Gandhi was married at the age of 13 to Kasturba who was of the same age. She was illiterate. The teenager husband tried to teach her the three R's but failed miserably. Kasturba, at 73, was in jail with him in the edited a few chapters of the Ramayana and Bhagwat in geography, Gujarati literature and grammar. His pupil bent with age and sorrow failed to respond. As a prisoner, Gujarati to an Irish jailor and history, geography and geometry to his grandniece. With ease he could, at 74, draw accurate diagrams of geometrical figures.
Gandhi was quite confident of his capacity as a teacher. But
his views on education and his method of teaching were very different from the
accepted standards. Three busy workers in South Africa a barber, a clerk and a
shop-keeper wanted to learn English but they had no money to employ a teacher
and no time taught them enough English to keep accounts and write business letters.
For some time Gandhi gave oral lessons to his sons. As he was
very short of time, his sons used to walk with him to his office and he, on the
way , spoke to them in Gujarati about literature, poetry and other subjects. For
a short time Gandhi employed an English tutors to teach them English. They also
picked up English from his English friends who stayed with them.
In phoenix Settlement, Gandhi founded a primary school for the
children of the inmates. He was the head teacher, other co-workers helped him.
The students belonged to various religions, teachers were from different
countries England ,Germany and India. The teachers kept so busy with
manual labour that they sometimes came to the class straight from the fields
with their ankles covered with mud. Gandhi at times gave lessons while nestling
a baby in his arms. He did not ask the students to do anything which he did not
ask the students to do anything which he did not practice himself. A timid
teacher, he believed, could never make his students brave. A teacher
should be an object lesson to his pupils. Gandhi read widely and was keen on
learning something new. At the age of 65, he began to study the stars.
The school at the Phoenix Settlement was run on experimental
lines and had many rigid rules. Life was simple and hard. Tea, coffee and cocoa
were taboo, as they were produced by slave labour. Most of the students were
residential. Gandhi seldom taught with the help of books. He did not want to
paralyses the pupil's intellect by loading it with book learning. He remembered
how in his boyhood stress on cramming killed the joy of reading. Nor did he
attach much importance to the knowledge of the three R's. Culture of heart and
building of character were the aim of his teaching. The children were taught to
respect all religions. Hindu boys kept fasting with the Muslim boys during the
month of Ramzan. Some Muslim boys were for some months kept in Hindu families.
They shared food with the host. All were vegetarians. They attended a common
prayer and all had to lend a hand in gardening, scavenging, shoe-making,
carpentry work and cooking. The students' ears were trained to appreciate music.
Every evening, bhajans and psalms were sung to the accompaniment of a piano.
Instead of playing tennis or cricket, he wanted the students to share the daily
chore of manual labour and thus grow sturdy. Both on the Tolstoy farm and in the
Sabarmati Ashram, Gandhi taught show-making. He gave elementary lessons in Urdu
and Tamil on Tolstoy Farm. Literary training was imparted through the
mother tongue. Gandhi knew Gujarati Marathi, Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, English French
In the Sabarmati Ashram too, no fees were charged. Parents
were expected to contribute voluntarily to the ashram fund. Children above the
age of four were admitted as residential students. History, geography,
mathematics and economics were taught through the vernacular. Sanskrit, Hindi
and one Dravidian language were compulsory; English was a secondary
language. Urdu, Tamil, Telugu and Bengalese alphabets were also taught. Food was
served thrice a day; it was very simple, no condiments expect salt were used. A
simple uniform style of clothing was used and stress was laid on swadeshi.
Gandhi advocated co-education. " We shall have to rid ourselves of this sex,
mentality. I should allow the children to run the risk. Cotton-wool
protection is no good." Whenever there was any incident of misbehavior among the
boys and girls, Gandhi resorted to a purificatory fast.
Along with spinning, carding and ginning were taught. Thus the
youngsters were trained to learn some occupational work and covered a fraction
of the expenses of their education. They did not enjoy a vacation or holiday.
For two days in a week, they had some leisure to do their own work. three months
in a year they could travel on foot, if they were fit for it. In Gujarat
Vidyapith, Gandhi orally taught stories from the New Testament and took classes
on choice selection of the English literature.
Gandhi felt the need of a complete overhauling of the system
of higher education for meeting the needs of millions, instead of the few
middle-class people. He marked how much time and energy of the budding minds
were wasted in mastering English a language completely foreign to the students
and thus how gradually the get alienated from their own heritage, from their
literature and language. Higher education too did not create any confidence in
them who often wondered what they would do after finishing their course in
schools and colleges. Higher education he wanted to be an ideal synthesis of
different cultures of India, based on the traditions of the past and enriched by
experiences of modern times. Students should be developed into healthy, honest
and intelligent villagers, and day able to earn their livelihood. He insisted
that a child should be taught to read before he learnt to write. Good hand
writing he considered a part of education and was ashamed of his own
handwriting. He advised the teachers first to teach a child t draw flowers and
leaves, as that would help it to draw and not to scrawl alphabets. To him the
current primary education was a farce because it neglected the needs of the
India of the villages.
Gandhi wanted to draw out the best from the children, to make
them upright men instead of mere literates. After giving thought to education
for 30 years, he introduced a system of education imparted through crafts. At
the age 63, he first laid down his theory of education in jail, later it
developed into Basic education or the Wardha Education Scheme.
Gandhi was against the use of any corporal punishment. Only
once in his life, he hit a naughty boy with a ruler and himself trembled
all over for his loss of self-control. the boy cried begging pardon of Gandhi
not because the beating was painful but because he disturbed Gandhi's mental
Gandhi encouraged students to compete in games but never urged
them on to outdo on another in learning. His method of giving marks was unusual.
He did not compare the work of one pupil with the work of the best in the class,
but gave him higher marks if he improved upon his own class work or home work.
He placed full trust in the students and kept no guard on them when they sat for
a test. Liberty of the child was the guiding principle of ashram education. His
advice was: "The youngest child should feel that it is something."
Gandhi wanted to have basis schools in every villages and he
knew that it would not be possible till the schools or at least the teacher
became self-supporting. The students of the basic schools had to learn some
handicraft the most common being spinning. Gandhi believed that one should begin
with the children to enkindle a true sense of equality and to attain real
enkindle a true sense of equality and to attain real peace in the world. If the
knowledge of the three R's prompted students to forget use of their hands or
made them ashamed of doing any manual labour, then it was far better for them to
remain unlettered and break stones. He himself explained to his small grandson
how cotton grew how the disc of a takli was made, how cloth was woven from yarn
and how to count rounds of yarn. thus was the child taught geography, nature
study, arithmetic, geometry and the growth of civilization.
t he questions Gandhi set for testing the grown-up pupil's
knowledge of spinning and its allied processes were rather stiff and demanded a
thorough mastery of the theoretical and practical problems of hand-spinning.
Gandhi showed how basic education could make the pupils partly earning how basic
education could make moment they reached years of understanding. Yet ten aim of
Nayee Talim was not to teach` an occupation only, but through it to
develop the whole man in a child. He wanted the students not to feel puffed up,
if they were made to sit on a chair, nor to feel ashamed, if asked to use a
broom. He emphasized that literary training itself added not an inch to one's
moral height or character building.
In the frequent speeches delivered in student's meetings and
in his convocation address at the Kashi Vidyapith, he pointed out how the
students were not being educated with the idea of their being able to get good
jobs and employment, but to strengthen the national life, to remain brave
soldiers and upright men. It was also their duty to study the life of the
peasants and to think how their lot could be improved. Adult mass
education was necessary to remove the sense of helplessness of the millions and
to eradicate superstition.
Gandhi was influenced by Ruskin's Tolstoy's and
Tagore's views on education. As an educationist he can be ranked among the great
experimentalists of the world. He opened some schools in Bihar, a national
college in Bengal and founded the National University at Ahmedabad. This teacher
with many original ideas was, in his younger days, refused a teacher's job
fetching Rs. 75 per month, because he was not agraduate He then was a London
matriculate and a barrister.