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Special Content

Issue no 27, 30 September - 06 October 2023


Gandhian Perspective on Education

The values that Mahatma Gandhi left behind have stood the test of time. Ms. Varsha Das, through her book, “Looking for Gandhi in Our Times,” reinforces his idea of education, while highlighting the importance of holistic education in shaping responsible citizen of the nation.


While travelling on the ship from London back to South Africain 1909 Gandhiji had written his first and the most important book “Hind Swaraj” or “Indian Home Rule” in Gujarati. The 18th chapter of this slim book is on ‘Education’. It has a pertinent question, “What is the meaning of Education? It simply means a knowledge of letters. It is merely an instrument and an instrument may be well used or abused. The same instrument that may be used to cure a patient may be used to take his life, and so may a knowledge of letters.” Education, therefore, is the means to achieve an end. And the end is to become a discerning, compassionate, sincere human being.


“Education, according to Gandhiji is only a ladder to gather fruit from the tree of knowledge, not the fruit itself. He advocated such education in which hand, head and heart, all the three could be utilised with proper coordination and harmony. Any reform in any sphere of life had to be brought about by non-violent means, and that can be done by education.” Gandhiji wrote this in the Harijan, dated May 8, 1937.


“By hand and the head we understand action and reasoning, but what is heart? Heart basically is the seat of emotions, our sensibility, empathy, sensitivity. It also signifies courage. When hand, head and heart are combined in various educational activities at any stage of life, the learning stays with the student, because it is not mere bookish knowledge but the process and the end result are experienced by the student. That experience is not one-dimensional but multi dimensional. A creative teacher of the 21st century will always be able to widen the scope of learning by utilising various modes of communication, like electronic media, folk media, animation, outdoor activities and trips, laboratory, library, and so on. The possibilities are unlimited.”


Gandhiji pressed for initial education in one’s mother tongue. Some critics interpret that he was against learning English. The readers of Young India know that Gandhiji regarded English as the language of international commerce and diplomacy and thus language knowledge is essential. Acknowledging that English language has rich treasure of literature, he asked those with linguistic talents to translate some of the best English literature into various Indian languages for the benefit of Indian readers. Gandhiji never believed in erecting barriers. But he did contend that ‘appreciation of other cultures can fitly follow, never precede an appreciation and assimilation of our own.’ He was aware of the fact that many deprecate or disapprove the study of rich Indian culture and do not value it and are actually depriving themselves of India’s rich culture.


What I understood from Gandhiji’s perspective of religion is that it teaches moral and ethical way of living harmoniously in the society. It has no miracles or superstitions, it does not divide people of different culture, language, or even religion, because it recognised fundamental goodness in all.


On the 16th of December 1928, while discussing the subject of Religious Education in schools and colleges, he wrote in Young India, “To me religion means Truth and Ahimsa or rather Truth alone, because Truth includes Ahimsa, Ahimsa being the necessary and indispensable means for its discovery. Therefore anything that promotes the practice of these virtues is a means for imparting religious education and the best way to do this, in my opinion, is for the teachers rigorously to practise these virtues in their own person.”


"Gandhiji has spoken about his own continuous evolution. This is equally relevant for all of us. Without one's continuous process of new learning one would only keep repeating oneself. That would be boring for teachers as well as for students."


The times have changed, young peoples' aspirations have also changed. The other side of the fence always looks greener. I personally feel that one can certainly go abroad for higher study, Gandhiji also went to England and became a Barrister, but all that knowledge and experience were utilized for the betterment of India and her people. If we are conscious of our responsibilities towards our parents, society and the country we would certainly like to pay the debt of gratitude by offering our services to our country. That is why it is said that thinks globally but acts locally.


“To discard bad and establish good is the process of value creation. It can also be called education, the ladder, as explained by Gandhiji. It is about creating value out of positive or negative experiences. Pre-requisite for manifesting this ability is creating a solid foundation of profound philosophy in one’s life.”


(These excerpts have been curated from the book ‘Looking for Gandhi in Our Times’ by Varsha Das. The book can be purchased @ INR 300 from Publications Division sales emporia across the country and from Amazon.in and Bharatkosh. e-book of the same is available @ INR 236 on Amazon Kindle and @ INR 185.85 on Google Play Books.)