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Basic Education (Buniyadi Shiksha)
The Voice of Truth
Given the right kind of teachers, our children will be taught the dignity of labour and learn to regard it as an integral part of and a means of their intellectual growth and to realise that it is patriotic to pay for their training through their labour. The core of my suggestions in that handicrafts are to be taught, not merely for productive work, but for developing the intellect of the pupils. Surely if the state takes charge of the children between seven and fourteen and train their bodies and minds through productive labour, the public schools must be frauds and teachers idiots, if they cannot become self supporting.
When it is remembered that the primary aim of all education is or should be, the moulding of the character of pupils, a teacher who has a character to keep need not lose heart.
In the schools I advocate, boys learn in high schools less English but plus drill, music, drawing, and of course, a vocation.
I am a firm believer in the principle of free and compulsory primary education for India. I also hold that we shall realise this only by teaching the children a useful vacation and utilising it as a means for cultivating their mental, physical and spiritual faculties. Let no one consider these economic calculations in connection with education as sordid or out of place. There is nothing essentially sordid about economic calculations.
If we want to impart education best suited to the needs of the villagers, we should convert it into a training school in order that we might be able to give practical training to teachers in the needs of the villages. To interest city dwellers in villages and make them live in them is no easy task. I am finding daily confirmation of this in Segaon. I cannot give you the assurance that our year's stay in Segaon has made of us villagers or that we have become one with them for the common good.
Then as to primary education, my confirmed option is that the commencement of training by teaching the alphabet and reading and writing hampers their intellectual growth. I would not teach them the alphabet till they have had an elementary knowledge of history Geography mental arithmetic and the art (say) of spinning. Through these three I should develop their intelligence. Question may be asked how intelligence can be developed through the takli or the spinning wheel when you give him the history of cotton and its connection with civilization itself and take him to the village field where it is grown, and teach him to count the round he spins and the method of finding the evenness and strength of his yarn, you hold his interest and simultaneously train his hands, his eyes and his mind. I should give six months to this preliminary training. The child is now probably ready for learning how to read the alphabet, and when he is able to do so rapidly, he is ready to learn simple drawing and when he has learnt to draw geometrical figures and the figures of the birds etc. he will draw, not scrawl the figures of the alphabet. I can recall the days of my childhood when I was being taught the alphabet. I know what a drag it was. Nobody cared why my intellect was rusting. I consider writing as a fine art. We kill it by imposing the alphabet on little children and making it the beginning of learning. Thus we do violence to the art of writing and stunt the growth of the child when we seek to teach him the alphabet before its time.
What kind of vocations are the fittest for being taught to children in urban schools? There is no hard and fast rule about it. But my reply is clear. I want to resuscitate the villages in India. Today our villages have become a mere appendage to the cities. They exist as it were, to be exploited by the latter and depend on the latter's sufferance. This is unnatural. It is only when the cities realise the duty of making an adequate return to the villages for the strength and sustenance which they derive from them that a healthy & moral relationship between the two will spring up. And if the city children are to play part in their great and noble work of social reconstruction the vocations through which they are to receive their education ought to be directly related to the requirements of the villages. So far as I can see the various processes of cotton manufacture from ginning and cleaning of cotton to the spinning of yarn, answer this test as nothing else does. Even today cotton is grown in the villages and is ginned and spun and converted into cloth in the cities. But the chain of processes which cotton undergoes in the mills from the beginning to the end constitutes a huge tragedy of waste in men, materials and mechanical power.
Source: "The selected works of Gandhi", Vol.6