What are Mahatma Gandhi’s views on education?

Elaborating his views about the aims of education, Gandhiji has said, “By education I mean an all-round drawing out of the best in child and man, body, mind and spirit. Literacy is not the end of education, not even the beginning. It is one of the means whereby man and woman can be educated. Literacy in itself is no education. In his opinion the aim of education is self-dependence, and education must enable every girl and boy to develop the ability to depend upon himself or herself. The ability to earn one’s livelihood is part of his independence or self-reliance. As he himself puts it. “This education ought to be for them a kind of insurance against unemployment.”

Like Rousseau, Gandhiji also believes in child centre education. He said, “True education is that which draws out and stimulates the spiritual, intellectual and physical faculties of the children”. Hence, the aim of education is the complete development of the child, its physical, mental and spiritual aspects. For him character formation was more important than literacy.

It is clear from the foregoing account that Gandhiji viewed education from a comprehensive or broadminded standpoint. Any education that develops only one aspect of a child’s personality can be dubbed narrow and one-sided. Education must aim at developing the child’s personality instead of limiting itself to providing the child with bits and pieces of information. Gandhiji states that education must make the individual to live and earn his daily bread to be the means of his sustenance. As he himself puts it, “ I value individual freedom, but you must not forget that man is essentially a social being. He was risen to his present status by learning to adjust his individuality to the requirements of social progress”.

In this way Gandhiji synthesized the individual and social aims of education. He did not restrict education to the achievement of any one singly aim. Therefore, he assigned different aims to education at different times, so such so that something they looked mutually contradictory and even self-defeating. A closer examination of all theses statements of Gandhiji, however, shows that these aims of education are complementary to each other.

Gandhiji maintained that character formation and manual skill were equally important. He wanted the child to earn while he learns. As has been already pointed out, Gandhiji aimed at self-reliance through education. He visualized a craft-centered education. Explaining his scheme of Basic Education as an insurance against unemployment in India, Gandhiji said, “The child at the age of 14, that is, after finishing a seven-year course should be discharged as an earning unit. Recommending this scheme of education in the report on national education the Kothari Commission declared, “We recommend that work-experience should be introduced as an integral part of all education general or vocational. We define work-experience as participation in productive work in school. In the home, in a workshop, on a farm, in a factory or in any other productive situation.”On the other hand, he also wanted the child to develop his character. The aim of education is the development of such a culture. Gandhiji’s plan of education laid stress upon all types of education-physical, mental, moral, aesthetic and religious.

Gandhiji aimed at the evolution of democratic ideals through education. His basic plan of education amply demonstrates this fact. He aimed at an education for ideal citizenship. Education, according to him, should make children ideal members of a democratic society. The school, according to Gandhiji, is itself a small democratic society in which such democratic values are imparted to the children as wide outlook, tolerance and good neighborhood. In the miniature society of the school the child learns the virtues of sympathy, service, love, brotherhood, equality and liberty. All knowledge is useless without a good character in his speeches to the students at various institutions. Gandhiji laid emphasis upon the moral and spiritual aims of education. Emphasizing the moral aim of education, Gandhiji said, “The end of all knowledge must be the building up of character”. Character building is the moral ideal education. Western thinkers like Emerson, Ruskin, etc. Gandhiji very much admired the Indian Gurukula system of education and the ideal of Brahmacharya. In the words of Gandhiji, “Self-realization is in itself an all comprehensive ideal’. This ideal includes other ideals of education. Gandhiji believed that the ultimate aim of education is spiritual. He also agreed that spiritual growth includes physical and mental, individual and social development. His educational philosophy is based upon ancient Indian idealism. While he did not restrict the scope of physical education his attention was mainly directed towards spiritual growth.

Education for Sarvodaya

Gandhiji was very much aware of the needs of the country and considered Basic Education as the only type of education, which may lead to success. His chief aim in planning for education in India was to fulfill the needs of the country. India is a country of villages. Most of the villagers in India cannot afford to pay for their children’s education. In addition to it they require their children’s assistance in their occupations. Therefore, Gandhiji planned for Basic Education, which may not be a burden upon the parents and through which the children may be able to earn to meet the expenses of education themselves, laid stress upon the importance of dignity of labour and manual skill. He was convinced that an education, which prepares the young men for white-collar jobs, could hardly be suitable for an agriculture community. It is hence that he so much emphasized the learning of craft in his plan of Basic Education. In spite of all this idealism Gandhiji’s approach everywhere was pragmatic. He was an experimenter in every field of life. Before devising his plan of Basic Education he tested everything before suggesting it for the education of the child. He postulated that the child should himself gather knowledge from the environment and put it in actual use in life. Like the pragmatists and instrumentalists Gandhiji stressed the importance of interest and activity and the need for variety in the subjects taught to the students.

Nai Talim

In order to achieve the above mentioned aims of Sarvodaya in India, Gandhiji presented his plan of Basic Education. He called it Nai Talim (New edcuaiton) because it sought to build up a new society in the country. He realized that what the country needs today is not so much higher education as the education of the masses. Therefore, he did not lay so much emphasis upon higher education.

The Basic Education sought to fulfill the needs of the students in a Sarvodaya society craft centred education with mother tongue as the medium. Literacy, according to him, is not an end but only mean of education. Education ultimately aims at the development of both mind and body and the capacity of earning one’s livelihood. The syllabi for the new education were framed in such a way so as to eliminate narrow nationalism and emphasize the ideal so Sarvodaya. The cost of education was brought down by compulsory manual labour and education should be made self-sufficient as far as possible.

Social Revolution

Pointing out the value of basic education for bringing about a silent social revolution in the country, Gandhiji said, “It will provide a healthy and moral basis of relationship between the city and the village and thus go a long way towards eradicating some of the worst evils of the present social insecurity and poisoned relationship between the classes. It will check the progressive decay of our villages and lay the foundation of a just social order in which there is no unnatural division between the, ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ and everybody is assured of a living wage and the right of freedom. And all this would be accomplished without the horrors of a bloody class war or a social capital expenditure such as would be involved in the mechanization of a vast continent like India. Nor would it entail a helpless dependence on foreign imported machinery or technical skill. Lastly, by obviating the necessity for highly specialized talent, it would place the destiny of the masses, as it were in their own hands.

Nonviolent Education

As has been already pointed out, Gandhiji emphasized the principle of non- violence in every field of life. He considered non-violence as the characteristic human quality . He said, “Non-violence is the law of our species as violence is the law of brutes”. Even truth was subordinate to non-violence. This principle of non-violence, Gandhiji used in every aspect of education, so much so that his theory of education may be called non-violent education.

Means of Education

The scheme of Basic Education clarifies the means of education according to Mahatma Gandhi. The most important means of education in basic scheme was craft. About this means of education Gandhiji said, “The principal idea is to impart the whole education of body and the mind and the soul through the handicraft that is taught to the children. You have to draw out all that is in the child through teaching all the processes of the handicraft, and all your lessons in History, Geography, Arithmetic will be related to the craft.” It was pointed out that the following criteria should be followed in deciding about the basic craft:

  1. Craft fulfilling individual and social means.
  2. Craft based upon local requirements.
  3. Craft in tune with the local conditions.
  4. Craft favorable to the interest, aptitude and ability of the child.
  5. Craft leading to all-round development of personality’s .

Another important element in the means of education in basic scheme was synthesis between the actual problems of life and education, between different subjects of the curriculum and finally between theoretical educational and practical ability. In order to implement the principle of synthesis in basic education it was insisted that the teachers and students should together formulate yearly projects divided into quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily projects.

Medium of Education

A staunch supporter of mother tongue as the medium of education, Gandhiji said, “ I must cling to my mother tongue as to my mother’s breast, in spite of its shortcomings. It alone can give me the life giving milk.” He was vehemently against English as the medium of education in this country. He said. “To inflict English on children is to stunt their natural growth and perhaps to kill originality in them”. He maintained that our insistence on English is a remnant of our long slavery to the British. He maintained that the national language alone could be the vehicle of creating a common culture and rich literature. He was very much conversant with the language problem in India. He wanted to keep the county united particularly from the point of view of language. Therefore, he devised a common national language Hindustani that may be written in both Devanagari and Persian script. According to him there is no difference in Hindi and Urdu.

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