What should we do in India?
The educational world abounds today, as we have seen, in new ideas, new trends. The aims, methods and contents of education are being reviewed, revised, even revolutionized.
We seem to be on the threshold of a new beginning. New trends are packed with force and power; they have a message worth learning, and they elevate us to new heights.
The assimilation of new trends by the Indian educational system has been a difficult task. It is a continuing process, but the pace of progress seems to be slow. Our educational system is complicated by a number of factors which do not admit of a homogeneous solution. The burden of the past hangs heavily upon our schools, colleges and universities, and it has greatly opposed the pressure of the new trends.
At the lowest of our problems regarding education is the need to fulfill the aim of universal education, and, at the minimum, to fulfill the aim of providing education to all children in the country up to the age of fourteen.
We should have achieved this goal long ago; and so, no matter what difficulties come in the way, we must accomplish this task at the very earliest.
It is now being realized that the main cause of our failure in this domain has been our inelasticity as regards changing the formal system of education. This realization is significant for, at one time, the argument was that our first task was to expand possibilities of enrolment, and that the question of adopting new methods and reforms in education could be considered only at a later stage. Now the argument is that if we are serious about educating large numbers, then this can be done only by abandoning the old rigid methods and adopting new ones.
It is now proposed that a large portion of full-time institutional instruction should be replaced by a programme of part-time education supplemented by non-formal education
and self-study; that the ‘single-point entry’ system should be replaced by a ‘multi-point entry’ system; and that the ‘sequential’ character of the system must be modified. Educational technology is now being harnessed to new methods of education. Even in regard to mass media, new projects are being undertaken.
It is as though very practical necessities oblige us to embrace new trends. This is a sign of the times. Even if we continue to cling to the past and refuse to change, the very circumstances will necessitate change. It is, therefore, better to change by choice rather than under pressure.
At the next higher level of our educational problem, we have issues that relate to the more profound aspects of education: the diversification of courses, work-experience, vocational orientation towards vocational proficiency, raising standards of education, and equalization of opportunities. There are problems of higher education, students’ welfare, stress on fine arts, cultural efflorescence, right motivation of teachers and students towards excellence, modernization of syllabi, and reforms in the system of tests, lectures, and curricula.
Modern educational thought has made a powerful impact on our approach to these issues. There have been, in recent years, a number of educational conferences, particularly in connection with the new formula of 10+2+3 for school and undergraduate education. A new idea of ‘units’ of studies has been proposed with the corresponding idea of ‘unit’ tests, evaluation and feedback. The report of UNESCO, ‘Learning to Be’, is receiving wide and serious attention. Its recommendations in regard to life-long education and a learning society have been welcomed.
An attempt is being made to formulate the idea of work-experience, not only in the context of Basic Education, but also in the light of UNESCO’s recommendation of the need to relate education to life. It is heartening to note that education in aesthetics is to be given a place in the new pattern. Stress
is being laid on physical education. It is also proposed that education for moral and spiritual values will be provided.
All this seems to be quite good, and the effort that lies behind the new proposals needs to be encouraged. The question is: why are our students and youth not enthused by these proposals? Our pioneering educationists, who strove hard for a system of National Education, had constantly emphasized the need to appeal to the living enthusiasm of children and youth. They had dreamt of transforming the school into a playground, of transforming it into a nursery of living souls. Are our proposals conducive to the realization of this dream? We feel we need to go still deeper and grapple with problems which are awaiting solution at our hands.
That deeper layer of problems relates to what may be called the very heart of education. It would seem that unless we concentrate on this focal point, we may not find the right key to any problem. For, all problems of education, as of every other field, are interrelated and they all seem to hang upon this central issue. It is the issue of the infusion of a new spirit in our education. We want an education that will provide not merely information, but a deep inspiration. We want the youth to be inspired wholly in their full being. We want to prepare the youth to be free from dogmatism, communalism, caste and other divisions. We want our youth to be filled with the free man’s worship of the country, of the spirit of Mother India. We want our youth to be soldiers and warriors to fight against ignorance, selfishness, and all that obscures and obstructs our path to a glorious future of humanity’s unity and harmony.
We want our youth to be the creators of the new future, but all these great and noble ends can be realized only if we succeed in evoking among the youth a living spirit and a vibrant light. To kindle that light and spirit is the central issue of education. An answer to this issue is crucial, for that will give us the fundamental direction. There is, indeed, an answer. In recent years,
it has been put forward forcefully, and presented in glowing terms; but, perhaps, it is not sufficiently understood. There is even an Indian formulation of this answer, much more profound and even more practicable. But this Indian answer is unfamiliar, even unknown, to most of us.
In this answer, we may find the remedy. In simple terms, the answer is that education should be so conceived and organized that it permits freedom of growth and fullness of the development of personality. In technical terms of modern educational thought, the answer is contained in the formulae, ‘learning to learn’ and ‘learning to be’.
Within the simplicity and brevity of this formulation is concealed an immensity and all-embracing integrality. ‘Learning to learn’ and ‘learning to be’ are not merely two elements among several other elements of education. They are proposed to be the all-pervasive processes of the entire education. They are also proposed to be the all-pervasive contents of education. It is not as if the development of personality is one aspect of education, and that education for profession is another. Education for personality and education for profession are, according to this formulation, one and the same process. It says, in effect, that the secret of profession lies in personality, and that education for personality development, rightly conceived and executed, will automatically and spontaneously provide each individual what is needed by him for his profession.
The technique of professional technology and that of the flowering of personality are not opposed to each other. In the correct process of education, they are interrelated; they help each other, and ultimately, fuse into each other. Similarly, freedom of growth is not merely a method of growth; it is not as though freedom is one method and discipline is another. What is meant is that discipline is the child of freedom, that freedom, if it is directed towards growth, necessarily flowers into a kind of self-discipline which no rules can envisage or execute.
Again, it is affirmed that freedom is not merely a process; it is the stuff of our psychological nature, and that the entire stuff and content of our being can grow and flower only through freedom. Light and freedom are intrinsic to each other, and hence the central significance of the principle of the freedom of growth.
This answer spins us into an altogether new hemisphere of vision. But we should invite the attention of educationists to the Indian experiment which has been going on in remote corners of the country, quietly and unobtrusively. It may be found that there has emerged, through this Indian experiment, an Indian answer to the problems of freedom and of the development of personality.
The Indian experiment, which had its indigenous origin in the modern renaissance in India and which was nourished by the nationalist movement, has, in due course, deeply absorbed western ideas of New Education. But, at the same time, it has taken great care to integrate them with the profounder concepts of our own educational psychology. For this reason too, the Indian experiment has been rather slow in showing results, for its data is larger and the elements which had to be harmonized more difficult and more numerous.
The results of this experiment are valuable, not only for us in India, but for the entire movement of New Education in the world.
The Indian experiment confirms the normal experience that freedom can easily be abused, and turned into a license for self-indulgence. Directing of freedom towards growth is not a sufficient antidote to its possible misuse.
At the same time, it confirms that freedom is essentially of the nature of the noblest psychological being.
It points out, however, that freedom is only one of the vibrations of our inner being, and that there are two others of the same order; it is only when freedom is united with these that an inner law of discipline can emerge. These two are: the quest for truth and the austerity of harmony.
It proposes, therefore, not liberty alone, but a trinity of truth, harmony and liberty as the fundamental principles of New Education.
These three constitute the serenity of the inner being, and if these three vibrate in unity also in the atmosphere, then, in this serene atmosphere, by the power of inner and outer environment, true knowledge can be stimulated to grow in the inner hearts of the child and the youth.
Similar discoveries and proposals obtain also in regard to the development of personality. For we have, in India, perhaps the most profound science of personality.
Indian psychology concerns itself not merely with the development of the total potentialities of personality, but its chief concern has been with the question of how to lead these potentialities to their highest and noblest values. The mature fruit of the Indian experiment is to be found in the concept of the fourfold personality as a new basis for integral education.
It has been pointed out that there are four central values and powers of personality; if these are rightly balanced throughout the process of development, and if a healthy equilibrium of these powers is upheld progressively, then we can ensure a healthy and integral development of personality.
These four values belong to our 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. A progressive and rich blossoming of these four values and capacities would result in the fourfold personality, a personality of integral equilibrium. The full richness of personality is manifested when the heart of love is tranquilized by knowledge into calm ecstasy and vibrates with strength, and when the strong hands of power labour skillfully for the world in a radiant fullness of joy and light.
It is, indeed, recognized that this implies a life-long process of development, but it must begin right from the beginning. Life-long education is the natural corollary of this concept of the integral personality.
The practical implications are tremendous. Not only do they give a new direction and new focal point to education, but they also demand new attitudes, new perspective and psychological knowledge, and new roles for teachers. They demand an altogether new restructuring of educational methodology, and the creation of a highly imaginative and educational environment.
The task is extremely difficult, but if our analysis of the educational situation is correct, this task must be accomplished. Defeatism or cynicism should not be allowed to interfere in our planning of the future.
For the realization of this future, our call must be to Young India. We should declare to our youth that India is not merely a piece of land, nor is it only a hoary past. India is neither religious fundamentalism, nor dogmatism, nor obscurantism. India is, we should affirm, science, spirituality, and universality.
India has been the harbinger of successive dawns; she can become, if she wills, the cradle of the new future. We should, in brief, declare that we do not belong to the dawns of the past, but to the noons of the future. This new future, as we envisage it, will be marked by an ideal unity of humankind.
There will be a meeting of the East and the West, the ancient and the modern, the knowledge of man and the knowledge of nature, of the aesthetic and the ethical, of the technology of matter and the technology of spirit. Against the forces that resist the birth of the new world, there is, let us affirm, a great quest, a deep yearning to discover or to invent the key to transform the divided world into a happy family of man.
This is the universal thrust towards the future, and it is this drive that India has to take up to play her right role. The leading role The children and the youth of India are to be prepared for this great work, so that they are able to contribute mightily and creatively to the new creation. For this work, the whole of India is to be recreated as a new school, with a new environment and a new force of inspiration.