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Education Reforms in India Post Independence (Part – II)

Sudakshina Kundu Mookerjee

Philosophy of Education Post Independence:

The Education Policy of Independent India has been greatly influenced by the philosophy of Education of Mahatma Gandhi. The influence of Rabindra Nath Tagore is also present to a large extent. Education in its very basic form means imparting life skills for survival. This training to survive is also present in the animal world where the mother teaches the babies how to find food, protect oneself from predators and other possible dangers and so on. But this training is more instinctive. But for the complex human society this process of preparing a child to face the vagaries of life needs better planning as the human society has its own rules of existence, which is partially man-made and therefore change over time. Educating therefore includes preparing the future generation to meet the challenges of the complex world, fulfil the environmental and social needs, get prepared for facing future challenges and last but not least thrive in a changing world.

Therefore the definition of Education, as per the dictionary, is the ‘process of receiving or giving systematic instruction’ especially at the institutional level as per specified course of studies through systematised learning as per approved pedagogical process with the aim of producing workforce for the present as well for the future.

However proper education may also lead to an enlightening experience by uplifting the mind and inspire a more holistic development. But are these two approaches contradictory? In this context let us try to analyse the thoughts of the two most illustrious educationists of India – Tagore and Gandhi.

Let us first focus on the vision of Rabindra Nath Tagore. He envisaged a holistic and scientific approach that would produce a complete ‘human being’ with a free and analytical mind capable of acquiring information from his/her surroundings, and processing them freely to come to a rational and independent conclusion. He stressed on inculcating human values and ethical standards so that they can promote positive impact on culture and society. But all this must be done by giving due importance to the inherent potential and aptitude of the learner.

Gandhi in his philosophy on education relied on the fact that the goodness of man will lead to the goodness in society. He believed that ‘literacy is a mere tool for educating people and not education itself’. He was for a holistic education that would address the body, the intellect and the soul.’ The four pillars of Gandhian education system are 1. ‘Satya’ or Truth, 2.’Ahimsa’ or non-violence, 3. Belief in God and 4. Dignity of labour.

Modern Western education came to India in the nineteenth century with the British. However, the education policy under the British Raj was primarily aimed at grooming the workforce to run their administrative machinery. The Fort William College was a result of this effort. However, it also resulted in producing a group of intellectuals and social reformers among the Indian populace who ushered in modern University education in India. Raja Rammohan Roy was the pioneer in this effort who was supported by David Hare and others. Henry Vivian Derozio was a great proponent of secular and rational education system and Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar did his best to spread education among the masses, even women. There were many reformers in Maharashtra like Jyotirao Phule, Savitribai Phule, Mahadev Govind Ranade who were proponents of this effort of educating India.

Their motivation was to introduce secular learning, scientific studies, fight against social prejudice and dogma, instil rational thinking, moral and ethical values. Therefore, in spite of the imperialistic motive of the British to produce workforce for administrative and commercial activities, the effect of modern scientific education had far reaching consequences. It fostered a scientific spirit, promoted self-esteem, raised value systems and ethical standards, and finally resulted in the awakening of India as the country gifted the world many stalwarts in the fields of science and engineering like Jagadish Chandra Bose, Prafulla Chandra Roy, and in the field of literature – Rabindra Nath Tagore. Yet, education was elitist and restricted to a small section of society till independence.

At the time of independence we inherited the British system of Education which was not inclusive in nature. Our Governments tried to fit the curriculum gradually into our eco-system and polity. Our National Policy on Education, to begin with, was influenced by the Gandhian ideal that was built on the four pillars of Satya (Truth), Ahimsa (non-violence), Belief in God and Dignity of Labour.

Tagore’s vision of a holistic and scientific education system was the other guiding principle. It aimed at producing a complete human being, with an analytical and free mind, capable of acquiring information and processing them to come to an independent and rational conclusion. These were the two ideas that guided our National Education Policy (NEP).

(To be Continued)

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