Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav
Senior Gandhian Scholar, Professor, Editor and Linguist
Gandhi International Study and Research Institute, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India
Contact No. – 09404955338, 09415777229
Mailing Address- C- 29, Swaraj Nagar, Panki, Kanpur- 208020, Uttar Pradesh, India
Basic Education and Mahatma Gandhi
According to my educational philosophy, there is no fundamental difference between the basic education in a rural and an urban area. The aim in both is the same the development of the intelligence through a vocation. The system of training that is evolved for rural areas will also be applicable to urban areas. I know from personal experience that the products of primary education in urban areas are good-for-nothing, but, for the present, I do not wish to divide the energies of the Board. If it succeeds in solving the problem of rural education, the other problem will also be solved. If ten years of work are devoted to rural education, you may consider that the whole problem of primary education whether rural or urban has been grappled with. 1
Although schemes for industrialization of the country might be put forth, the goal that the Congress has set before it today is not industrialization of the country. Its goal is, according to a resolution passed by the National Congress at Bombay, revival of village industries. You cannot have mass awakening through any elaborate scheme of industrialization that you may put before the kisans. It would not add a farthing to their income. But the A. I. S. A. and A. I. V. I. A. will put lakhs into their pockets within the course of a year. Whatever happens to the Working Committee or the ministries, personally I do not sense any danger to the constructive activities of the Congress. Although started by the Congress, they have been having an autonomous existence for a long time, and have fully proved their worth. Basic education is an offshoot of these. Education Ministers may change but this will remain. Therefore, those interested in basic education should not worry themselves about Congress politics. The new scheme of education will live or die by its own merits or want of them. 2
Between the boy who has passed his matriculation and the boy who has gone through basic education, the latter will give a better account of him because his faculties have been developed. He would not feel helpless when he goes to college as matriculates often do. The question betrays gross ignorance of the new scheme of education. The boy under the scheme of basic education does not go to school merely to learn a craft. He goes there to receive his primary education, to train his mind through the craft. I claim that the boy, who has gone through the new course of primary education for seven years, will make a better banker than the one who has gone through the seven years of ordinary schooling. The latter when he goes to a banking school will be ill at ease because all his faculties will not have been trained. Prejudices die hard. I will have done a good day’s work if I have made you realize this one central fact that the new education scheme is not a little of literary education and a little of craft. It is full education up to the primary stage through the medium of a craft. 3
I should like you to study and assess the exhibition from this point of view. There is no limit to the progress we can make. We are not good teachers if we are not able to develop originality in us through this kind of education. Education through a craft is the pivot of basic education. You must cultivate your creative instinct to be able to develop your mind through various crafts and teach innumerable things by putting your creative genius and resourcefulness to use and discover new things. 4 I will test the intelligence of the teachers also from this point of view. They should learn their craft in this way and take pleasure in it. The scheme will come to naught if teachers do not train themselves in this manner. If it gets known that the scheme has failed in this manner, the people will laugh at them. However, that is not what I am afraid of. I will be satisfied only when I see that things are happening as I had wished. If they are not, then even if the whole world praises us for our work I will not be deceived. I am feeling apprehensive although the basic education scheme is much admired today. The teachers working under the scheme are feeling Jubilant. But maybe we are deceiving ourselves. I should like you to learn the art of gaining knowledge through a craft. That art and knowledge is a rare thing. You must utilize your knowledge of B. A. and M. A. degrees to this end. It should be your duty to make education, which is a dull and drab affair today, a lively and fascinating subject. It is my claim that by the method I have suggested a rare enlightenment will be produced. 5
He has also shown interest in other village industries and basic education. I hope that the beginning so well made will continue uninterrupted, and that the people of Narsinghgarh will show political, economic, social and moral progress on an ever-increasing scale. From the correspondence I had with the Dewan, I have reason to hope for the best. Much will depend upon the sympathy of the Maharaja and his advisers towards all-round progress and the restrained manner in which the workers use the liberty given by the State. I must congratulate the Maharaja and the Dewan on having shown wisdom and courage in calling in the Congress aid (for my aid is virtually Congress aid) for settling their domestic difficulty. This is perhaps the second instance of its kind. 6 If basic education is accepted by the Provincial Governments, hand-spinning and the like is not merely part of the curriculum, it is the vehicle of education. If basic education takes root, khadi surely becomes universal and comparatively cheap in this afflicted land of ours. 7
I hope that the Poona Educational Conference will, in all it does, keep steadily in view the newness of the Nai Talim, rendered in English as Basic Education. Just as we may neither reduce nor increase ingredients in a chemical experiment, so also we may not add to or discard anything from the essentials of the Wardha Scheme. The newness of this scheme is that education is to be given through a village craft. The end in view is not to be accomplished by merely adding a village craft to the current syllabus. 8 Anything introduced in basic education can only have one end in view, i.e., the educative. The object of basic education is the physical, intellectual and moral development of the children through the medium of a handicraft. But I hold that any scheme, which is sound from the educative point of view and is efficiently managed, is bound to be sound economically. For instance, we can teach our children to make clay toys that are to be destroyed afterwards. That too will develop their intellect. But it will neglect a very important moral principle, viz., that human labour and material should never be used in a wasteful or unproductive way. The emphasis laid on the principle of spending every minute of one’s life usefully is the best education for citizenship and incidentally makes basic education self-sufficient. 9
I have before me two neatly bound volumes in English and Hindustani, being a report of the first conference of Basic National Education held at Poona in October 1939. The English volume is entitled One Step Forward. It covers 292 pages in English and 290 in Hindustani. The price is Rs. 1 4 per volume. Besides instructive introductory pages the report is divided into three parts. The first contains general speeches and discussions. The second is devoted to various interpretations of basic education, and the third part is devoted to a description of the exhibition of basic education for which Shrimati Ashadevi made her mainly responsible. 10 It seems to be generally admitted that without the new or basic education the education of millions of children in India is well-nigh impossible. The village worker has, therefore, to master it, and become a basic education teacher himself. Adult education will follow in the wake of basic education as a matter of course. Where this new education has taken root, the children themselves become their parents’ teachers. Be that as it may, the village worker has to undertake adult education also. Woman is described as man’s better half. As long as she has not the same rights in law as man, as long as the birth of a girl does not receive the same welcome as that of a boy, so long we should know that India is suffering from partial paralysis. Suppression of woman is a denial of ahimsa. Every village worker will, therefore, regard every woman as his mother, sister or daughter as the case may be, and look upon her with respect. Only such a worker will command the confidence of the village people.
Constructive Programme: Its Meaning and Place this is a new subject. But the members of the Working Committee felt so much interested in it that gave a charter to the organizers of the Hindustani Talimi Sangh which has been functioning since the Haripura session. This is a big field of work for many Congressmen. This education is meant to transform village children into model villagers. It is principally designed for them. The inspiration for it has come from the villages. Congressmen who want to build up the structure of swaraj from its very foundation dare not neglect the children. Foreign rule has unconsciously, though none the less surely, begun with the children in the field of education. Primary education is a farce designed without regard to the wants of the India of the villages and for that matter even of the cities. Basic education links the children, whether of the cities or the villages, to all that is best and lasting in India. It develops both the body and the mind, and keeps the child rooted to the soil with a glorious vision of the future, in the realization of which he or she begins to take his or her share from the very commencement of his or her career in school. Congressmen would find it of absorbing interest benefiting themselves equally with the children with whom they come in contact. Let those who wish put themselves in touch with the Secretary of the Sangh at Sevagram. 11
There are no distinctions between work and play in basic education. For a child everything is play. I would go so far as to say that thus his whole life becomes a kind of game. I have been doing this for many years now. I never feel that it is time for play and I should go and play. For me even writing is a game. Under basic education of my conception children will learn while playing. 12 You can certainly try. But if you ask my advice, I will tell you that in that event, you had better forget basic education altogether. Self-sufficiency is not an a priori condition but to me it is the acid test. This does not mean that basic education will be self-supporting from the very start. But taking the entire period of seven years, covered by the basic education plan, income and expenditure must balance. Otherwise, it would mean that even at the end of their training, the basic education students will not be fitted for life. That is the negation of basic education. Nayee Talim without the self-support basis would, therefore, be like a lifeless body. 13
India is a very poor country. And we must spread literacy among the whole population of 400 million and the education of the child is to start from the time he is born One’s head starts reeling when one thinks about making all the necessary arrangements, finding so many teachers and the resources to pay them. You might ask me if my head too starts reeling. I should say, no. You might then think that either I am a stupid fellow who understands nothing, or I am very wise and know everything about it. This, in fact, is true. My head does not reel nor am I given to talking in the air. Congress Ministers are ruling in seven Provinces. In some Provinces the Muslim League is in power. Let them be considered separate for the time being, though I do not regard them as separate. One day they are bound to be united with us. True, they might not agree to give this type of training and the Congress wants to implement the programme of basic education. But how can I tell Suhrawardy Saheb that I want to impart basic education in Bengal? He would ask me what right I had to make any such suggestion. I can also work a lot in Sind. If we can give basic education to the people there the whole face of the province would change. The Hindus want to run away from there. They come to me and ask me what they should do. What they should do is another thing.
For that very reason the scheme of basic education has been prepared. It is a living education and a true education. English has not been given a place in it. A boy who has had basic education comes to his parents and proudly tells them what he has learnt. But if I study in an English school and my father from the village asks me what I learnt I would tell him only about England and the English people. If he asks me anything about my own place, about Bihar, I would not be able to tell him anything. But it does not imply that I should go on abusing the English people. As it is, I do not abuse anyone. The English say that this is our country and that they are going. When recently the Viceroy asked me to sign the peace appeal I said that I would sign in Hindi, Urdu, and I put my signature in Hindi, Urdu and English. This pleased the Viceroy. 14
Last but not least remains Basic Education. It is an infant not more than eight years old. Therefore actual experience does not take us beyond what may be termed the matriculation stage. Thus, though it is limited in scope, the mind of those who are engaged in making the experiment has grown far beyond that stage. It would be unwise for any educationist to put aside the recommendations of a body which has behind it the solid experience of eight years. It should be borne in mind that this Basic Education has grown out of the atmosphere surrounding us in the country and is in response to it. It is, therefore, designed to cope with that atmosphere. This atmosphere pervades India’s seven hundred thousand villages and its millions of inhabitants. Forget them and you forget India. India is not to be found in her cities. It is in her innumerable villages. The cities rose in answer to the requirements of foreign domination. They exist as they were two months ago, for though foreign rule has disappeared, its influence has not and cannot quite so suddenly. Thus I am writing these lines in New Delhi. If I know nothing of the villages of India how can I draw, sitting here, a true picture of the villages? What applies to me applies more forcibly to the ministers. Let us now glance at the fundamentals of Basic Education:
1. All education to be true must be self-supporting, that is to say, in the end it will pay its expenses excepting the capital which will remain intact.
2. In it the cunning of the hand will be utilized even up to the final stage, that is to say, the hands of the pupils will be skillfully working at some industry for some period during the day.
3. All education must be imparted through the medium of the provincial language.
4. In this there is no room for giving sectional religious training. Fundamental universal ethics will have full scope.
5. This education, whether it is confined to children or adults, male or female, will find its way to the homes of the pupils.
6. Since millions of students receiving this education will consider themselves as of the whole of India, they must learn an interprovincial language. This common inter-provincial speech can only be Hindustani written in the Nagari or Urdu script. Therefore pupils have to master both the scripts. Therefore, it is hoped that all educationists will come to the conclusion that judicious delay is necessary for founding new universities. 15
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