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Seminar on “Education: Meaning and Means” was organised

Hyderabad|India|October'2010:Education is considered as perhaps the most important resource for well-being of a people – both as a means of achieving the ends that people have reason to value and cherish; and also as an end in itself. Unhindered and unlimited access to education would perhaps be ideal but this ideal cannot be properly understood unless we are clear of what we mean by education. It may be useful to consider the Gandhi Ji’s ideas of nayee taleem/buniyadi taleem (basic education etc) in today’s context.

To deliberate on this question, a One-day seminar on “Education: Meaning and Means” was organised by the Centre for Gandhian Economic Thought and National Service Scheme Cell at University of Hyderabad on 2nd October 2010.

Dr. S. A. Munaf, Coordinator, NSS Cell, UoH welcomed the distinguished speakers and participants to the seminar and invited all to pay the floral tribute to the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi. While introducing about the seminar, Prof. S. G. Kulkarni said that education is the most potent mode of socialising at the formative stages of one’s life. Modern Indians thinkers like Gandhi, Vivekananda etc. were very much concerned about the prevailing colonial education which does not consider peasants, farmers etc. In the darkest time of our history, they showed us how to be fearless and fight frustration and cynicism.

Prof. P C Sarangi, Pro-Vice Chancellor, UoH in his inaugural address said that Gandhi represents not only the value system but also, struggle against colonial power and is the symbol of the national empowerment process. We need to re-think and contemporise his ideas and values. He emphasised that Gandhi was not worried about only formal education but he wanted to inculcate a value system. Education is all about knowing to relate our skills to the natural and social environment. Essentially it’s not the meaning of education but also the means.

Prof. Debashis Acharya, Reader, Dept. of Economics, UoH proposed the vote of thanks for the inaugural session.

The morning session was chaired by Prof. B. Kamaiah. He said that today education is being delivered as a commodity and so is in the state of crisis. For Gandhi, both the ‘ends and means’, of education, were equally important which is absent in our education system today.

Dr Vithal Rajan proposed that the project of ‘Swaraj’ initiated by Gandhiji and others even before him is still incomplete. It is up to all of us to attain Poorna Swaraj and education is vital for this. The structure of education in India remains a colonial structure where the elite are thought of as the most important. Poor people put food on our table and produce the wealth of India but cannot access food, education etc. Even after 60 years of independence, it is astonishing that the study of subjects in Indian languages has not been promoted. The first approach to learning any subject should be in a simple language that people speak rather than in an elitist language like English. The education process should promote free creation and self discovery which implies that a nominal value should not be given to education.

Prof. H. M. Desarada, a prominent agricultural economist emphasised that decolonization of the mind is more important. Monoculture of mind is the biggest challenge. It goes against plurality and diversity of India. As of now, we’re running the country only for 1/10th of the population. Gandhiji was a teacher of excellence. Education is useless if it does not create self reliance. Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten. Means and education is a question that must be rightly addressed today. There is no point in having a 10% growth rate if half the people in the country are dying of hunger. Education must integrate man, society and nature. There is too much focus on profit maximization and thus education too is being interpreted as a profit making opportunity.

Dr. Gurveen Kaur put forward that it’s important that we teach both in the mother tongue and in English. Education is about drama, sports, academics etc, and not only academics. Kaur talks about people who have abilities outside academics as well. She explained that the three aspects of the ‘Swaraj’ – Self realisation (personal), self rule (Political) and self reliance (Economic). Western thought recognizes a clear dichotomy between thought and value, but Gandhi rejects this dichotomy. Every aspect of education is inter-related. Education must work towards building harmony of the head, heart and hand. Formal education makes the child dislike learning. It is important for children to enjoy their childhood and enjoy learning.

The afternoon session was chaired by Prof. H. M. Desarada.

Prof. B. Krishnarajulu told that according to Gandhiji, an educated man’s body is the servant of his will and does his works with ease and pleasure. He also believed that literacy is no education. He believes that children should be taught by first teaching them a handicraft. This teaches them the art of production. The body and the spirit are equally important as intellect for education. Literacy is not as important as other factors when it comes to having an overall education. Talking about Gandhi’s idea of Nayee Taleem he said that the entire educational system must be integrated into one till matriculate. He insisted that the medium of instruction should be the mother tongue. The language is not as important as the skills and techniques taught. The community should try to build on existing knowledge while adding more knowledge to the children. “Lokvidya” must be given a lot of importance.

Prof. Naresh Kumar Sharma, Coordinator of Centre of Gandhian Economic Thought, UoH talked about Gandhi’s opposition to compulsory nature of education as per the Right to Education. He talked about how the general perception, that a formal education is primary while character building is secondary, is debatable.

-Oct'2010

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