What are the contributions of Mahatma Gandhi in Education?

Historical Development of Basic Edcuation

Mahatma Gandhi explained the concept of Basic Education through a series of articles in his Harijan magazine in 1937. In the conference at Wardha after a detailed discussion about Gandhiji's articles the scheme of Basic Education took shape under the leadership of Dr. Zakir Hussain. The following four resolutions were passed.

(i) Free and compulsory education should be given to all children for a period of seven years.

(ii) The medium of instruction should be the mother tongue,

(iii) The process of education should be centred round some form of manual production work in the shape of a craft.

(iv) This education should be self-supporting to some extent.

The Central Advisory Board of Education set up a Committee under the Chairmanship of Sri B. G. Kher to suggest measures for implementing these resolutions. Then another Committee was appointed under the same Chairman to recommend action coordinating the Basic Education with higher education.

The recommendations of both these Committees were approved by the CABE and included in the Report on Post-war Educational Development in India. In 1944, although Govts, both at the national and state levels accepted Basic Education as the national pattern, progress in its implementation was not satisfactory.

Merits of Basic Education

(1) Work as a central place:

Since work occupies a central place in life, it had an important place in Basic Education. Dignity of labour was emphasized by him and work was made an integral part of this education.

(2) A new method of teaching:

Through Basic Education Gandhiji introduced a new method of teaching. This method is to teach all subjects through crafts and taken as activity-centred meant to free children from tyranny of words and cramming.

(3) Self-supporting education:

As a corollary to craft-centred education, it was visualized by Gandhiji that schools need be self- supporting. The carfts organized scientifically would result in more production and the sale-proceeds must fetch a good income.

(4) Socially sound system of education:

Basic education was sound sociologically. The then class-labour and chasm between mental and physical labour and the spirit of dependence on others were required to be removed from the society. In short, Basic education was intended to eradicate many ills of the society.

(5) Training for Citizenship:

Basic education was providing for training students in democratic living and practices. It was aiming at forming positive attitudes, creating interests and appreciation, developing understanding and imparting skills in citizenship. On the whole, it was a training citizenship.

Drawbacks in Basic Education

(1) Selection of Crafts:

Since craft was occupying an important place in Basic school curriculum, selection of a suitable craft was determining the success and efficiency of Basic Education. But most of the schools followed the trodden path or stereotyped process without bothering for the local conditions and needs. For example, in the areas where cotton was not grown and had to be brought from a long distance, weaving was introduced as a craft even in those areas.

(2) The Principles of Correlation:

In Basic schools every subject was being taught through a craft. The principle of correlation was tried to be adopted in all subjects, but in real situation it was done as a ritual without any sincerity or seriousness. In fact, correlation was a slogan and fiction.

(3) The Idealism of self-sufficiency:

It was complained that the schools cannot be made self-sufficient with the production by children. The concept of self-sufficiency was thought to be idealism and was not emphasized by most of the teachers and inspecting officers. Products by unskilled hands were not selling well and fetching adequate income. Rather Basic Schools were more expensive than traditional schools.

(4) The Principles of Equality:

Although Basic Education was visualized to be socially sound for removing the existing disparities, it was rather aggravating the situation. It was tending to be meant for the children of poor labourers and farmers only and children of high class families were not going to these schools. The gulf between poor and rich classes rather widened due to Basic Education.

(5) Proper Orientation and Understanding:

Basic schools called for highly qualified and well-equipped teachers for properly teaching subjects through correlation and organizing crafts with efficiency. But in fact many teachers employed in such schools were lacking proper understanding of the Basic Education principles and desired orientation with the idealism or values impregnated in the system.

Present Condition

Although Basic Education faced a sorry state of affairs many of its principles are still appreciated for their practical value and psychology as well as sociological importance. The Kothari Commission, 1964-66 endorsed a large number of its essential features like work experience, community living, community service, citizenship training, world brotherhood, social and spiritual values and integrating knowledge with experience and so no.

After a lapse of more than three decades a National Education conference was convened by Shriman Narayan at Sevagram in 1972 where Basic Education was praised by many. A resolution was passed with consensus of all Education Ministers and Vice Chancellors who attended the conference, "education at all levels should be imparted through socially useful and productive activity, linked with economic growth and development in both rural and urban areas".

The Iswarbhai Patel Committee supported most of the principles of Basic Education with great stress on work education or socially useful productive work. The UNESCO Commission Report "Learning to Be" also used the term Basic Education for Primary Education and laid emphasis on many forms of social and economic activities to be organized in the schools.

The Basic Education system has been hailed as "the ideal solution for the reform of teaching methods in Indian Schools" by Dr. Gunnar Myrdal, the celebrated author of "Asian Drama" and as "one of the most interesting and promising developments in Indian Education" by Prof. Castle the renowned writer of "Education for self-help". It goes without saying that India would have been a happier place at present, if the useful features of Basic Education had been given effect to with sincerity of all concerned.