquiry? And we may note that in the field of science, our curriculum is limited within narrow bounds, and we are not able to bring into our curriculum the grandeur of astronomy, the intimate knowledge of ecology, and meticulous system of health and cure. Following the system that we have inherited from the British, we continue to rotate within the narrow boundaries of an ill-conceived scheme of education. We need larger canvas,
and less burdensome approach so that value-oriented education can become a gate of national resurgence.
And lastly, we may ask where is the place here in this curriculum for the quest of values that are inherent in spirituality? In which subject of our curriculum shall we integrate the quest of spiritual values? In this field, we have, in fact, perplexing questions and controversies. And these keep us in a bondage simply because we are not able to state clearly that spirituality is quite different from religion and that spiritual education is independent of religious education. The one theme of supreme importance in the spiritual quest of India has been the quest of spiritual immortality, and this quest has been effected, not by means of dogmas, ceremonies, rituals, or any religious infrastructure or super-structure. This quest has been effected in India through exploration of consciousness, by sounding the potentialities and profundities of consciousness, by developing and practising psychological methods of self-control and self-mastery and self-knowledge that transcends the narrow bounds of egoism and egoistic consciousness. But Science of Consciousness or Yoga is not a subject of curriculum, except that in a perfunctory manner we have begun to give lip service to some yogic asanas. In order that we are able to foster in our country the quest of spiritual values, we need to make a conscious and central effort, an effort which takes into account the long history of Yoga in India. This is the task which confronts NCERT and of institutions of research that are related to school education and university education. This is a great task, but if value-oriented education is to succeed in fullness, this task should be undertaken and fulfilled.
Problem of Teaching-Learning Material: Suggestions
One of the most important problems that we have to solve as rapidly as possible and also on a continuing basis is related to the dearth of teaching-learning material that can aid us in our programmes of value-oriented education. None of our textbooks are written with a view to promote value-oriented education. What is being done at present is to insert a few pages that may highlight a few relevant ideas that may be relevant to the values that are inherent in the subject in question. Apart from this, very few supplementary books are available. Unfortunately, pedagogy of value-oriented education is still at a very elementary level. And yet, this subject is so important that if it is not developed adequately, we shall run the risk of damaging the very cause of value-oriented education.
It has been argued that values cannot be taught. This is, however, not entirely valid. But it is true that values are best fostered, not merely by listening to discourses or lectures, but mainly by example and influence as also by disciplined practice. Example of a living teacher has the greatest power, when the teacher himself is value-oriented. But examples can also be imparted through biographies, stories, and inspiring passages of literature. It is this kind of literature that we need to develop by planning a well-conceived programme of production of monographs, booklets, slides and other audio-visual material, which would be suited for various stages of school education and for teachers. To begin with, two series can be initiated, a series of biographies and a series of good and inspiring stories. In addition, NCERT may also think of bringing out albums of reproductions of famous paintings that bring out values inherent in our tradition of art; similar albums can be related to examples of Indian sculpture and Indian architecture. Albums relating to Indian music which can explain to our students the essential motive of Indian tradition of music should also be brought out. Selected pieces of music should also help students in harmonising their emotions and in sublimating them into higher states of consciousness. These albums should be made available to teachers, students and schools in the country, and since we have different languages in different parts of the country, the linguistic dimension should also be kept in view.
It may also be suggested that the NCERT convenes at regular periods consultation meetings with authors, story-writers, and experts in the fields of literature, art, music, dance, drama, architecture, in order to elicit from them suggestions as to what materials are available in the country and elsewhere which can be useful for various aspects of value-oriented education. Those who are willing can be commissioned to produce new relevant materials in their own fields, and selected material can be brought out under the auspices of the NCERT. Similar consultation meetings with scientists should be organised for purposes of publishing relevant materials that relate to science and values.
NCERT may also think of playing leadership role in suggesting to schools in the country what kind of dramas should be staged in their annual day programmes, and NCERT may also provide specific suggestions as to which particular dramas could be recommended. For this purpose, NCERT may establish special relationship with institutions like Sahitya Akademi.
Similar programmes can be undertaken by NCERT also in respect of providing suggestions to schools in respect of good exhibitions that could be organised annually or more often in the schools in the country. NCERT may also think of bringing out materials which can be used in exhibitions in schools. For this purpose, a list of appropriate subjects be prepared, and ideas be given to schools which may stimulate them to organise exhibitions on certain subjects which are directly relevant to the promotion of exploration of values.
Teachers’ Training Programme: Suggestions
It is needless to emphasise that none of programmes of value-oriented education can succeed without enthusiastic support and participation of teachers. And this is impossible without an appropriate programme of training teachers. In the first place this implies that teachers’ training programmes should have such an integrated course that in each aspect value-orientation receives proper attention and treatment. Secondly, considering the fact that value-oriented education is necessarily concerned with the total personality of the student, teachers’ training programme should develop a course of integral education which underlines the science and art of education in values related to different aspects of human personality – physical, vital, mental, ethical, aesthetic, scientific, philosophical and spiritual.
Obviously, the present programme of teachers’ training is far too inadequate to fulfil the demands that we need to place on our teachers. Considering all aspects of the problem, there does not seem to be an alternative to the proposal to develop a programme of training extending over a period of three years for all those who want to opt for a career in teaching after they have completed class twelve. This is what we should require for teachers of elementary education. For teachers at the higher levels, we should propose an integrated course of five years of training after the completion of class twelve. Justification for this proposal lies in the fact that value-orientation of teachers requires sufficient time not only to understand philosophy of value-orientated education, but also to practise it through physical culture, dynamic activities, practices of syntheses of science, aesthetics, philosophy, as also the understanding and practice of spiritual values of unity, mutuality and oneness and universality. Teachers will also have to be trained in the science and art of integral education which is a very difficult task of integrating different parts of the being through their proper development, refinement, and harmonisation arrived at by a process of freedom that can generate self-discipline.
It is a matter of satisfaction that the Ministry of Human Resource Development has recently set up a Higher Powered Committee to look into the problems of teachers’ training programme, and one may expect radical propositions and recommendations from this Committee.
We seem to be on the right road, and we can expect that one of the most important strategies that we need for implementation of value-oriented education will soon be developed and implemented through new programmes of teachers’ training.
One of the important things that we should ensure is that teachers should have good proficiency in recounting inspiring stories and biographies, and they should have the possibility of illustrating various virtues and values, so that at the appropriate moment right illustration or story is given to students. At the minimum, they should have a stock of at least hundred stories and sufficient teaching-learning material that can kindle illuminative understanding among students and inspire heroism and impart to students skills of living together and harmony among all sections of people as well as in their internal being.
To sum up, the suggestions that been made here include the following:
Exercises in poetry, art and music can be promoted through study of languages and language laboratories in the schools should provide facilities for an integrated development of values that can be imparted through language, music, art and poetry.
Institution of programmes of consultation with experts in the field of literature, fine arts, crafts, scientists and others on a regular basis.
Institution of programmes to suggest to schools dramas to be staged for their annual day celebrations and also suggestions for holding important exhibitions.
As can be seen, much work awaits us, and this work should not be confined only to NCERT. This is the task to be shared by many institutions and also by individuals who can make their own contributions. This is a national task, and has to be shouldered on a national scale. In due course, many new ideas will emerge and increasing number of participants will have to come forward. I feel confident that, considering the initiatives that have been taken during the last few years by NCERT, the work that we envisage will receive due attention and effective steps will be taken for implementation.