Dr. Shruti Jauhari

A rare blend of Performing Artist, Voice Coach, Historian, Author & Guru on Hindustani Classical Music. Highly Creative and Melodious due to which the Khayaal Gayaki & Thumri comes to her naturally.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Article in "Speaking Tree"

Below article was first published at http://www.speakingtree.in

BACK TO School !!

By: SHRUTI JAUHARI on Apr 10, 2015 

There is a crying need for value and wisdom-based education, writes SHRUTI JAUHARI, who extols the virtues of holistic schooling inspired by the gurukul system

Whenever we talk of improvement in education, we at once direct our attention to systems outside our country. Perhaps we need to look within, travel back in time, to rediscover ways to improve quality of education in India. Let’s revisit the Gurukul system of education that was prevalent in earlier times, long before the Indic region was subject to foreign invasions and colonisation that brought in new systems of education.

Gurukul refers to the home of a Guru; perhaps in an Ashram, a quiet dwelling, at the fringes of a bustling civilisation. This abode was furnished with simple, basic amenities, where the young student would spend 10-15 years training under the Guru. Students were engaged in ‘skill-based’ education, where they would learn even simple tasks such as collecting fuel-wood from forests and the more difficult and complicated art of warfare, besides study of scriptures.

All students were treated alike, irrespective of their family status and background. In fact, tougher training was given to those of royal backgrounds, for they were to take up larger responsibilities later, when the welfare of many would be linked to their wisdom and sense of judgement.

The Gurukul system did not merely focus on imparting skill and knowledge to the student; it also taught how, when and where to apply all that was being taught.

It is often believed that a systematised education module is superior to informal systems. However, what is important is not just the outcome or the resultant product, but its impact on or contribution to society and humanity. If an “efficient” education system is producing just literate and skilled citizens, the purpose of education is incomplete. Look at Ravana in the epic Ramayana, who was not only the mightiest but also a vidwan, a great scholar, a man who possessed immense knowledge. He would have gone through a superior education system to possess these qualifications. What went wrong? He was also full of ego, arrogance, ambition and over-confidence that led to his destruction. He did not apply his qualifications and abilities in the right direction. Hence, energy and resources invested in educating him were wasted.

Mere transfer of knowledge and skill is not education; the student must be taught to use knowledge wisely and in a way that will serve the common good in positive ways. The student must remain grounded and humble, and achievements must not make them egoistic like it did in the case of Ravana. The following could provide the foundation of a robust system:

1. Traditional wisdom: India has been subjected to foreign rule for about a thousand years, and we gained independence only six decades back. The last 300 years have also witnessed a considerable change in lifestyle. Today’s lifestyle and constant disturbances in the country have contributed significantly to rapid and consistent failure in sourcing traditional and time-tested education methods. Our primary education system must address this need.

2. Building character: While it is vital to empower students with tools of knowledge of various subjects and skills, it is equally important to ensure that she uses this skill towards positive productivity. A terrorist and a soldier, are both skilled in the art of warfare. But they implement their knowledge and skills for entirely different purposes. So along with physics and mathematics, if basic human values like selflessness, kindness, patriotism, discipline, and work ethics are not taught from the primary stage, we may end up producing ‘educated monsters’ who due to lack of direction, will cater only to their selfish ends. This lack of value-based education paves the way for corrupt practices in society today.

3. Physical training: Over the last three decades, India has turned into a global provider of technically skilled professionals. This has led to distortion in higher education where only selective education is happening that will enable the student to secure a lucrative career or job. The overall development, especially lack of physical training in youth and a sedentary lifestyle at work is making our workforce lethargic; even callous. This also brings in cowardliness, lack of physical and mental strength, creating an overall unhealthy personality in our young ones. This leads to lifestyle-related diseases afflicting the young. Then they start looking at yoga sessions and other physical fitness activities to correct the imbalance, when all these could have been part of the education process. Holistic education is what we need.

4. Don’t commercialise education: As expensive fees is collected from students, there is a natural tendency to give some leverage to them while testing skills and knowledge, before granting the final degree. Hence, the focus is more on results related to numbers as in high examination scores rather than turning out well-rounded people ready to face life’s challenges. As pressure to perform mounts, students experience stress and depression. Hence, education and health services must not be commercialised — otherwise, virtues of kindness, selflessness and a civilised outlook will be compromised. If a poor student is denied health facility or good education because of lack of funds, then we can hardly call ourselves welfare-oriented or even civilised.

5. Regulation and quality control: This is vital in education and public health sectors and highest standards need to be followed in these areas.

6. Ideal human being: The real purpose of education is creating an ideal human being. If the Indian education system has to be improved, it is vital to look into our own ancient education system and pick up elements from there, rather than looking for it all over the world. 

Go back to school.

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