As we think on the term evolution, we are forced to think of development, of progress. We are to evaluate the progression or the evolution of Indian education, writes Anuradha B Shanker from Committed educational leadership.
Evolution, if we use the term strictly takes in three kinds, namely, convergent, divergent and parallel. If we are to think of convergent we see the diametrically opposite threads of religious philosophy coming together.
All the major religions, Jainism and Buddhism included, contributed to the curriculum of ancient and medieval India. The thread that held them together or the common thought which bound them was inevitably to do with the teacher-pupil relation. The fact that the Guru or teacher was Brahma or the divine characterised the underlying philosophy.
In this, Shankara’s “advaita”, or the thought that God resides in us must have been quite revolutionary. So, advanced that even to this day, the education system reveres it but is unable to adopt it.
Strangely enough, this is so both for school education as well as college. Even in professional education, the idea is rejected for fear of upsetting some sort of status quo.
The divergent has to do with the way the evolution has taken place. Modern education is still shackled by Macaulay’s ideas. Macaulay did not want to liberate India and lead her towards the light. His aim was to provide the British government with clerical staff. Even today India prefers to groom its youth towards lucrative foreign shores to perform clerical tasks.
The divergence, this sees the divergent growth of repetitive tasks being practiced in schools and is a growth away from the way education is being looked at in developed countries. This has seen a curriculum being built on monotonous memory tasks. It has seen us shying away from philosophy, humanities and the arts.
The aim is to groom the youth to feed the needs of industry. While medieval industrialisation is losing out to the ideas of sustainable development, the world still hesitates to tear down the temples of modernism or the factories, the fossil fuel based industries, the mining industry.
The parallel growth is yet to be seen. It is perhaps lingering in the corridors of the policy makers, but shy of exposing itself. We wait with bated breath for Indian education to look beyond mere academia and to enlarge the application based pursuit of suitable skills, which ideally, the future of education should be.
A vibrant seventy year old young nation with a promising bunch of young people, India should at least be able to take the lead in alternative medicine, best practices in agriculture and also hone its students to be more creative, to encourage critical thinking and to be able to conduct research. Only then will it truly be able to fulfill the promise of the millenia.