By Dr Jyots Bhattacharjee
Education is a process through which one acquires knowledge. It has been stated by some people that education is not really imparted by somebody from outside, rather it is an unfolding process from within. It is said that “You cannot teach a child any more than you can grow a plant.” That is, a plant grows by itself and in the same way a child also learns by itself. A child educates himself/herself under proper circumstances. If the necessary conditions are provided for its growth, it grows like a plant spontaneously and on the strength of its intrinsic power. Every child is born with some potential qualities and education merely brings out those potential qualities inherent in each child. So in a way inherent in each child. So in a way education comes from within and not from outside.
‘Liberty’ is the first condition of a child’s growth. The child must have the liberty to act as he wishes, under proper guidance. The role of a teacher is to remove the obstructions on the path of learning. The primary person in the teaching-learning process is the child itself. The teacher’s role is merely to stimulate his mental activity and awaken his hidden talent.
Swami Vivekanda formulated his theory on education on the fundamental principle that “Knowledge is inherent in us; no knowledge comes from outside”. Then the question arises: “What is the necessity of the learning process for educating a child?” According to Vivekanda the function of an “exterl teacher” is to offer suggestions which inspire the “interl teacher” (of a child) to work for understanding things. The exterl factor is required merely to give a push to the inner working of the mind. That is why when a teacher thinks that he is teaching a child, he is actually imposing his ideas on the student and thereby he goes against the inner capability of the child and spoils true education. The teacher may explain certain things and offer suggestions. With that help from the teacher the child learns by himself what is within his mind and educates himself. That is what is known as true education.
From this point of view it can be said that a teacher has only to instruct children on how to apply their intellect for the proper use of their sense organs. Only in later life they learn by themselves to use the mental faculty in the proper way. This theory is equally applicable to all sections of children, whether privileged or under-privileged. Every child has the ability to use his intellect properly. But the individual ability is largely suppressed because of socio-economic problems and these problems make them a little diffident, since from the very early stage they develop an inferiority complex due to poverty and backwardness. Hence they cannot freely demonstrate their individual talents. Their guardians also suffer from a closed mind set and do not regard education as a means to progress, since for them education is worthless. Hence they are often reluctant to send their children to schools. In their view spending several years in school is a waste of time, which could have been better used, if the children worked to supplement the family income. It is not easy to persuade these guardians to send their children to school. To convince them regarding the value of education is nearly impossible. They turn a deaf ear to all the persuasions by the well-wishers. We cannot blame them, as it is difficult to realize the value of education on a hungry stomach. Hunger must be removed in order to make them understand the importance of education. They have to realize that their children are in no way inferior to the children of the privileged class, and they too have the ability to have a successful bright future with proper guidance.
It is true that the individuality of the under-privileged children remains subdued, but potentially it is as perfect as in the children of the privileged families. The potential talent is always there, but due to lack of opportunity so many geniuses may have been lost to us. They could have contributed a lot for the progress of the country as well as for the welfare of humanity. With necessary support and encouragement the under-privileged children can surely progress in a significant manner. They are the victims of adverse circumstances, which have obstructed their tural progress in a systematic manner. Had it been otherwise and if the circumstances were congenial, they would certainly have been able to demonstrate their capability with adequate enthusiasm and talent.
Their problem is typical and they are forced to take employment in various domestic and other menial activities in order to support their respective families. Hence they have to work hard to earn a meagre amount of money to feed the family at home. In consequence they lose their childhood before they are even aware of it. Children all over the world have the same feelings and desires. At a time when these children are supposed to play games, go to schools to learn lessons, these deprived children of god have to work to the bone to eke out a living. It is only tural that some of these unfortute children turn into pick pockets, drug-peddlers, petty thieves or beggars. They may swell street corners, making huge additions to the burgeoning unemployment problem.
Now primary education has been made compulsory by the government, bringing a ray of hope for the progress of the country. They have also provided free meal, free text books and free education. It is a very good measure adopted by the government, which is expected to eradicate illiteracy of our country. Only education can remove the darkness of the mind by bringing light into it. Still many of the children have not yet been able to enter the portals of the school. There may be many reasons for that. But the fundamental reason is poverty. Unless this primary problem is attended to, the children will not be able to concentrate on learning, even if they are eager to do so.
Under the burden of poverty the parents cannot take proper care of their children. Some of them do send their children to school, but even then the lessons are not given due importance. No wonder, at the initial stages they appear to be slow-learners. This can dampen the efficiency of some teachers. If a teacher finds a child to be a slow-learner, he considers the student to be dull and very soon loses his interest in such a dull student. Yet a little additiol effort may help these children enormously. The teacher should assess the limitations and disadvantages of the socio-economically backward children. They should certainly try to bring out the capability and talent of these children, who remain backward due to the disagreeable condition of their life style. The teachers need lots of patience to teach these children. But under no circumstance the under-privileged children should be regarded as retarded learners and they should not be discrimited against. Their pattern of life is complex and they live in very difficult conditions. The paradigm that is applicable to privileged children is not relevant in case of under-privileged children. The children of the under-privileged families are always a deprived lot. They need to be helped and encouraged, if they are to catch up with the rest. But they need more care than the children of the privileged class, as these children from the creamy layer of society have the world at their feet and they can get anything they desire.
Concentration is the key to education and education is the key to knowledge, which in turn leads to progress of the individual as well as the tion. Concentration should be given utmost importance in the educatiol programme. But the children of the under-privileged section always have to struggle for existence and they lack many of life’s essential things. turally these factors affect their concentration, which is detrimental to any educatiol programme.
This precisely is the idea of Vivekanda regarding child education, which is worthy of being taken up by the educationists. He was against the western kind of education with its materialistic approach, since for Vivekanda materialistic education cannot benefit a child. As he once observed, “The education that you are getting now has some good points. But it has a tremendous disadvantage, which is so great that good things are all weighed down. In the first place, it is not a man-making education. It is merely an entirely negative education. A negative education or any training that is based on negation is worse than death”. Vivekanda thought that western education teaches a child to disrespect the views of the sacred texts. He learns to treat his elders as ignorant people. Then he also learns to regard sacred books as lies. That is, due to western education he acquires a bloated ego and dismisses age-old tradition and the views of the elders as nonsense. Thus by the time he is sixteen years old, he becomes a mass of negation, a lifeless, boneless person. A person who disrespects his own culture cannot be regarded as a truly educated person. Vivekands was particularly astonished by the ‘Vanity’ of the English-educated people in his time.
According to Vivekanda, this materialistic attitude is the reason why a large section of the educated class turns out to be dishonest and arrogant without a prick of conscience. In the me of education they have taken in some doubtful things. We may quote from the ancient texts, “Vidya dadati viyam.” Humility is the main factor of a truly educated person. But in the modern educated person we do not see any humility (viya) and hence they can hardly be regarded as educated persons. In the sixteenth chapter in the Bhagavad Gita Lord Krish explains the difference between the persons having divine and demoniac ture. He says:
“Dambho darpo abhimas ca krodhah parusyam eva ca
Ajm cabhijatasya partha sampadam asurim”
(Pride, arrogance, conceit, anger, harshness and ignorance—these qualities belong to those of demoniac ture, O son of pritha)
The cardil virtues of education are purity and compassion. But these virtues are conspicuously absent in the modern arrogant section who believe themselves to be educated.
Vivekanda reflected that it is a painful truth that modern education, which is a fall out of the British policy, has been harming the society immensely. This kind of education has not included moral education in its curricula. Though at present ‘moral science’ is taught in the lower classes in the schools, it is more a theoretical subject than practical implication. Hence it is not given due importance. The students learn nothing about values of life or morality. Hence from the school teachers to the high level bureaucrats, none bothers about their obligations to society at large. Nobody cares for the country or for its welfare. Accumulation of wealth seems to be their primary concern and they are least bothered about the plight of the poor and the downtrodden. Greed for wealth and power have reduced them to such characters who are loathed in the scriptures.
Vivekanda had hoped that education would help the poor deprived children in their path towards progress. He imagined a “new India” emerging out of the slums, villages, forests and hills by the means of education. True education is the manifestation of inner perfection. It brings out the spiritual ture of man by providing him with divine qualities, such as “non-violence, truth, freedom from anger, renunciation, tranquility, aversion to fault-finding, kindness to living beings, freedom from covetousness, modesty and steadfastness” as mentioned in the Gita. Only then the masses can be liberated from the curse of ignorance. A true democracy is possible only when the power remains in the hands of the ordiry citizens, who are better equipped to work for socio-economic development. Spiritual education is essential for the development of a tion and it should be cleansed. Vivekanda clearly stated, “No other ideal puts in us the same mass of energy as the spiritual”
It is obvious that for the progress of a tion education is indispensable. But the western form of education is not really helpful, rather it is harmful for the mental development of a child. What is needed is value-education or moral education. Hence everyone should adhere to spiritual education, which only can keep a person on the right path. For that the potential talent inherent in each child has to be drawn out and made actual.