Mahatma Gandhi viewed the process of education from many different angles and saw that it must achieve something more than one objective. That is why he ascribed to it many different aims. At times a superficial study of these aims may give the impression that they are mutually contradictory or self-defeating, but a deeper examination will show that they complement each other. Gandhiji’s educational plan exhibits all the major qualities found in the Western educational patterns. For this reason, the following points must be kept in mind in attempting an evaluation of his plan:
Gandhiji’s educational philosophy gives due recognition to biological naturalism because it lays stress on man’s complete development. He laid more stress on the child’s environment than on books. He wanted to give an indigenous touch to education, and make it capable of achieving independence and naturalness. But, at the same time, he did not neglect discipline. His education is centered on the child, not around textbooks.
On the one hand one finds a strong element of realism in Gandhiji’s philosophy of education but on the other it also exhibits some signs of idealism. There is no denying that he was always an idealist because he always was a religious individual. He felt that the aim of man’s life was realization of God, and that is why he stressed the importance of moral and religious education. He wanted to use education as a means of developing a harmonized personality in the child. Like Pestelozzi, he wanted to make the child the center of educational progress and like Herbart he felt that the aim of education was building up a moral character. He attached the greatest importance to the child’s interests and inclinations.
Despite his inclination towards idealism, Gandhiji always attended to the practical aspect of education. That is why he entitled his autobiography ‘My Experiments with Truth’. In keeping with the pragmatic tradition he also believed that the child should gather for himself all the knowledge from the environment and select from it that which he should put to use in later life. Like Dewey, Gandhiji also felt that that child should learn through actual work besides, he also agreed with Dewey that education should seek to establish the democratic values in life. In short, he wanted to relate education to life as far as possible.
4. Educational System is Based on Psychological Facts
Although Gandhiji was not a professional psychologist, he had gained remarkable insight into human psychology through his acute observation of life around him. He felt that education should aim at arousing curiosity and providing motivation to the child so that he should himself achieve his own physical, mental and spiritual development. He was very much in favour of the students indulging in games and sports and gymnastic activity, because he felt that physical development is an essential prerequisite of mental development. He also felt that education should not be allowed to become mechanical but should be acquired through play.
5. Importance of Impressions and Actions
Gandhiji’s opinion that impressions of early childhood have a tremendous impact on later development is in agreement with the modern psychologists. Most educationists agree that learning through doing helps in the complete development of the child and that this also enables him to earn his livelihood later in life.
6. Sociological Importance of Gandhiji’s Plan
Gandhiji’s plan of education is not only psychologically valid but it has sociological significance also. While thinking of his plan of education, Gandhiji was not concerned with one or two individuals, but with the vast multitude of illiterate men and women who make up the country’s population. He advocated discipline as an essential part of freedom and liberty. He wanted that education should help the individual to become an ideal democratic citizen. He stressed the importance of social service, labour, agriculture, handicrafts, hygiene, collective living, etc. and pointed out that they were more important than any curriculum. Sarvodaya was as much his guiding principle in education as it the field of politics. This concept of a Sarvodaya Society was based on traditional Indian and modern democratic values.
7. Education Conforming to the Country’s Needs
Whatever the arguments one may advance against Gandhiji’s plan of education one cannot question his sincerity, because it is only too obvious that in presenting it, he was perfectly aware of the needs of his countrymen. He considered this the only kind of education, which can be successful in this country. Most villagers cannot afford to pay for their children’s education and in addition most of them require their children’s assistance in their own occupations. Ganhiji wanted the students to be engaged in gainful work the product of which could be sold to pay for his education.
8. Teaching Methods
The teaching methods in the Gandhian scheme of education can be deduced from his Basic Education. As has been pointed out, Gandhiji pleaded that the child should be educated through a basic craft. He should first be tought a basic craft from among the different types of it and other subjects such as Arithmetic, Language, Geography, History and Civics should be taught in association with the basic craft. In his educational institutions children were busy in craft activities for hours.
As has already been pointed out an important characteristic of the teaching method in Gandhian scheme was synthesis. Projects were drawn for the years, quarter, month, week and the day.