Gandhi's concept of education and its ethical perspectives for the development of peace
By Dr. Akham Hemabati Devi
Gandhi was a utopian; he tried to bring 'the Kingdom of God on the earth (Ram Rajya) where truth and non-violence would be guiding principles. His utopianism arose out of his love for humanity. "Gandhi was humanist, shall we say from the first moment of his self consciousness."1 He firmly believed that the goodness of the individual formed the constituent part of the goodness of the society. Like John Ruskin, he considered 'man' is the most important to bring a peaceful and harmonious society. He says, "The individual is the one supreme consideration."2 "Man is neither mere intellect, nor the gross animal body, nor the heart or soul alone. A proper and harmonious combination of all the three is required for making of the whole man and constitutes the true economics of education."3 His concept of political system is closely connected with education. In a good political system, there must be the element of goodness necessarily present in every man. There is the need of a proper education system to the individuals in order to bring out such element of goodness. He talks about education is more comprehensive than that of the literal meaning. He says, "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 women can be educated. Literacy in itself is no education."4
He thought that education is closely associated with the socio-economic development of the society. He took up scheme for basic education in which vocational training or work experience is the utmost important. It is due to the fact that it stimulates the human mind for creative thinking or dignity of manual labour. He thought that such creative thinking should be taken up from primary to higher level education. His view on basic education is greatly influenced by his philosophy of satya (truth), ahimsa (non-violence), firm belief in God, dignity of labour. The Kothari Commission also followed Gandhi's ideal of vocational training in education. This commission says, "We recommend that work experience should be introduced as an integral part of all India 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."5 This commission re-emphasizes the Gandhian principle of learning by doing in the modern education. The main aim of education is the development of human personality. He expanded fourfold personality in the individual that is body, mind, heart and spirit. True education stimulates the spiritual, intellectual and physical strength of the individual. His view on education of heart which brings the idea of sympathy, fellowship and deep feelings of love. The aim of education is not only to produce good individual but also one must understand one's own responsibilities in which one lives. It is closely related to Hindu concept of varnashram dharma. One who understood his or her responsibilities would lead to the spirit of social consciousness and social mindedness. Then, all the activities of such persons will have a social content as well as co-operation to others.
He talks about education in terms of discipline. It is regarded as one of the most important parts and parcels of education. Without discipline, the sound education system is impossible. It is a quality that one's self can lead to the regulation of one's intellectual, moral, spiritual and social behaviour. It is stated that the goal of education consists of character-building. Such character-building requires the moral, intellectual and social behaviour under all circumstances i.e., strength of personality, the virtue of compassion, kindness, fair-mindedness and the spirit of dedication. Gandhi strongly holds that education is not end in itself but it is the most powerful weapon which creates all persons of genuine characters. There is degeneration of education when the qualities of truthfulness, firmness, tolerance are absence from it. True education is life process which helps in cultivating the spirit of co-operation, tolerance, public spirit and a sense of responsibility. All these qualities are considered as disciplines for the development of human personality. Such disciplines can create the harmonious balance between the individuals and social aim of education. His principle of 'learning by doing' tries to stimulate the individual's mind to think creatively, independently and critically. His great emphasis on work-culture to the students from the primary stage to higher stage is to enable the students to start producing from the time he started his training. So, his primary information of basic education is Head, Heart and Hand rather than Reading, Writing and Arithmetic.
Gandhi also maintains that education is essential for the attainment of the goal of peace. It can be attained only through morality and ethics. According to Gandhi, education is the realization of the best in man - body, soul and spirit. He maintained that education must be based on ethics and morality. Ethics and morality are integral to Gandhi's life. All his thoughts, actions and speeches are based on these two concepts. From the ethical perspective, education may be considered as a means of attainment of salvation. It helps to the path of the complete peace. Peace is the absence of violence and hostile thought. As a daily practitioner of non-violence, Gandhi right from his earlier stage considered that non-violence is an indivisible, important and essential part of education. We cannot be separated education from ethics, morality and spiritualism. For this purpose Gandhi has given some rules for all students so as to ensure that morality and righteousness always be considered as an essential part of their education. Regarding this, such rules can make to right thinking, self-control, service to the society, respect to others and constant awareness for their duties and responsibilities.
Today, the world is suffering from immense crisis from many sides. Crimes, conflict, hatred and distrust between one community and another, hunger, unemployment, poverty and literacy, paucity of resources and pollution of environment, deforestation and desertification, swelling number of migrants and refugees, ethnic and sub-national violence, terrorism, drug trafficking, AIDS etc., all these altogether make a grave danger to peace. The present day crisis is greater than the crisis that occurred during the time of Gandhi. The world is now full of violence. With the advancement of science and technology human being has invented many new technologies which are very helpful in our life. In some other ways, some selfish people who used it as a weapon for gaining his desire wish and pleasures. An action done under the motives of selfishness is a kind of violence. Purity of means is an essential condition of realizing good ends. If a good end is to be attained, it is also essential that the means adopted for the realization of the end is also good. He says, "if one takes care of the means, the end will take care of itself."6 End and means are the two important concepts in Gandhian philosophy which play very important implication for his doctrine of truth and non-violence. His principle of aparigraha is one of the most important to bring simple and peaceful living, co-operation with one another. However, in our present day society we are facing so many conflicts. One of them is based on our knowledge which has been separated from work-ethics. Knowledge is separated in thought, in life as well as in market values by faulty psychology, faulty sociology and faulty economics respectively. Education plays an important role which helps to equip individuals with the skills and attitudes that are necessary in order to adapt in changing situations and to add the creative spirit in the task of social change. 'Work and knowledge should go together' is the Gandhian principle of education. The educational systems try to develop the individual soul and mind, courage and self-reliance, cultivate the highest intellectual, scientific, moral and ethical accomplishments.
Gandhi's concept of education is of quite significance in the contemporary situation. His philosophical concept of education is entirely based on the development of human personality, to maintain the discipline, to create the manual work with learning and to develop the culture of the peace. He was a great educationist and an individualist par excellence. He knew that education is the most important means in the society which can be used as an instrument of socio-economic progress, material advancement, political evolution and moral development of an individual. Gandhi's whole philosophy and work was based on ethics and morality. His concept of education is also founded on ethics and morality. It may be said that his concept of education has full of religious ideas. His idea of religion is different from common concept. His concept of religion is 'service of humanity'. For the spirit of religions he propounded 'Nai Talim' or 'basic education'. This new education system, Archarya Kriplani says, '...is the coping stone of Gandhi's social and political edifice'. His philosophical thought on education is highly pedestal that creates the socio-economic development of the society.
We can draw a conclusion that his concept of education is not only the eradication of illiteracy but learning by doing. He preaches the doctrine of simple living and high thinking. His education system are greatly emphasizing the culture of peace, sincere work, dedication of the cause of the nation, social minded, friendliness, right feelings, economic advancement, physical improvement and socio-cultural progress. It is based on work-centre education which can provide the necessary economic self-sufficiency and self-reliance.