Indian Notes: Education--Something Positive
by R. Saheb
In the past few weeks, India bashing, or critically presenting India to those who glorify the mystique of India has been too much of a good thing. This might be an apt moment to present the few good points this old civilization offers in the face of global competition or global symbiosis.
India has a long history of organized education. The Gurukul system of education is one of the oldest on earth in which students were taught orally and the data would be passed from one generation to the next. At the Gurukuls, the teacher imparted knowledge of Religion, Scriptures, Philosophy, Literature, Warfare, Statecraft, Mathematics, Medicine, Astrology and History. Education was free, but only students belonging to the upper caste Brahmin and Kshatriya communities were taught here.
The current system of education, with its western style and content, was introduced by the British in the 19th century. The curriculum is traditional, with a heavy stress on the 3 Rs. The standards are very high. Children are expected to reach a certain level by a certain age. If they don't, they are brutally evaluated and held back in the grade. The grading system is highly objective, with marks being allotted to not only the correct answer but also the method which got one there. If one is lacking, one knows exactly in which gamut of the process. Discipline fosters an ideal environment for learning. It is clearly presented that learning is a rigorous activity, even boring at times, and the reward lies in achieving it. It is not knowledge for the sake of knowledge, but to live one's life at the full potential.
The method though primarily is 'rote', actually falls in between strict recitation technique and more progressive student-driven 'hands on'. Emphasis is laid on structure, and accomplished very easily in a materially poor nation. It is admirable, how abstract human understanding can be excited without conducting the litmus test in a lab, or cutting up an earthworm, or measuring with a Protractor. Though, in urban schools all these are done. The passion and respect for knowledge are deeply ingrained in the Indian culture.
To give you a perspective on how small this number is in a nation of more than a billion people: roughly 25% of the population resides in urban area, the literacy in India is only 80% and 22% of the population still lives under the poverty line, meaning many still cannot fulfill the basic needs of food, clothing and shelter.
Unlike American schools, very few institutes give importance to developing personality and creativity among students. However, there are ample opportunities for a student to acquire and excel in extracurriculars like sports, music, drama, elocution, etc. School is a hallowed ground, where the adults who know what is wrong and right, take charge of teaching young minds. It is not a social institute; a child can socialize at home or in the community in a very populated India. Children are everywhere. It feels natural to live in the same street with human beings of all different ages, ranging from 6 months to 65 years.
It is this value, which has kept this ancient nation, which promises to be wiped into oblivion with poor infrastructure: political and philosophical, with a burgeoning load of humans to be fed, with gross disrespect for human rights, ALIVE.
R. Saheb lives in the New York City area.
The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.