Situating Gandhi in the Contemporary Crisis in Education

Education in the present times is all about one’s professional qualifications and degrees alone. In fact, this instrumental definition of education which transforms it from an agent of social change to a mere utility can be attributed to the overarching phenomenon of marketization. Today education is seen as merely an instrument/tool necessary to establish oneself within the market and to secure for oneself a stable career. However, this leads the society to situate the consciousness of people much below the demands of global capitalism, thus neglecting the widening and deepening of consciousness. It is not surprising to see that while on one hand the world economy is booming yet on the other we see a rapid decline in human ethics and morality. From John Dewey to Ivan Illich , our most radically creative educationists have warned us about the devastating impact of this market oriented, utilitarian conceptualization of education. Here I would like to emphasize the fact that the adoption of the westernized model of education since colonial times has never allowed an indigenous educational philosophy to come into existence and without an education that is grounded in our socio-cultural and political realities we are bound to remain alienated, under developed and without any sense of agency. Ironically, even post-independence we did not give voice to an indigenous system of education and remained dependent on the knowledge systems of the west. It is not surprising that this education system did not cater to the needs of India as a nation or to the needs of its people who had a distinct social character.

India as an old civilization had known advanced forms of skills and techniques accompanied by a philosophy of life. In other words, what made the indigenous education system unique was its ability to unite hard skills with deepest questions of life. Thus it would not be wrong to say that far from alienating the learner the Indian education system focused on cultivating the consciousness for a harmonious existence. With the penetration of modernity the new challenge before us was to develop it more creatively. Gandhi knew this well and believed that education should be a catalyst of transformation and emancipation of Indian society. He also asserted that since most people in the country were engaged in skill based labor and handicrafts it would be extremely fundamental to evolve a pedagogy that negated the head-hand/mental-manual duality and evolved a consciousness that could utilize both with harmony. For establishing this Gandhi strongly advocated ‘Nai Talim’. A new model of education that unites the mental and the manual leading to self-reliance and holistic development of the self. This he argued would lead to social welfare and liberation.
Gandhi was well-versed with the devastating implications of Industrialization. In fact he could foresee that if our obsession with technology and machines grew it would bring about destruction and damage at an unprecedented level.  From environmental crisis to poverty and illiteracy in the contemporary times, it is not difficult to see the validity of Gandhi’s insights.
A skilled person whether it is an electrician or a carpenter struggle to survive in the country today there are millions of people in the world today who are marginalized and live amidst adversities. It is this untold and unheard story that the mainstream word refuses to acknowledge.  It is through this market oriented development that an advanced form of alienation and discrimination has taken place in the Indian society.
The existing job market needs professionals who are certified and not individuals who are talented but without institutional stamps! Thus contrary to the Gandhian dream, we live in a world where external symbols and markers define a person and the development of the soul matters the least. Similarly, here degrees and qualifications speak louder than one’s dedication to a skill, no wonder the minds and the heart are pulled in two different directions and the soul is torn apart!
We have tried to build upon the intriguing discussion above and so the articles in this issue are primarily centered upon the contemporary crisis in education. What adds to the worth of the issue is our section on Gandhi and His Associates and a series of letters written to Gandhi by young minds addressing the issues they face today.
Thus while we invoke Gandhi’s ideas in an introspective tone we also raise the many challenging issue facing the world today. This I believe would be a significant intervention. Readers, I would like to thank you for realizing the distinctiveness of this magazine.
Kindly read the issue and send me your reflections.

Vikash Sharma

Editorial/October 2016

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