Locating Education for Peace in Gandhian Thought
The emergence of global issues and problems infesting humankind in general underlines the fact that we need a new philosophy not only of thinking but also of practicing which is epitomized by Gandhian philosophy of peace education. For Gandhi, religious and moral education in the overarching framework of non-violence is complimentary in nature and form the core of peace education. Gandhi’s thoughts on inequality, social development, education and non-violence if operationalised, can go a long way to negotiate and overcome not only the socio-economic challenges but also the ethical dilemmas of present times. The present nature and content of education undermines the social goal and obligation of developing a balanced personality. For Gandhi value education is necessary for moral development of individual whereas peace education is vital for humankind as a whole.
Gandhi holds an important place in the history of social thought. Though he is not considered as a theoretician in strict sense yet his writings on state and democracy, relationship between individual and the society, moral and ethical values in education and numerous other writings on social issues have made him an invincible part of academic debates across political science, history, sociology, economics among other subjects. This is very well reflected in Akeel Bilgrami’s argument that “the social scientist’s and historian’s interest in him has sought out a nationalist leader with a strikingly effective method of non-violent political action” (Bilgrami, 2003: 4159).1 Additively, “he was basically a man of action whose major contribution consisted in leading his country’s struggle for independence” (Parekh, 1997:151).2 The Gandhian thought of peace is worldwide acknowledged. The name of Gandhi is synonyms with peace & non-violence. That is why United Nation announced World Peace Day on 2nd October, the birth date of Mahatma Gandhi. The contribution of Gandhi to the humanity is incomparable. The present paper is an attempt to locate how he tended to blend peace education & education for peace within his broad schema on his ideas on education in general. Gandhi viewed education as vital in the overall development of individual as well as society. This education has to be given to the students so that they can learn and imbibe the ethics and values of a humanitarian, just and peaceful society i.e. ‘Sarvodya Samaj’.
Before elaborating on the Gandhian notion of peace education, we need to locate what peace education broadly means. Peace education can be understood education for facilitating peace. According to Page (2008), “a fundamental concern of peace education is education to prevent the suffering and wastage of warfare within the modern era” (Page, 2008: 2).3 Harris and Morrison (2003) argue that “peace education, refers to teaching about peace – what it is, why it doesn’t exist, and how to achieve it” (Harris and Morrison, 2003: 25-26).4 According to Peace Education Working Group at UNICEF, peace education “refers to the process of promoting the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values ……. to prevent conflict and violence.”5 Hague Appeal for Peace defines peace education as “a participatory holistic process that includes teaching for and about democracy and human rights”6 among other issues.
For Gandhi, peace can be located in “his revolutionary mode of action which he called satyagraha, and his challenging goal of sarvodaya, meaning the welfare and good of all, a fuller and richer concept of people’s democracy than any we have yet known’ (Bose, 1981: 159).7 Peace to Gandhi is primarily located in his idea of Ahimsa i.e. non-violence however, according to Gupta (1968: 1876), his ideas of trusteeship and passive resistance both form the base peaceful and just society.8 For Gandhi, “A votary of ahimsa …… remains true to his faith if the spring of all his actions is compassion, if he shuns to the best of his ability the destruction of the tiniest creature, tries to save it, and thus incessantly strives to be free from the deadly coil of himsa.”9
Gandhian concept of education is based on all round development of human personality that includes physical development, intellectual development and spiritual development. According to Gandhi, “By education I mean an all round drawing out of the best in child and man.” Gandhi’s important writings on education is compiled in two books; ‘Basic Education’ (1951) and ‘Towards New Education’ (1953). He didn’t liked the western education. According to him western education is based on materialism. In western philosophy the value of education is like the value of land or property, which is a very narrow concept. He believed that education is very broad concept and if it is implied in a better way, it can solve many problems of society and world.
Buniyadi Shiksha (Basic Education also known as ‘Nai Talim’) was the base of educational practice as propounded by Gandhi in 1937 at Wardha which subsequent became as Wardha Scheme or Basic National Education. As has been argued by Samuel Ravi, that “The principle of non-violence is the basis of basic education. Through it……Gandhi wants to develop qualities which are necessary for building a non-violent society. It is against exploitation and centralization.” (Ravi, 2011: 232).10 His idea of basic education was firmly oriented towards activity based. He elaborated on his notion of ‘Nai Talim’ as “Craft, Art, Health and education should all be integrated into one scheme. Nai Talim is a beautiful blend of all the four and covers the whole education of the individual from the time of conception to the moment of death”.11
The idea of sarvadharma samabhava i.e. equality of religions as espoused by Gandhi is an effective tool to counter the increasing tensions among different religious groups. According to Gandhi, “a curriculum of religious instruction should include a study of the tenets of faiths other than one’s own. For this purpose, the students should be trained to cultivate the habit of understanding and appreciating the doctrines of various great religions of the world in a spirit of reverence and broad-minded tolerance. This, if properly done, would help to give them a spiritual assurance and a better appreciation of their own religion. This study of other religions besides one’s own will give one a grasp of the rock-bottom unity of all religions, and afford a glimpse also of that universal and absolute Truth which lies beyond the ‘dust of creeds and faiths.’"12
In some of the recent studies, scholars have tried to contextualize and place the emergence of Gandhian Studies within the framework of education for peace. Field (2006: 231) underlines that “nonviolence education or Gandhian Studies emphasizes positive concepts of peace (rather than peace as absence of strife).”13 Monisha Bajaj (2010: 47-63) in her study argues that “social and collective action towards peace also appears more frequently in Gandhian studies perhaps because of the focus on structural and cultural forms of violence” (Bajaj, 2010: 54).14 Similarly, Tint and Prasad (2007: 23-37) have also observed that “there are several programs in Gandhian thought and peace studies, which inform the studies on nonviolence” (2007: 27).15 Thus, Gandhi emphasized on value education as it is necessary for moral development of individual whereas peace education is vital for humankind as a whole.
His idea of peace education can be seen in his interpretation of religious education though he was critical of it many a times.16 Religious education tends to sensitize individual towards his/her moral duties and responsibilities. All religions are based on love and compassion towards humanity and thus teach tolerance to its respective followers. Religious teachings should not be confused with the dogmatic, conservative and static notions of social reality rather these should be seen as a form of moral cleansing of individual. The practice of non-violence can achieve its optimum if one has an attitude of tolerance of others. He argued that religious and moral education in the overarching framework of non-violence is complimentary in nature and form the core of peace education. Peace education needs to inculcate tolerance among the different faiths. His thoughts on inequality, social development, education and non-violence if operationalised, can go a long way to negotiate and overcome not only the socio-economic challenges but also the ethical dilemmas of present times.
The present times crisis both at the levels of global and national once again has made our self aware of the immense importance and relevance of Gandhian philosophy. It is true that unlike other theoreticians, he did not theorized the social issues and presented them in a sound methodological framework. Yet, his ideas on education are very much in tune with the needs of the present generation. Peace today has become a rare and priced commodity. As Gandhi has said, that it is in the minds of the grown-ups we need to see the problems and it is in the minds of the children we need to sow the seeds of solution to such problems. Educating the children regarding peace, non-violence and most importantly mutual respect towards each other is very important. Needless to say, Gandhi’s Basic education engrained such thinking.
As violence also has its roots in wealth and individuals’ desire for accumulating it beyond his/her need, Gandhian notions of Astaya (non-stealing) and Aparigraha (non-possession) needs to be engrained in the educational philosophy. He focused on the internalization of the education in day to day life so as to imbibe its moral values. The practice of non-violence is also central as it not only relates to the physical violence rather the inner soul is mauled and left bleeding. Though it can be argued that Gandhi did not specifically wrote on peace education yet it is diffused across his writings which are very critical for today’s time.
Manju Kumari, D.Phil. Research Scholar, Dept. of Education, University of Allahabad, Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh 211002, India.
Dr. Sujata Raghuvansh, Reader, Dept. of Education, University of Allahabad, Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh 211002, India.