Gandhiji has, in this essay ‘National Education; presented his views on that kind of education which is most suitable for India. Their have been various kinds of reaction to his views but he is firm in his opinion that the system of education prevailing in India is defective. It has been introduced by an unjust government. Thoroughly unrelated to Indian culture this kind of education is merely intellectual. It does not fulfill the needs of the heart.
In other words, it does not inculcate the virtue of sympathy, fellow-feeling, kindness and compassion in the young pupils. It does not teach the virtue of physical culture.
Secondly the existing education is imparted through a foreign language and in the India context this is unreal. The text books prescribed for our students deal with matters unrelated to the home life and village life of the pupils. The contents of text books are unknown to them.
Therefore these text books do not inspire the students to take pride in their surroundings. The higher the education the more separated are the students from their home life and environment. They become cut off from villagers where they belong.
Gandhiji continues that the present system of education teaches the learners that their civilization is stupid, savage, superstitious and practically useless. So the students are separated from their traditional culture. Indian children are so firmly set in their ancient culture that the existing defective system of education has not been able to alienate them completely from it. If the author had his way he would destroy all the present text books and replace them with new ones related to the real life of children.
Text books in India instead of merely being literacy should be relevant to the real life of the people most of them take to agricultural as a life-long occupation. The existing system of education makes the students unfit for physical work.
Indian students when grown up have to earn their livelihood by manual labor. So they should be taught the great virtues of physical labour. It is sad that Indian students in school hate manual labour and consider it undignified to do it.
Public school education is so expensive that few Indian can afford it. The vast majority of people in India are poor. Therefore Gandhiji recommends that education in India should be free and universal, But if universal education is introduced no government can finance it.
Hence, our children must be made to finance their own education wholly or party. They can do it by any kind of physical work, in general and spinning and weaving, in particular. Gandhiji’s view is that cloth production by school students will be profitable and practicable. So it should be introduced in all schools throughout India.
This will enable them to pay for their education and help them to adopt a suitable profession in their later life. This will certainly go a long way in making our school students self-reliant. Gandhiji pleads that contempt for manual labour must damage the interest of the nation. So all must try to appreciate and respect manual labour.
Gandhiji further turns to the education of the heart which is as important as the education of the mind. He says in this connection that books alone cannot take care of the education of the heart. The living touch of the teacher in this important matter is essential. Teachers of primary schools in India are hardly men and women of faith and character. They have themselves received little education of the heart. They have been selected by a wrong method. They do not get enough money in from of salary even for a bare living.
Persons who fail to get any other employment at last get teachers. They have not been selected on the basis of their patriotism. Such persons are obviously incapable of imparting the education of the heart that can inspire the children to be kind, sympathetic, compassionate and patriotic.
The medium of instruction in India is English which is a foreign language. This puts a lot of mental strain on the pupils and they do not feel interested to learn. Moreover, this makes them crammers and imitators. Taught in a foreign medium, they cannot pass on their knowledge to the family and the society.
What is most unfortunate is that education in an alien medium has made our boys and girls foreigners in their own country. It has also prevented the development of Indian languages. In view of these problems, Gandhiji makes out a strong case in favour of Indian vernaculars to be used as medium of instruction in our educational institutions. For this very reason text books should be prepared in India languages and introduced in Schools.
In conclusion, Gandhiji clarifies that he is not hostile to the learning of English that is very essential for carrying on International commerce and diplomacy. Those who possess languages learning talents should read this language because it contains some if the richest treasures of human thought and culture. However one should love and appreciate one’s own culture first and then turn to other cultures.
Our culture is one of the richest in the entire world and all should understand and appreciate its virtues. Gandhiji finally says that an academic study of our culture will never be useful unless it is practiced in our daily lives. But, he finally warns that no one should look down upon other cultures. On the contrary, respect for other cultures will benefit the growth and enrichment of our own culture.