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Special Content

Issue no 23, 04-10 September 2021

Dr S Radhakrishnan 

The Great Educationist


Next to freedom and philosophy, Radhakrishnan believed in education. He was a great educationist. A Professor of philosophy in four Universities, Madras, Andhra, Banaras and at Oxford. He was Chairman of the University Commission and pleaded for integral education. He believed that what distinguished a man from an animal was his capacity to be educated. Education transforms a man from his animal existence into human excellence. Its aim is to illumine the human mind, overcome the ape in him, to develop a warm heart and above all a lively imagination. Radhakrishnan used to ask God in his prayers, to grant him understanding and tolerance. He believed not in materialistic but naturalistic ways of education. He wanted education to revive our sensitivity. He believed that education in the mere sciences and technology would help a man only to become a better technician. A motor driver will become a better motor driver and not a better man. He pleaded for man-making education and wanted courage to come into the hearts of men.

He did not regard man as a mere body made up of a few pounds of carbon, a little sulphur, phosphorus, some lime and mixed salt. Nor is man different from his less exalted brothers, animals in the way of instincts and surge of emotions. Men fight for survival and their fight discloses their mean motive and narrow ideas. Education should aim at refinement.

Man was regarded by Radhakrishnan as a spiritual entity with a physical body. Service and technology have given him gadgets and his science has made him conquer nature and plunder the planet. It has enabled him to fly in the air and swim under the seas. All these do not constitute the essence of man. Education has failed to enable a man to be in peace with himself. The distracted nature of the mind, his mental ailments, tension and other maladies are due to miseducation. Real and valid education caters to the needs of body, mind and personality. The Professor, in his tens of convocation addresses in the Universities, outlined the role of education by introducing religion and philosophy as the most effective connection to the limitation of scientific and technological knowledge.

He was the Chairman of the University Commission and in that capacity, he visited all then 25 Universities in India and interviewed 2900 scholars and drew up the University Commission report. The report is a good document of immense significance. It outlined the educational policies, not only of universities but also of schools. The aim of education was to produce a world citizen. It aimed at the development of the body, mind and spirit of every individual. Education aimed at social justice and cultivation of the art of cordial human relationship.

The Commission recommended a sound religious education which was not dogmatic or sectarian. It aimed at giving a spiritual training, enabling the student to work out by free enquiry, his or her own approach to religion. The details are interesting.

  1. Start the work every day with a few moments of silent meditation.
  2. Teach the students the life of great religious leaders.
  3. Provide them with selections from the world scriptures. The Commission recommended that education must not be a State subject but must be included in the concurrent list of Central Government.

In answer to the difficult problem of the medium of instruction, the Commission pleaded for the replacement of English as early as possible by an Indian language. But English should be taught even at school level. There should be no haste in introducing changes, in the medium of instruction. English should continue as the medium of education until such time the regional languages develop to take its place. The vexed problem of giving opportunity to merit and students of merit engaged the attention of the Commission. The Commission under the Professor's guidance, who was its Chairman declared clearly that the distribution of educational opportunity should be on the basis of merit. There was the difficulty of implementing this idea in an egalitarian society. To accommodate this, it was recommended that one-third of the total seats be reserved for a period of ten years.

The sound idealism of the report and its pleasing proposals were admired by all scholars. Sir Richards Livingston, the Vice Chancellor of Oxford commended the report to Christian countries also. The salaries of University teachers were raised. The report was not fully put into action and was buried, with respectful inattention. The fact that Radhakrishnan was one of the greatest educationists can never be challenged.


(Excerpts from the book Dr. S Radhakrishnan authored by Dr. P Nagaraja Rao, published by Publications Division)