Education: Past, Present and Future!

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 08 Jul 2017 13:43:35

By Dr Aditya Kumar Sharma,

Guest column - I

Education in the Past: In the Vedic period, schools were boarding schools where a child was handed over to the teacher at the age of about eight years, and he was imparted knowledge for developing ideal behaviour and not for its utilitarian end. Knowledge, it was felt, was something that lent meaning, glory, and lustier to life. The teacher took personal interest in the life of his students. Education was all comprehensive.

For example, physical education was compulsory. Students were taught to build up a strong and healthy body. Training was given in the art of war, including archery, riding, driving, and in other allied fields. School education began with phonology, including study of grammar. After that, study of logic was taken up which dealt with the laws of reasoning and art of thinking. Then came science of Arts and Crafts. Lastly, came the discipline of life which was concerned with sexual purity and chastity in thought and action, including simplicity in food and dress, emphasis on equality, fraternity and independence, and respect for the teacher. Thus, language, logic, craft, discipline and building up character formed the basics of education in early India.

In the Brahmanical period, the Vedic literature formed the chief subject of instruction. The main aim of education was the learning of the Vedas. But the Sudras were excluded from the right to education. Education was given on the basis of caste rather than ability and aptitude. Women also were debarred from education. In the Muslim period, the objectives of education changed. It was more to teach the three R’s and train in religious norms. The higher education was imparted through schools of learning while the vocational and professional training was given within the caste structure. Sanskrit and Arabic or Persian was the mediums of instruction.

The teachers’ remuneration was paid by the rulers through grant of land, presents from pupils, allowances paid by wealthy citizens, and payment in the form of food, clothes or other articles. The financial position of the schools was not very strong. They did not have special buildings of their own. In many cases, schools were held in local temples or mosques or teachers’ houses. The schools were conducted almost exclusively by Maulvis (priests) for the Muslim students and by Brahmins for the Hindu students. Vocational training was provided by father, brother, etc. to the child. Thus, the caste system provided vocational training and transmitted skills from generation to generation and also provided gainful employment. There was no emphasis on physical education, developing thinking ability, or teaching some craft. Chastity, equality, simplicity were not the ideals of student life. The specialisation of professional roles had not reached a stage at which a separate class or caste could take up education work as a specialised function. Education was more practical.

In the British period, education aimed at producing mainly clerks. Education was student-centred rather than teacher-centred. Unlike today, education in this period never aimed at freedom of individual, excellence of individual, equality amongst all people, individual and group self-reliance, and national cohesion. Christian missionaries engaged in imparting education gave considerable importance to conversion of religion.

Education in schools and colleges was not productive which could break down the social, regional and linguistic barriers. It never aimed at making people masters of technology. It also did not focus on fighting injustice, intolerance and superstition. Education in the Present: Education today is oriented to promoting values of an urban, competitive consumer society. Through the existing education system, India has produced in the last five decades number of scientists, professionals and technocrats who have excelled in their fields and made a mark at the national and international levels.

The top scientists, doctors, engineers, researchers, professors, etc., are not those who were educated abroad but had got their entire education in India. If these experts and all those people who have reached the highest level have come through our present educational system, how could we deny the positive aspects of the education system as it is found today? Thus, while we cannot totally criticise our present education, there are some issues which need our urgent attention, if we are really concerned with a better future. The question relates not to the past or to the present but rather to the future. How are we going to prepare the experts in various fields to meet the challenges of the newest and latest technology of the twenty-first century? It is not a question of the extent to which education provides or fails to provide employment to people but it is a question of education providing modern technology for the benefit of the poor and deprived people.

It is a question of the quality of education. Instead of merely viewing the growing population as a liability, we should change the population into an asset and strength along with trying to control its growth. This can be done only by education and human development. Merely giving a degree and a certificate to a young person that he is qualified for appointment is not enough.

(To be continued)

(The author is the Principal of Syna International School, Katni)