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Orissa Review * September - October - 2006

Mahatma Gandhi's Contribution to Education

Dinabandhu Dehury

India's recorded and unrecorded culture and violence and corruption are at its zenith, and more
civilization are rare features in the course of world than one third of our population lives below the
history. Today, along with modernization, it is very poverty line, it is indeed tempting to muse over
much a part of our living culture, at every level of the relevance of Gandhiji's contribution to
the society, as well as a documented testimony education as well as his model of basic education,
to the greatest strength of education, which incorporating his philosophy, approach and
catapulted the Indian Civilisation to its zenith. strategy.
Perhaps few other cultures His Contributions :
and civilizatio ns have
produced such courageous, Gandhiji's model was
saintly and visionary role not only holistic and practical,
models such as it was highly decentralized
Radhakrishnan, Sri and int egrated, wit h a
Aurobindo, Swami demonstrated capacity to
Vivekananda, Mira Bai, Rani motivate t he entire
of Jhansi, Netaji Subas community and place
Chandra Bose, Rabindra responsibility and
Nath Tagore, Sant Kabir, account ability at t he
Sant Ram Das, Mahatma community level versus the
Gandhi, to name a few. State. To highlight just a few
of his contributions.
Gandhiji influenced the lives of our
countrymen for more than half a century. His An Investment in Human Capital :
approach to most issues was down-to-earth and On economic, political and military
holistic-be it social, cultural, economic, health or grounds, India was of first rate importance to the
education. His philosophies were pragmatic and British and education was the instrument by which
farsighted. The villager was the centre of his they sought to maintain and strengthen their
economic thought. His warnings against the British domination by experimenting with a unique model
Education system were prophetic. Today, when of educating an elite through a foreign language.
Indian illiteracy rate stands at 34.62%, crime, However, contrary to the popular belief, English

Orissa Review * September - October - 2006

education was not forced on the Indians (Basu, factories and shops. The work done at home
1978). Rich Indian citizens had actively come offered lifelong educational, socialization,
forward in setting up the system as the only way communication and vocational benefits to the
to modernize their society. So much time was family members. It kept unemployment and crime
spent in mastering English language by the Indian rates low. The spirit of cooperation and respect
School boys that the main purpose of education prevailed, which is what Gandhiji tried to revive
was missed. The premium on rate learning and in his model.
examinations was so high, that the growth of Concrete Definition to Aims, Goals and
inquisitiveness and an experimental bent of mind, Objectives of Education :
so necessary for economic development, were
If education is the foundation of all growth
not cultivated. But more important was an invisible
and progress, then aims, goals and objectives are
and quite change in attitudes and values of viewing the four interconnected and most significant
education as a social welfare activity for girls and components that gives direction to educational
an investment for boys (Dhawan, 1995; Naik, outcomes through the curricular content, syllabus
1982; Krishna Raj, 1982). As an outcome, the and evaluations. These four components are highly
system concentrated on a centralized and uniform influenced by four interconnected foundation
higher education. blocks namely, epistemology (the nature of
Since the system of education had little use knowledge), society/culture, the individual, and
for the masses, there were inadequate facilities learning theories (Zais, 1976). But since aims,
for children aged between 6-11 years as well as goals, and objectives, collectively as a component
poor enrolment. In many ways the situation hurt of curriculum provide direction and focus for the
the girls more than the boys. Gandhiji, who viewed entire education programme, they are particularly
education as an investment in human capital, sensitive to these four fundamental forces.
warned against this system because it disorganized It was Gandhiji, who in 1937 first
villagers, made them helpless and paralyzed and recognized the interconnectedness of the eight
steadily sunk them into poverty, unemployment curricular forces and questioned the futility of the
and despair (Gandhiji, 1937). Instead, productive British education system. Based on his wisdom
skills were the focus of his Nai Talim (Basic and successful experiments with education in
Education), providing food, shelter and clothing South Africa, he put forth a Basic Education Plan
as the three basic essentials for human survival which had the merit of achieving one aim of peace
and security. and freedom, for which all mankind yearns today.
Also, recognizing the futility of a centralized plan
Given the impact of radical changes in and control in implementing programmes, he also
Societies the world over, brought about by the outlined a comprehensive but decentralized model
Industrial Revolution, Gandhiji's Philosophy of to be implemented by the village Republics. The
education was based on his findings derived from vital objective of his model was to develop
scientific research of theories of economic, productive and social skills among the masses.
political and child development (both Western and To the centre, remained the overall responsibilities
Oriental), and his successful experiments in South of coordinating and guiding the work of the states
Africa. One of those radical changes was the so that national policies could evolve from the
removal of manufacture from households into grassroots.

Orissa Review * September - October - 2006

After two years of work on Basic cause. His eclectic model was proposed to serve
Education, a Conference was organized in as a guideline for formulating a new policy. Its
Jamianagar, Delhi, in the year 1941. Various implementation, management and finances were
reports on the working of basic schools run by to be entirely vested with the panchayats and local
the governments, local bodies, and by private bodies.
enterprise throughout the country were almost The six main features of his eclectic model
unanimous in their assesment that general incorporating his philosophy, approach and
standards of health and behaviour as well as strategy are : 1. Basic Philosophy, 2. Aims and
intellectual attainment were very encouraging. Goals, 3. The Five Stages, 4. Programme of
Compared to the English Medium Schools, the Work, 5. Implementation Strategy, 6. Standard
Children in Basic Schools were more active, of Attainment.
cheerful, self-reliant, with well-developed power
of self-expression. They were found to be The Basic Philosophy
acquiring habits of co-operative work and social (a) True education is all-round development
prejudices were breaking down. of the faculties, best attained through action. It
Five other equally significant contributions bases itself on the fact that knowledge and
to education include (1) an age appropriate and understanding develop in relation to problems set
realistic curriculum focusing on social, productive right by action. Information thrust on the mind only
and academic skills, (2) a highly adequate and burdens the memory and causes intellectual
effective teacher training programme, (3) keeping indigestion, casting learning into oblivion.
the financing of education at bay so that the local (b) Education must be concrete and inter
community could raise and manage the finance connected, not abstract or given in isolated
judiciously, simultaneously providing for sections. Concrete education allows the learner
international standards in education; (4) leaving to manipulate problems or sets of problems and
little or no scope for adult illiteracy, unemployment study their relationships, character and artistic
or child labour; and (5) provide for international sense. It allows the mind, heart, hand and eyes to
standards in health and manageable levels of work simultaneously in a correlated manner,
population, again by placing the responsibility and resulting in a harmonious and well-balanced
accountability at the hands of the local community. personality.
All this and much more he achieved through his
model. (c) Education must be imparted in the child's
mother tongue and organically connected with the
The Eclectic Model : child's Social and Cultural environment.
The second focus of the paper is Gandhiji's Aims and Goals :
proposed and tested alternative for human
security which is tangible, attainable, inexpensive, (a) All boys and girls in India should grow up
indigenous and sustainable and an insulation to seek truth and peace.
against poverty, inequality and its allied problems. (b) All children should grow up as citizens in a
Since a compartmentalized approach does not new social order, based on Co-operative work
address the cause, Gandhiji's alternative was most and with the understanding of their rights,
comprehensive and integrated to address the responsibilities and obligations in such a society.

Orissa Review * September - October - 2006

(c) Every individual child should have full (d) Secondary Education - education through
opportunity for the balanced and harmonious self-sufficiency or vocational education of four
development of all his/her faculties and should years duration, with the same curricular contents
acquire the capacity for self-reliance in every for adolescent boys and girls in the age group of
aspect of a clean, healthy and cultured life, together 15-18, irrespective of their caste or class. It must
with an understanding of the social, political and provide for a great range of productive activities
moral implications of such a life. to support the community and provide the basis
for sound and well-organized knowledge.
(d) Each individual must develop "a scientific
(e) Tertiary Education - It should either lead
attitude of mind". It means a clean intellectual
to the responsibilities of adult family life or some
curiosity to know the "how" and "why" of things;
form of professional training in the university.
the patience detachment to test all phenomena,
all ideas and all traditions by the standards of truth; Programme of Work
the courage and power to think for oneself; the There are five fundamental activities around
intellectual and moral authority to abide by all the which the programme of work for adult
facts. education, pre-school education, primary
education and secondary education are
The Five Stages :
(a) Adult Education - involvement of
(a) Clean and Healthy Living to focus on
educated parents (with productive skills) and the
personal and social habits and attitudes of health,
community for a happy, healthy, clean and self- cleanliness and hygiene towards self and
reliant life. An educated adult's participation is community; practical skills to carry out all types
closely connected to the success of pre-school, of proper cleaning and sanitation work efficiently.
primary and secondary education.
(b) Self-Reliance to focus on economic self-
(b) Pre-School Education - for children support for its own sake and for character
under-7, both boys and girls, to develop their training.
faculties conducted by School teachers in
(c) Productive Basic Crafts to focus on three
cooperation with the parents and the community. most suited crafts for children by age for
It includes physical nurture, medical care, personal developing intelligence and general knowledge.
cleanliness and health, community cleanliness and The three basic crafts are the main centre of
health, self-help, social training, creative activities correlation for the "core subjects" of language,
in work and play for the acquisition of basic mathematics, general science and social science.
concepts, speech training, development of
(d) Citizenship in Community to focus on
mathematical sense, nature study, art and music
developing habits and attitudes of cooperation
and spiritual development. and neighbourliness at home, at school and in the
(c) Primary Education - education for self- community.
sufficiency, of eight years duration for children in (e) Recreational and Cultural Activities to
the age group of 7-15, with the same subjects focus on games, dance, music, drama, festivals
and curricular contents for both boys and girls, relating to social, religious, historical and national
irrespective of their caste or class. significance.

Orissa Review * September - October - 2006

Implementation Strategy responsible citizenship, self-reliance, clean and

(a) The Panchayat Samitis and local bodies healthy living, self-sufficiency, sufficient mastery
alongwith the teachers must decide the objectives, over tool subject and acquaintance with
curriculum and syllabus. However, it must be fundamental scientific, mathematical and
according to age and developmental norms, as mechanical principles.
well as gender sensitive. References :
(b) The curriculum materials and activities must 1. Basic Education (1941)- two years of work.
be indigenous, inexpensive using common objects Report of th e Second Basic Education
Conference. Jamianagar, Delhi, April, Hindustan
of ordinary Indian life and people. Talim Sangh, Sevagram, Wardha.
(c) The text books must be written by 2. Basic National Education (1938) - Complete
renowned teachers themselves from the child's Syllabus for Grades I to VIII. Hindustan Talim
view point both from the level of concepts and Sangh, Sevagram, Wardha, 2nd Edition.
language. 3. Dhawan, G. (1997) - prospects and challenges of
finan cin g more an d better education,
(d) Practical and theoretical training should be Employment News, August Vol.XXII, No.21.
given to the teachers, on the needs of the villages,
4. Dhawan, G and Bhat C.M. (1995), Education :
in the villages itself. Use the same teachers for
The Harbinger of change for Women, Girl Child
adult education as it saves on planning and capital and the family : Action for Equality,
outlay. Development and Peace. Centre for Social,
Economic and Educational Evaluation, Research
(e) The latest instructional technologies must and Development, Delhi.
be utilized for imparting training.
5. Gandhi, M.K. (1937) - Basic Education, Navajivan
Standard of Attainment Publishing House, Ahmedabad.
Literacy is neither the beginning nor the end
of life. The purpose of evaluation is to measure
the extent to which objectives have been achieved.
Since the current examination system is Dinabandhu Dehury is a Ph.D. Scholar in the P.G.
insignificant, seven standards of achievement were Department of History, Utkal University, Vani Vihar,
proposed such as capacity to appreciate true art, Bhubaneswar, Orissa.

Hon'ble Chief Minister Shri Naveen Patnaik with the

members of Mumbai Oriya Association.