Gandhi and Education

After Gandhi ji returned from South Africa on 9th of June 1915, he started a non violent way of strategy against British rule in India. On 17th June 1917, he established the Sabarmati Ashram at Ahmadabad for propagating against untouchability and establishment of village industries. He shared his ideas about basic education with Dr Zakir Hussain in 1937 for political and social awakening among masses. He was of the opinion that nation building and freedom from foreign yoke is possible only through education. At that time education was considered as a luxury for rich. Common people were living from hand to mouth life and education was a distant dream for the masses. In order to fulfil the dream of education for people of India, a committee was framed under the chairmanship of Dr Zakir Hussain which gave its report in December 1937. The report is known as wardha scheme of education. After Zakir Hussain’s committee another committee was framed under the chairmanship of B C Kher to review the basic education. This committee connected it to sergeant report. In the final form basic features of Gandhian basic scheme of education were:

  • To provide free and compulsory education to children from 7-14 years of age. However, the inhibition was that parents will not send their children to schools because they cannot afford the cost of education like books, uniform etc. Therefore Ghandi put forth his idea that students should be given a chance to earn the cost of their education. Free and compulsory education upto the age of 14 is the slogan of India till date but due to illiteracy and poverty of parents, dream is yet to be fulfilled in entire India. Though nowadays education is a fundamental right yet due to lack of political will,  it is a Utopian dream to have 100% literate people in India in near future
  • Education should be provided through craft. The students, on one hand will get education, on the other hand be skilled to earn a living. Gandhi believed that education through craft will develop respect for manual labour in the young and energetic human capital of the nation. The NEP (2020) speaks of experiential education and skill development, is actually an extension of Gandhian thought of education through craft (basic education). Gandhian scheme of education pleads for maximum time in schools for learning basic craft like spinning and weaving, carpentry, agriculture, fruit and vegetable gardening, leather work and other local specific crafts. In my opinion education through craft is not far away from today’s concept of activity based learning or the concept of constructivistic school of thought.
  • Basic scheme of education recommends music, drawing, arithmetics, social studies, general science and physical training as subject in the curriculum in elementary schools. Giving due recognition to music and drawing clearly indicates that creative potential of the child is given utmost importance. It is the creative people who shape the destiny of the nation as they prove to be the leaders of tomorrow in different fields.
  • Incorporating social studies in the curriculum makes it obvious that the concept of rights and duties will be nourished in the minds of students. It will decidedly help the children in general and society in long run to develop social awakening. For the freedom from British rule, it was a better strategy developed by Gandhi to awaken the minds of masses for a revolution and have respect for human dignity and freedom.
  • Basic scheme of education gives due recognition to provide a garden and playground attached to schools. It clearly indicates that physical and social development of students was the top priority of schools to fulfil in Gandhian basic scheme of education.
  • Ghandi was a staunch believer of mother tongue as a medium of instruction. He was against English as medium of instruction recommended by Macaulay minute (1835). Ghandi said, to impose English as medium of instruction in schools is to stunt their natural growth and perhaps kill the originality in them. NEP (2020) has now highlighted the importance of mother tongue as a medium of instruction at elementary level. In my opinion to have mother tongue as medium of instruction is the best alternative for teaching and learning at elementary level but my only contention is that then Govt as well as Private schools should have the same medium of instruction (mother tongue) throughout India, otherwise it puts the disadvantaged class to further disadvantage.
  • Basic scheme of education places the child as the centre of education. Ghandi believed that knowledge should be imparted in schools through some activity in consonance with the aspirations of students. Students may be given education independently and their interests should be taken into consideration while giving education through craft.
  • Gandhi stressed for general science to be taught in schools in order to develop accurate observation and scientific temper among students. He believed that the dogmas can be wiped out from the minds of people through science education.
  • Gandhi was of the opinion that local people should be given preference in appointment as teachers, as it will develop motivation among students to enroll themselves in schools. On one hand, students will feel that they can also be appointed as teachers if they read and write, on the other hand, they may feel at home in schools in the company of local teachers. This was also propounded by National policy on education (1986) under Sarva Shiksha Abhyan (SSA).
  • The Appointment of trained teachers to teach was given due importance in basic scheme of education. Ghandi believed that it is only the trained teachers, who know the child psychology and are able to teach through better methods of teaching. They are in a position to catch the attention of students for better teaching-learning process due to knowledge of educational psychology. They encourage question-answer sessions in class due to knowledge of educational sociology where pupil-pupil, pupil-teacher interaction is given importance for social development. The trained teachers are capable of nourishing critical thinking and problem solving approach among students.

Dr Mahmood Ahmad Khan is Prof, Department of Education, Kashmir University.