The ancient aphorism "Education is that which liberates", is as true today as it was before. Education here does not mean mere spiritual knowledge, nor does liberation signify only spiritual liberation after death. Knowledge includes all training that is useful for the service of mankind and liberation means freedom from all manner of servitude even in the present life. Servitude is of two kinds: slavery to domination from outside and to one's own artificial needs. The knowledge acquired in the pursuit of this ideal alone constitutes true study.
Persistent questioning and healthy inquisitiveness are the first requisites for acquiring learning of any kind. Inquisitiveness should be tempered by humility and respectful regard for the teacher. It must not degenerate into impudence. The latter is the enemy of the receptivity of mind. There can be no knowledge without humility and the will to learn.
Education must be of a new type for the sake of the creation of
a new world.
Everyone of us has good inherent in the soul. It needs to be drawn out by the teachers, and only those teachers can perform this sacred function whose own character is unsullied, who are always ready to learn and to grow from perfection to perfection.
Useful manual labour, intelligently performed is the means
par excellence for developing the intellect....A balanced intellect presupposes a harmonious growth of body, mind
and soul....An intellect that is developed through the medium of socially useful labour will be an instrument for service and will not easily be led astray or fall into devious paths.
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....Instead of regarding craft & industry as different from education, I will regard the former as the medium for the latter.
Our system of (Basic) education leads to the development of the mind, body and soul. The ordinary system cares only for the mind.
The teachers earn what they take. It stands for the art of living. Therefore, both the teacher and the
pupil have to produce in the very act of teaching and learning. It enriches life from the commencement. It makes the nation independent of the search for employment.
It is popularly and correctly described as education through handicrafts. This is part of the truth. The root of this new education goes much deeper. It lies in the application of truth and love in every variety of human activity, weather in individual life or a corporate one. The notion of education through handicrafts rises from the contemplation of truth and love permeating life's activities. Love requires that true education should be easily accessible to all, and should be of use to every villager in his daily life.
Such education is not derived from, nor does it depend upon books. It has no relation to sectional religion. If it can be called religious, it is universal religion from which all selectional religions are derived. Therefore it is learned from the
Book of Life which costs nothing and which cannot be taken away from one by any force on earth.
I hold that, as the largest part of our time is devoted to labour for earning our bread, our children must from their infancy be taught the dignity of such labour. Our children should not be
so taught as to despise labour. There is no reason why a peasants son after having gone to school should become useless as he does become, as an agricultural labourer.
Literary education should follow the education of
the hand—the one gift that visibly distinguishes man from beast. It is a
superstition to think that the fullest development of man is impossible without
a knowledge of the art of reading and writing. That knowledge undoubtedly
adds grace to life, but it is in no way indispensable for man's moral, physical,
or material growth.
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 the making of the whole man and
constitutes the true economics of education....
I hold that true education of the intellect can
only come through a proper exercise and training of the bodily organs, e.g.,
hands, feet, eyes, ears, nose, etc. In other words an intelligent use of
the bodily organs in a child provide the best and quickest way of developing his
intellect. But unless the development of the mind and body goes hand in
hand with a corresponding awakening of the soul, the former alone would prove to
be a poor lop-sided affair. By spiritual training I mean education of the
heart. A proper and all-round development of the mind, therefore, can take
place only when it proceeds pari passu with the education of the physical
and spiritual faculties of the child. They constitute an indivisible
whole. According to this theory, therefore, it would be a gross fallacy to
suppose that they can be developed piecemeal or independently of one another.
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 nor even the beginning. It is only one of the means whereby
man and woman can be educated. Literacy in itself is no education. I
would therefore begin the child's education by teaching it a useful handicraft
and enabling it to produce from the moment it begins its training. Thus
every school can be made self-supporting, the condition being that the State
takes over the manufacture of these schools.
I hold that the highest development of the mind
and the soul is possible under such a system of education. Only every
handicraft has to be taught not merely mechanically as is done today but
scientifically, i.e., the child should know the why and the wherefore of every
process. I am not writing this without some confidence, because it has the
backing of experience. This method is being adopted more or less
completely wherever spinning is being taught to workers. I have myself
taught sandal-making and even spinning on these lines with good results.
This method does not exclude a knowledge of history and geography. But I
find that this is best taught by transmitting such general information by word
of mouth. One imparts ten times as much in this manner as by reading and
writing. The signs of the alphabet may be taught later when the pupil has
learnt to distinguish wheat from chaff and when he has somewhat developed his or
her tastes. This is a revolutionary proposal, but it saves immense labour
and enables a student to acquire in one year what he may take much longer to
learn. this means all round economy. Of course the pupil learns
mathematics whilst he is learning his handicraft.
Given the right kind of teachers, our children
will be taught the dignity of labour and learn to regard it as an integral part
and means of their intellectual growth, and to realize that it is patriotic to
pay for their training through their labour. The core of my suggestion is
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 trains 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 molding of the character of pupils, as teacher
who has a character to keep need not lose heart.
In the schools I advocate, boys have all that boys
learn in high schools; less English but more 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 realize
this only by teaching the children a useful vocation and utilizing 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
If we want to impart education best suited to the
needs of villagers, we should take the Vidyapith (Literary seat of
learning; University) to the villages. We should convert it into a
training school in order that we might be able to give practical training to
teachers in terms of the needs of the villagers. You cannot instruct the
teachers in the needs of the villagers through a training school in a city.
Nor can you so interest them in the condition 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 opinion
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 (Spindle used in spinning with the
fingers without the use of the spinning wheel) or the spinning wheel. It
can to a marvelous degree if it is not taught merely mechanically. When
you tell a child the reason for each process, when you explain the
mechanism of the takli or the 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 rounds 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 primary training. The child is probably now 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 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 his 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 of
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 realize
the duty of making an adequate return to the villages for the strength and
sustenance which they derive from them, instead of selfishly exploiting them,
that a healthy and moral relationship between the two will spring up. And
if the city children are to play their part in this 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.
My plan to impart primary education through the
medium of village handicrafts like spinning and carding, etc., is thus conceived
as the spearhead of a silent social revolution fraught with the most farreaching
consequences. It will provide a healthy and moral basis of relationship
between the city and the village and thus go a long way toward eradicating some
of the worst evils of the present social insecurity and poisoned relationship
between the classes. It will check the progressive decay of our villages
and lay the foundation of a more just social order in which there is no
unnatural division between the 'haves' and 'have-nots' and everybody is assured
of a living wage and the right to freedom. And all this would be
accomplished without the horrors of a bloody class war or a colossal capital
expenditure such as would be involved in the mechanization of a vast continent
like India. Nor would it entail a helpless dependence on foreign imported
machinery or technical skill. Lastly, by obviating the necessity for
highly specialized talent, it would place the destiny of the masses, as it were,
in their own hands. But who will bell the cat? Will the city-folk
listen to me at all? Or, will mine remain a mere cry in the wilderness?
Replies to these and similar questions will depend more on lovers of education
living in cities than on me.
As to the necessity and value of regarding the
teaching of village handicrafts as the pivot and centre of education I have no
manner of doubt. The method adopted in the institutions of India I do not
call education, i.e., drawing out the best in man, but a debauchery of the mind.
It informs the mind anyhow, whereas the method of training the mind through
village handicrafts from the very beginning as the central fact would promote
the real, disciplined development of the mind resulting in conservation of the
intellectual energy and indirectly be spiritual.
In my scheme of things the hand will handle tools
before it draws or traces the writing. The eyes will read the pictures of
letters and words as they will know other things in life, and the ears will
catch the names and meanings of things and sentences. The whole training
will be natural, responsive, and therefore the quickest and cheapest in the
land. The children of my school will therefore read much more quickly than
they will write. And when they write they will not produce daubs as I do
even now (thanks to my teachers) but they will trace correct letters even as
they will trace correct figures of the objects they may see. If the
schools of my conception even come into being, I make bold to say that they will
vie with the most advanced schools in quickness, so far as reading is concerned,
and even writing if it is common ground that the writing must be correct and not
incorrect as now is in the vast majority of cases.
Basic 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.
The utterly false idea that intelligence can be
developed only through book-reading should give place to the truth that the
quickest development of the mind can be achieved by artisan's work being learnt
in a scientific manner. True development of the mind commences immediately
the apprentice is taught at every step why a particular manipulation of the hand
or a tool is required. The problem of the unemployment of students can be
solved without difficulty, if they will rank themselves among the common
We have up to now concentrated on stuffing
childrens' minds with all kinds of information, without ever thinking of
stimulating and developing them. Let us now cry a halt and concentrate on
educating the child properly through manual work, not as a side activity, but as
the prime means of intellectual training...
You have to train the boys in one occupation or
another. Around this special occupation you will train up his mind, his
body, his handwriting, his artistic sense, and so on. He will be a master
of the craft he learns.
Literary training by itself adds not an inch to
one's moral height and that character building is independent of literary
Let the students realize that learning without
courage is like a waxen statue—beautiful to look at but bound to melt at the
least touch of a hot substance.
Music should form part of the syllabus of primary
education. I heartily endorse this proposition. The modulation of
voice is as necessary as the training of the hand. Physical drill,
handicrafts, drawing and music should go hand in hand in order to draw the best
out of the boys and girls and create in them real interest in their tuition.
A wise parent allows the children to make
mistakes. It is good for them once in a while to burn their fingers.
I attach the greatest importance to primary
education which according to my conception should be equal to the present
matriculation less English. If all the collegians were all of a sudden to
forget their knowledge, the loss sustained by the sudden lapse of memory of say
a few lakhs of collegians would be as nothing compared to the loss that the
nation has sustained and is sustaining through the ocean of darkness that
surrounds three hundred millions.
if such education is given, the direct result will
be that it will be self-supporting. But the test of success is not its
self-supporting character, but that the whole man has been drawn out through the
teaching of the handicraft in a scientific manner. In fact I would reject
a teacher who would promise to make it self-supporting under any circumstances.
The self-supporting part will be the logical corollary of the fact that the
pupil has learnt the use of every one of his faculties. If a boy who works
at a handicraft for three hours a day will surely earn his keep, now much more a
boy who adds to the work a development of his mind and soul!
English is today admittedly the world language.
I would therefore accord it a place as a second, optional language, not in the
school, but in the university course. That can only be for the select
few—not for the millions....It is our mental slavery that makes us feel that we
cannot do without English. I can never subscribe to that defeatist creed.
I must not be understood to decry English or its
noble literature. The columns of the Harijan are sufficient
evidence of my love of English. But the nobility of its literature cannot
avail the Indian nation any more more than the temperate climate or the scenery
of England can avail her. India has to flourish in her own climate, and
scenery, and her own literature, even though all the three may be inferior to
the English climate, scenery and literature. We an our children must build
on our own heritage. If we borrow another, we impoverish our own. We
can never grow on foreign victuals. I want the nation to have the
treasures contained in that language and, for that matter, in other languages of
the world, through its own vernaculars. I do not need to learn Bengali in
order to know the beauties of Rabindranath's matchless productions. I get
them through good translations. Gujarati boys and girls do not need to
learn Russian to appreciate Tolstoy's short stories. Then learn them
through good translations. It is the boast of Englishmen that the best of
the world's literary output is in the hands of that nation in simple English
inside a week of its publication. Why need I learn English to get at the
best of what Shakespeare and Milton thought and wrote?
I do not believe that the State can concern itself
or cope with religious education. I believe that religious education must
be the sole concern of religious associations. Do not mix up religion and
ethics. I believe that fundamental ethics is common to all religions.
Teaching of fundamental ethics is undoubtedly a function of the State. By
religion I have not in mind fundamental ethics but what goes by the name of
denominationalism. We have suffered enough from State-aided religion or
State Church. A society or a group, which depends partly or wholly on
State aid for the existence of its religion, does not deserve or, better still,
does not have any religion worth the name.
"Should religious instruction form part of the
school curriculum as approved by the State? Do you favour separate schools
for children belonging to different denominations for facility of religious
instruction? Or should religious instruction be left in the hands of
private bodies? If so, do you think it is right for the State to subsidize
I do not believe in State religion even though the
whole community has one religion. The State interference would probably
always be unwelcome. Religion is a purely personal matter. There are
in reality as many religions as minds. Each mind has a different
conception of God from that of the other.
I am also opposed to State aid, partly or wholly,
to religious bodies. For I know that an institution or group which does
not manage to finance its own religious teaching, is a stranger to true
religion. This does not mean that the State schools would give ethical
teaching. The fundamental ethics are common to all religions.
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. There is one rule, however, which should always be kept in
mind while studying all great religions and that is, that one should study them
only through the writings of known votaries of the respective religions.
Real education has to draw out the best from the
boys and girls to be educated. This can never be done by packing
ill-assorted and unwanted information into the heads of pupils. It becomes
a dead weight crushing all originality in them and turning them into mere
The suggestion has often been made that in order
to make education compulsory, or even available to every boy or girl wishing to
receive education, our schools and colleges should become almost, if not wholly,
self-supporting, not through donations or State aid or fees exacted from
students, but through remunerative work done by the students themselves.
This can only be done by making industrial training compulsory. Apart from
the necessity which is daily being more and more recognized of students having
an industrial training side by side with literary training, there is in this
country, the additional necessity of pursuing industrial training in order to
make education directly self-supporting. This can only be done when our
students begin to recognize the dignity of labour and when the convention is
established of regarding ignorance of manual occupation a mark of disgrace.
In America, which is the richest country in the world and where, therefore,
perhaps there is the least need for making education self-supporting, it is the
most usual thing for students to pay their way wholly or partially....
If America has to model her schools and colleges
so as to enable students to earn their scholastic expenses, how much more
necessary it must be for our schools and colleges? Is it not far better
that we find work for poor students than that we pauperize them by providing
free studentships? It is impossible to exaggerate the harm we do to
India's youth by filling their minds with the false notion that it is
ungentlemanly to labour with one's hands and feet for one's livelihood or
schooling. The harm done is both moral and material, indeed much more
moral than material. A free scholarship lies and should lie like a load
upon a conscientious lad's mind throughout his whole life. No one likes to
be reminded in after life that he had to depend upon charity for his education.
Contrarily where is the person who will not recall with pride those days if he
had the good fortune to have had them when he worked in a carpentry shop or the
like for the sake of educating himself—mind, body and soul?
The aim of university education should be to turn
out true servants of the people who will live and die for the country's freedom.
I am therefore of opinion that university education should be coordinated and
brought into line with basic education.
I would revolutionize college education and relate
it to national necessities. There would be degrees for mechanical and
other engineers. They would be attached to the different industries which
should pay for the training of the graduates they need. Thus the Tatas
would be expected to run a college for training engineers under the supervision
of the State, the mill associations would run among them a college for training
graduates whom they need. Similarly for the other industries that may be
named. Commerce will have its college. There remains arts, medicine
and agriculture. Several private arts colleges are today self-supporting.
The State would, therefore, cease to run its own. Medical colleges would
be attached to certified hospitals. As they are popular among moneyed men
they may be expected by voluntary contributions to support medical colleges.
And agricultural colleges to be worthy of the name must be self-supporting.
I have a painful experience of some agricultural graduates. Their
knowledge is superficial. They lack practical experience. But if
they had their apprenticeship of farms which are self-sustained and answer the
requirements of the country, they would not have to gain experience after
getting their degrees and at the expense of their employers.
There seems to be a mania for establishing new
universities in the provinces. Gujarat wants one for Gujarati, Maharashtra
for Marathi, Carnatic for Kannad, Orissa for Oriya, Assam for Assami and what
not. I do believe that there should be such universities if these
rich provincial languages and the people who speak them are to attain their full
At the same time I fear that we betray ourselves
into undue haste in accomplishing the object. The first step should be
linguistic political redistribution of provinces. Their separate
administration will naturally lead to the establishment of universities where
there are none....
There should be a proper background for new
universities. They should have feeders in the shape of schools and
colleges which will impart instruction through the medium of their respective
provincial languages. Then only can there be a proper milieu.
University is at the top. A majestic top can only be sustained if there is
a sound foundation.
Though we are politically free, we are hardly free
from the subtle domination of the West. I have nothing to say to that
school of politicians who believe that knowledge can only come from the West.
Nor do I subscribe to the belief that nothing good can come out of the West.
I do fear, however, that we are unable as yet to come to a correct decision in
the matter. It is to be hoped that no one contends that because we seem to
be politically free from foreign domination, the mere fact gives us freedom from
the more subtle influence of the foreign language and foreign thought. Is
it not wisdom, does not duty to the country dictate, that before we embark on
new universities we should stop and fill our own lungs first with the ozone of
our newly got freedom? A university never needs a pile of majestic
buildings and treasures of gold and silver. What it does need most of all
is the intelligent backing of public opinion. It should have a large
reservoir of teachers to draw upon. Its founders should be far-seeing.
In my opinion it is not for a democratic State to
find money for funding universities. If the people want them they will
supply the funds. Universities so founded will adorn the country which
they represent. Where administration is in foreign hands, whatever comes
to the people comes from the top and thus they become more and more dependent.
Where it is broad-based on popular will, everything goes from bottom upward and
hence it lasts. It is good looking and strengthens the people. In
such a democratic scheme money invested in the promotion of learning gives a
tenfold return to the people even as a seed sown in good soil returns a
luxuriant crop. Universities founded under foreign domination have run in
the reverse direction. Any other result was perhaps impossible.
Therefore, there is every reason for being cautious about founding new
universities till India digested the newly-acquired freedom.
I have never been an advocate of our students
going abroad. My experience tells me that such, on return, find themselves
to be square pegs in round holes. That experience is the richest and
contributes most to growth which springs from the soil.
The dry knowledge of the three R's is not even
now, it can never be, a permanent part of the villager's life. They must
have knowledge given to them which they must use daily. It must not be
thrust upon them. They should have the appetite for it. What they
have today is something they neither want nor appreciate. Give the
villagers village arithmetic, village geography, village history, and the
literary knowledge that they must use daily, i.e. reading and writing letters,
etc. They will treasure such knowledge and pass on to the other stages.
They have no use for books which give them nothing of daily use.