Friday, 21 March 2014

A-Z of Indian National Education

Introducing my A-Z Blogging Theme:
Putting India back in Indian Education

I am participating in a blogfest called A-Z challenge which means I will be posting 26 blogposts in April, one for each letter of the English alphabet. This post reveals the theme that I have chosen for this fun but challenging blogfest. Looks like I will be doing a lot of writing in the coming month. 
And when you have to do so much writing, you obviously pick an area that is most meaningful to you. That's what I am going to do in the month of April, write about something that I have a deep interest in learning and reflecting about - for my own growth as well as for the potential it has my country's future. It is a huge topic, which means I must gear up for some major writing. I tried to come up with some alternative themes which could have been lighter for me, but none of them seemed as correct to my inner calling at the moment, as this one. So that is how I settled at this theme.

With a prayer to the gods of the blogging world I say, let the show begin!

A true national education is the need of the day. Education that speaks of the Indian spirit, that is grounded in the Indian philosophical-cultural-psychological conceptions of human being, of human life and destiny, of the nation and humanity, and of the life of human race.

It is quite sad to see that nothing much has changed in terms of the debate on what should be a meaningful and truly relevant national education for Indian children even after all these years since independence. As they say – the more things change the more they stay the same! Earlier it was the British government which tried to impose a certain view and system of education. Today it is our democratically elected but selfishly driven governments which try to intervene in autonomous educational institutions through their own political ideologies and interests. Earlier it was the domination of the ruling classes, and now it is the domination of market forces that determine how or what kind of education finds popularity among the masses.

Indian education must be rooted in the developing soul of India, to her future need, to the greatness of her coming self creation, to her eternal spirit. A truly nationalist education and curriculum are always inclusive in nature, and mindful of the great diversity that makes One India, United India. Indian Education must help children and educators develop love for their nation and a wide, universal appreciation of the diversity in the nation and the world.

In the context of Indian national educational scenario one thorny issue has been regarding the idea of “secular” education as opposed to anything that has to do with “saffronizing” or Hindu-ising of education. We must clearly understand that this very debate is based on our wrong understanding of what Indian cultural traditions are all about. Based on our badly borrowed mis-understanding of the words ‘secular’ and ‘spiritual’ we seem to have become blinded by the dominant intellectual ideology of our times, according to which schools as secular organizations are supposed to not have anything to do with matters of the spirit. Education has, therefore, become concerned only with matters of material life (eventually leading to commodification).

Independent (post-1947) India tackled this issue of secular vs. spiritual education (or shall I say, not tackled it at all) by simply following the Western (particularly British) model of education that was imposed on it. Which means that the schools have remained the domain where education ends up being a means to learn and develop certain skill sets and gather knowledge of certain content areas that will help children secure their economic and social futures. Subject matter is presented and learnt in snippets using variety of methods including lecturing, discussion, comprehension, analysis, test-taking, essay-writing, oral examination, and other standard practices. The matters of spirit have been relegated to private sphere - families, home, community, religion. 

This dichotomy between 'education for social success' and 'education for spirit' must go if we want to make Indian Education more relevant for the future of India. Education needs to become more integral, more complete through a meaningful synthesis of the two. 

Through this A-Z challenge, I am making a small and humble effort of introducing 26 ideas/topics/themes - each for a letter of the English alphabet - that I would like to see as guiding, shaping or becoming part of an Indian National Education. These themes, in my view, speak of some selected aspects of the essential Indian spirit and perhaps even shed some light on the forms through which this spirit could express itself in educational practice. As I see it, a thoughtful incorporation of these ideas or themes may help Indian education fulfill its many key purposes. It will help instill in the young minds and hearts a quest for self-knowing and self-discovery, a growing awareness and acceptance of the Indian spirit, a healthy pride and love for their motherland, a genuine respect and critical appreciation of its glorious heritage and ancient civilization, a keen understanding and awareness of its contribution to the past, present and future of the world and humanity, and a wider and deeper connection with the larger world around in all its diversity and richness. 

If for no other audience, I wish to take up this exercise for all my nieces and nephews, ranging from age 2 to almost 20 (even 20+ when counting my larger extended family). These kids and young adults living in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and other places are typical urban Indian kids of 21st century. And like most young people of their generation are the products of the modern Indian education system that is presently, for the most part, not really Indian in spirit and form. This is one of my ways of expressing my love for them, and my concern for their future learning and growth in life. 

Starting with A and going through each letter of the alphabet, I will introduce a specific idea or theme and provide some very brief comments, which may indicate my understanding and views on the theme. Some of these could be more of interest to educators and/or parents, while others may give educational thinkers some food for thought. For some of these topics, I may include some relevant quotes and inspirational words as well as some links to web-based material (text or audio-visual).

It is important to clarify that through this exercise I do not claim to do any thorough philosophical analyses or make concrete pedagogical recommendations or provide any ground-breaking curriculum ideas or prepare detailed lesson-plans or put together any extensive list of resources for these selected themes. That is not my intention. Nor is it possible to do any of that via a blog. 

I will be merely listing 26 ideas or themes, with brief hints or comments about each of them, with a hope that some educators, educational thinkers and parents out there may find them thought-provoking, helpful and perhaps even inspiring. And most certainly, these 26 themes do not by any means make an exhaustive list. These ideas, themes, topics, are based entirely on my subjective selection and the influences and inspirations that have shaped my thinking and understanding. In other words, they speak of my inclination and preferences. Some of them speak of the need for rethinking the philosophical foundations of an Indian National Education; others may provide hints on specific themes or topics that could be part of an Indian curriculum; and some others may offer more of pedagogical ideas or suggestions. 

I do this exercise in gratitude and memory of all my teachers - past, present and future - who have shaped me into what I am today. And I offer this to That One Teacher who is Present in All.

The exercise begins April 1, 2014. Stay tuned!

Top picture sourced from here

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal Blogfest for the April 2014 A-Z Challenge.

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