We are passing through a great transition. The old is becoming obsolete and the new is still in the process of emergence. The olds ways of learning and teaching are found to be too rigid and too outmoded. A greater application of psychological principles is being increasingly demanded. It has been urged that the training of the young requires on the part of the teacher a deep psychological knowledge.
According to some thinkers, the present educational system is a huge factory of mis-education. According to them, the spontaneity of the child is smothered at an early stage by our mechanical methods which are prevalent in our educational system. They contend that the child is not a plastic material which can be moulded according to educators’ design, but it is a closed bud having its own inherent capacity to flower and blossom, requiring only the favourable climatic conditions such as the right atmosphere, environment, inspiration and guidance.
Each child, according to them, is a psychological entity, having its own specific individual needs of growth which have to be understood and developed by the same kind of knowledge and tact by which a good gardener tends to varieties of plants and trees in his garden. Just as each plant needs to be individually looked after, even so, each child, it is contended, is required to be looked after individually.
It has been further held that each individual is a great potential dynamo of energy, and if we do not deal with that potentiality, only very little gets actualised, and the rest remains dormant and uncultivated. This means a tremendous waste both for the nation and the world. Not to tap the full potentialities of each individual is thus psychologically unsound and economically unproductive.
It has, therefore, been urged that our educational system should either be set aside altogether through some kind of ’de-schooling’ or radically changed in such a way that each individual is provided with conditions and facilities under which he can grow towards his fullness on the lines that are psychologically appropriate to him.
There is another line of thinking, according to which it is not enough to develop the potentialities of the individual but also to direct these potentialities towards their highest values. It has been argued that the psychological development of the individual is an extremely dangerous process, unless the development is guided by wisdom and skill and directed towards certain desirable and sublime ideals.
There is a risk, it is argued, of succeeding in developing only highly egoistic and selfish individuals, if we insist only upon development and do not take great care to insist on the discovery of the right values, aims, objectives and ideals. It has, therefore, been urged that education should be value-oriented and should provide those conditions and facilities under which individual is enabled to discover the highest possible values and embody them as effectively as possible in thought, feeling and action.
An unprecedented education experiment which is taking place in different parts of the world today has resulted in the formulation of new models of learning-teaching process. It has been argued that learning is a process of transmutation; transmutation of innate reflexes into organised and conscious perceptions, visions and actions, transmutation of innate drives into wise and skilful pursuit of means and ends, and transmutation of innate tendencies into a harmonious integrated personality.
It has been contended that there are observable and discernible processes by which the process of learning or of transmutation can be accelerated. We are often asked to consider the tremendous feat of learning that the child performs in the first few years of its life. It has been contended that the child learns so fast because all its occupations are occupations of learning. For the child, all play is learning, and all learning is play. Again, it is contended, the child learns so fast because the child deals with its universe with its total being by the exercise of all its faculties and by a concrete urge of experience. It has been argued that our entire learning process should be so changed that we are able to create for the learner the same conditions which obtain in the child’s encounter with its universe. Some educationists have, therefore, pleaded for a search of a school that has no walls, and for studies that have no boundaries.
It has also been argued that the learner learns best under the conditions of freedom to choose, under teacher’s wise guidance, what he wants to learn and what he should learn. The learner should have also the freedom of pursuing his studies at his own pace. This argument is further intensified when it is seen that an indispensable condition of the moral and spiritual development is secured only when the learner is given ample opportunities to exercise his free will.
Learning by doing is being increasingly advocated. At the same time, it is being recognised that there are, for different categories of learners, different ways of learning. Some students learn better through aesthetic experience, some others through manual work, while still others through intellectual or meditative contemplation. It has, therefore, been suggested that an ideal system of education should provide to each learner that method or such combination of methods which is suitable to his specific needs of learning.
Self-learning is being given in several experiments a pre-eminent place.
Individualised programmed instruction, for example, follows an instructional model which aspires to produce an effective communication for securing precisely defined goals of learning, in a manner timed to meet the needs of the individual, mostly with the help of programmed teaching and learning material. An important variant of individualised learning is that of learning by consultation with the teacher, as and when needed. Lecture system, which caters to group learning, plays a minor role in experiments which emphasise self-learning. Even the syllabi and examination system are required to be radically changed in the context of a system based upon self-learning.
Project systems try to combine self-learning with group-learning. Projects may be directed towards an exploration or towards producing some practical action under certain actual situations. In a model that is known as Info-Bank, the learner is required to define what he is interested in and the kind of approach that he wants to undertake. The learner is given the freedom to govern his reading and practical activities and to judge the knowledge acquired and its significance. In some educational experiments, a combination of different information materials is made available to the learner and he is given the freedom to construct and control his own learning process and the environment suitable for the chosen learning process. In yet another instructional model, individual learners learn from one another by informing and consulting one another mutually from time to time. At a higher level of consultation, there is experimental testing and feedback. In some models, the learner takes over the roles of those responsible for action and decision in simulated environment. In some cases, problems to be solved are frequently more complex and make the acquisition of external information necessary, while in others the required information is supplied in advance. In the ’Workshop Model’, the learners work like colleagues, supported, if necessary, by organisers and advisers, on the solution of real problems with which they are confronted. In this model, the learning of the methods of work is as important as the production of results.
Educationists are perplexed by the phenomenon of unprecedented explosion of knowledge. Teachers and learners are required to deal with this explosion, and efforts are being made to discover accelerated methods of learning and teaching. The necessity of continuous or lifelong education is also being underlined. At the same time, teachers and students are required to distinguish more clearly than ever before, those aspects of knowledge which are essential from those which are of peripheral importance.
There is also today an unparalleled width and depth of enquiry, which necessitates a new kind of learning-teaching process that would be at once comprehensive and yet peculiarly specialised or varied so as to suit each individual.
Again, there is today, a great quest all over the world towards the synthesis of knowledge and synthesis of culture. Ancient knowledge is being recovered in the context of the modern knowledge. The humanist and the technologist are finding themselves in greater and greater need of each other. It is being increasingly recognised that the learner should not only develop his rational faculties but should also pursue moral and aesthetic tendencies. In India, we go farther and underline the need of a synthesis of science and spirituality.
Against this background, there is a quest to discover a point of convergence where different sciences and humanities can meet in a synthesis of knowledge. There is a search for an all-embracing project of work-experience that would generate a continuing process of lifelong education. And there is a search for a programme of learning that would necessitate a spontaneous harmony of the needs of personal development with those of collective
development. It is being asked if there is a tool of acceleration of the summing up of the past and the unfolding of the future. And it is asked if there is a method and content of education that would necessitate an automatic synchronisation of studies, work-experience and flowering of faculties and values. It has become necessary, both for the learner and for the teacher, to discover or invent such methods by the employment of which the explosion of knowledge can be contained and personality can be developed which would harmonise, progressively, the wideness of the humanist and the skills of the technologist, the disciplined will-force of the moralist and the refined imagination of the artist, and the scrupulous knowledge of the scientist and the sublime vision, wisdom and ever growing perfection of the profound and wide spiritual culture.
It is seen that there are today powerful trends that necessitate a continual revision of the contents of education as also a continued refinement of the learning-teaching process.
It is against this background that there is a serious thinking in our country to determine the new role that the teacher is called upon to play. The situation in India is in a sense more complex than in many other countries of the world.
India is passing through a tremendous period of scientific and cultural efflorescence. This period was preceded by a powerful phase of the national freedom struggle during which the Indian subcontinent passed through an unprecedented churning of mental, aesthetic, moral and spiritual ideas. In the course of this churning, profound experiments in the field of education took place, the lessons of which need still to be assimilated. There grew in India during this period an irresistible sentiment to give the children and the youths of our country a new kind of education, which is freed from the fetters of the system given to us by the British and which would ensure development and promotion among students and teachers not only of the highest values of physical, emotional, mental, aesthetic, moral and spiritual culture, but also those values which are uniquely Indian, and which would at the same time promote a new kind of synthesis appropriate to our own synthetic culture. India has developed a kind of secularism which needs to be properly defined, understood and promoted. We have to build up young men and women who would have pride in the Indian heritage and our synthetic culture. This would mean that we have to the children and youths a true knowledge of India, of India’s complexity, of India’s greatness and of India’s innate tendencies to harmonise and synthesise.
The task that lies ahead of Indian education is difficult. We are being called upon to take into account the educational needs both of today and of tomorrow.
Working Group for Curriculum Development