Gandhi's idea for education still reverberates in our mind
My blog will be sharing Gandhi Ji's views on education for India.
The content below has been taken from (Chapter IV of THE STORY OF NAI TALIM: FIFTY YEARS OF EDUCATION AT SEVAGRRAM INDIA by Marjorie Sykes)
Here you go…
Gandhiji's friend Jamnalal Bajaj was President of the Marwari Educational Society of Wardha,
which in 1937 was preparing to celebrate its Silver Jubilee. It was maintaining a High School, the
Nava Bharat Vidyalaya, which had as its Principal a Tamil educationist from Sri Lanka, E.W.
Aryanayakam. Aryanayakam had worked previously with Rabindranath Tagore at Santiniketan
and had married a brilliant scholar, Asha Devi, whose family also had close links with
Santiniketan. The Secretary of the Society, Shrimannarayan, with Aryanayakam's strong support,
suggested that its Jubilee should be marked by a National Education Conference to discuss
Gandhiji's educational ideas. Srimannarayan put the proposal before Gandhiji and asked him to
preside, and Gandhiji readily agreed.
The conference was held in Wardha on October 22-23, 1937. Numbers were restricted;
invitations were sent to men and women who were known to be concerned for a truly Indian
education, and to nationalist educational institutions like Jamia Milia Islamia, the Gujarat
Vidyapeeth, the Tilak Maharashtra Vidayapeeth, and the Andhra Jatiya Kalasala at Masulipatnam;
some ministers and officials of the newly-established Provincial Governments were also
included. Because of the limited numbers and the quality of the participants the conference
proved remarkably effective and led direct to action.
Gandhiji placed before the conference the proposals which he had summarised in Harijan, earlier
in the same month, as follows "Primary education, extending over seven years or longer, and covering all subjects up to the matriculation standard except English, plus a vocation used as a vehicle for drawing out the minds of the boys and girls in departments of knowledge, should take the place of what passes today under the name of primary, middle and high school education. Such education, taken as a whole, can and must be self-supporting. Self support is the acid test of its reality."
He had no wish to impose his ideas on anyone, he said, and he invited "free and frank criticism,"
for he was anxious that the misunderstandings that had arisen should be cleared up. It was being
said, for example, that he was opposed to literary education, that the children would be
"exploited," that he had included no "religious instruction" in his plan. His speech touched on
many points that are still as relevant as ever, fifty years later :"The present system of education is not only wasteful but positively harmful. Boys are lost to their parents, to their village, to the
traditional skills. They become helplessly dependent on minor clerical jobs; moreover they pick up evil habits and urban snobbery, and learn to despise the honest manual labour of the village on which we all depend.
"Far from being opposed to literary education, I want to show the way to give it....to make our children true representatives of our culture, of the true genius of our nation. As for "exploiting,"do we burden the child when we save him from disaster? The children will become self confident and brave as they help to pay for their education by their own labour. Why do I not lay stress on religious instruction? Because this system is to be common to all, Hindu, Muslim,
Parsee, Christian, and T am teaching them all practical religion, the religion of self-help. The whole plan springs out of non-violence, it is an integral part of the discipline of non-violence and truth."
The discussion which followed was rich in ideas. Vinoba Bhave, then heading the Nalwadi
Ashram, strongly supported Gandhiji's contention that for little beginners takli-spinning was
extremely rich in educational potential. (The writer herself remembers being puzzled, in social
history studies at Cambridge, by the many references to "spinning whorls" among the finds at
ancient archaeological sites; many years later she realised to her delight that these little stone or
clay discs were in fact the discs of ancient taklis whose bamboo or wooden rods had long ago
Kaka Saheb Kalelkar quoted tags which were to become even more meaningful in the years that
followed. "Let us," he said, "rescue education from the four walls of the class- room.....Never
allow your schooling to interfere with your education!" (How many people today, both inside
and outside the Government, think that "education" and "schooling" are the same thing!) Asha
Devi pointed out that Gandhiji's ideas, like Tagore's, derived in part from the ancient Indian
gurukula, and that if we were to work them out creatively we should have to unlearn much of
what we had learned, and start afresh.
The conference passed the following resolutions:
1. That free and compulsory education should be provided for seven years on a nation-wide
2. that the medium of instruction should be the mother-tongue;
3. that the process of education throughout this period should centre around some form of
manual and productive work, and all other activities to be developed and training to be given
should as far as possible be integrally related to the central handicraft, chosen with due regard to
the environment of the child, that the products of handicraft should gradually be able to cover
the remuneration of the teachers.
These resolutions were adopted as a national education policy by the next annual meeting of the
Indian National Congress in February - March 1938. "All national progress," it declared,
"ultimately depends on the method, content and objectives of the education provided for the