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02: Gandhiji’s thoughts on education

Group 02 Readings


Gandhiji’s educational thoughts have at the focus the needs of the weakest, the poorest and the neglected. For them, he expounded indigenous strategies which could ensure equal opportunities and success. Times have changed. Many of his ideas or suggestions may seem out of place. But many more can still energise us and prompt introspection.

Extract 06
From Gandhi on Education

Making the Right Choice
Our education has got to be revolutionized. The brain must be educated through the hand. If I were a poet, I could write poetry on the possibilities of the five fingers. Why should you think that the mind is everything and the hands and feet nothing? Those who do not train their hands, who go through the ordinary rut of education, lack ‘music’ in their life. All their faculties are not trained. Mere book knowledge does not interest the child so as to hold his attention fully. The brain gets weary of mere words, and the child’s mind begins to wander. The hand does the things it ought not to do, the eye sees the things it ought not to see, the ear hears the things it ought not to hear, and they do not do, see, or hear, respectively, what they ought to. They are not taught to make the right choice and so their education often proves their ruin. An education which does not teach us to discriminate between good and bad, to assimilate the one and eschew the other is a misnomer.
Discussion with Teacher Trainees
Harijan, 18 February 1939 (CW 68, pp. 372–73)

Craze for Changing Text-books

The craze for ever-changing text-books is hardly a healthy sign from the educational standpoint. If text-books are treated as a vehicle for education, the living word of the teacher has very little value. A teacher who teaches from text-books does not impart originality to his pupils. He himself becomes a slave of text-books and has no opportunity or occasion to be original. It therefore seems that the less text-books there are, the better it is for the teacher and his pupils. Text-books seem to have become an article of commerce. Authors and publishers who make writing and publishing a means of making money are interested in a frequent change of text-books. In many cases teachers and examiners are themselves authors of text-books. It is naturally to their interest to have their books sold. The selection board is again naturally composed of such people. And so the vicious circle becomes complete. And it becomes very difficult for parents to find money for new books every year. It is a pathetic sight to see boys and girls going to school loaded with books which they are ill able to carry. The whole system requires to be thoroughly examined. The commercial spirit needs to be entirely eliminated and the question approached solely in the interest of the scholars. It will then probably be found that 75 per cent of the text-books will have to be consigned to the scrap-heap. If I had my way, I would have books largely as aids to teachers rather than for the scholars. Such text-books as are found to be absolutely necessary for the scholars should be circulated among them for a number of years so that the cost can be easily borne by middle class families.
Harijan, 9 September 1939 (CW 70, p. 153)

Teacher and Text-books

Nowadays the teacher’s task has in fact been reduced to that of a postman or a foreman. It consists only of placing books written by educationists in the hands of pupils and of supervising whether they make use of these or not. In addition to this, what other skill do you expect the teachers to possess?

I keep on feeling that teachers in the true sense of the word are essential, no matter how good the text-books are. A good teacher would never content himself with summarizing or explaining the meaning of difficult passages. Time and again, he would go beyond the text-books and present his subject to the pupil in a vivid manner in the same way as an artist does. The best text-book may be compared to the best photograph. However, just as a painting by an artist although second rate is invariably superior to a photograph, similar is the case with a real teacher. A true teacher introduces the pupil to his subject, creates in him interest for the subject and enables him to understand it independently.

Navajivan, 16 June 1928 (CW 36, pp. 352–3) (Translated from Gujarati)

Improve Teaching Methods
My ideas about education are very exacting. If we want to pour our souls into the pupils, we should constantly exercise our mind on how to teach them. We should not get angry with them. Passing on to them in the best possible language from day to day whatever we wish to give them, will take up much of our time. Moreover, we must for the present think of teaching methods as well. Everything will have to be taught in a new way.

The teachers will have to come together at least once a week to exchange ideas and make such changes as may be called for. The intelligent students should be consulted and their suggestions invited about methods of teaching.
Letter to Narahari Parikh, 17 May 1917 (CW 13, p. 399)

Be a Student of Students
A teacher who establishes rapport with the taught, becomes one with them, learns more from them than he teaches them. He who learns nothing from his disciples is, in my opinion, worthless. Whenever I talk with someone I learn from him. I take from him more than I give him. In this way, a true teacher regards himself as a student of his students. If you will teach your pupils with this attitude, you will benefit much from them.
Talk to Khadi Vidyalaya Students, Sevagram
Harijan Sevak, 15 February 1942 (CW 75, p. 269)


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