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Back to The Sources (A Study of Gandhi's Basic Education)

Back to The Sources (A Study of Gandhi's Basic Education)
$5.20$6.50  [ 20% off ]
Item Code: IDK598
Author: Henry Fagg
Publisher: National Book Trust
Edition: 2006
ISBN: 8123739699
Pages: 86
Cover: Paperback
Other Details: 8.3" X 5.5"
Back of The Book

The title of this study indicates a dissatisfaction on the part of his author with much of the material that has so far been written on Gandhi and education. The present writer has attempted to construct a detailed contextual study of the most decisive period in the evolution of his briefs on education.

Henry Fagg is a freelance writer and academic currently living in Tokyo. This, his frist book is the result of research he carried out whilst studying at the University of Oxford, England.


Think of Gandhi's Basic Education and what comes to mind is an educational system that was contemporary but not modern that was ideal but not practical and that might have achieved limited success but which ultimately failed. In this study, Mr. Fagg is presumably not convinced with such responses to as he rightly observes the revolutionary educational proposal unveiled by Mahatma Gandhi in the summer of 1937, which was to influence Government policy in India for the Next thirty years. He observes that much of the understanding of Gandhi's basic education on recent times has been anecdotal and largely based upon writers access to secondary sources in order to analyze the scheme's political background its core principles its implications and to make an assessment of the scheme.

Following an incisive and in depth review of original Gandhi related literature such as The Collected Works the Journal Harijan and other seminal documents the study concludes that Basic Education could not be called a Failure in itself. It suggests rather that we must learn to understand its impact in different terms. As the author observes, it was the moral potency that is Gandhi's Perception of truth at the heart of the scheme which sustained it through years of diverse interpretations and significant misunderstandings of its core tenets"

What certainly is disturbing is the gradual loss of moral potency from educational discourse today, which is becoming increasingly by market forces consumerism and expediency. In contrast Gandhi's Basic Education did appear to be a guiding force in Indian educational policy until at least the first Education commission report in 1966, which in a most mechanical fashion replaced Gandhian principles by most mechanical fashion replaced Gandhian principles by work experience as one of the subjects in the school curriculum. Work experience or work education continues to be represented on school curricula in India in mind or spirit of the child the development of which in a harmonious manner being an integral part of Gandhi's education vision.

I have had a selfish Internet in dissecting Mr. Fagg' s back to the sources: A Study of Gandhi Basic Education as I try to explore similarities with the concept of and practices being advocated and the poor so as to bring all children to gether to learn. I have found in both discourse competition given way to cooperation individual excellence to group achievement and rote learning to activity and experiential learning. I am thus tempted to draw a parallel in a pedagogical sense between the internationally recognized paradigm of inclusive schooling to achieve Education for All and Gandhi's Educational system as presented by the Report of the Zakir Hussain committee. But, as Mr. Fagg would no doubt stress to confine Basic Education within these limits would amount to trivializing an approach which aimed at a proper and harmonious combination of body heart and soul a combination which (in Gandhi's worlds) is required for the making of the whole man and constitutes the true economics of education.

Is it time to revisit Gandhi's Basic Education? It is difficult to say Particularly when its failure is ingrained in the minds of policy makers and educational practioners. But as the author of his study has observed," its embodiment of Gandhian Truth is unquestionable and its significance is enduring. All that is necessary is an open mind. And it is hoped that this book would give all of us and opportunity to open our mind.

Madan Mohan Jha


Gandhi believed in Absolute Truth and Absolute Possibility. No doubt it is an unusual plea, but let us understand these two tents if indeed our critical faculty will permit us as constituting the unseen dynamics behind our enquiry into his world. Furthermore we should appreciate early on just how uncompromisingly it is his world. That is it is a worldview which resolutely refuses to be governed by the same assumptions as our own. In the course of this investigation our native cynicism will surely find echoes in the thoughts of these working around the Mahatma but cynicism is simply not a useful tool when it comes to understanding Gandhi's own message. Instead we need to be if the expression is permitted somewhat cynical of our cynicism. It is only through such a gesture through the lightness which follows even a momentary suspension of disbelief that Gandhian idealism can come into own its own as a made of thought discourse and most importantly action.

Absolute Truth

To return to our first tenet Gandhi has certainly not made it easy for the contemporary researcher to follow in his footsteps. Rather there are a number of what can seem like almost insurmountable problem facing any writer on Gandhi today.

Firstly in six decades of a tirelessly active public life Gandhi produced a stupendous quantity of material. In the Publisher's Note prefixed to the last of the hundred volumes comprising the collected works (hereafter CW), O.P. Kejariwal has remarked that this enormous undertaking of the Government of india which brings together all of Gandhi 's known writings speeches and letters was perhaps the biggest multi volumes project in the world (CW 100: vii). Yet notwithstanding the thirty-eight years it took to compile even this collection has been deemed inadequate particularly in matters of translation (Parekh 1989, 7). To critically engage with this material is a daunting prospect for even the most renowned scholars in the field. For example Judith Brown author of one of the most esteemed Gandhi biographies in recent years has recognized that the sources are so extensive that the temptation is to go on delving in acute and increasing realization of one's partial knowledge and understanding (1989, 3). As an aside it is also worth mentioning that a glance at the available secondary material is no less confounding. A recent bibliography indicates that there is at present close to a total of one thousand biographies written on Gandhi (pandiri 1995) and that number excludes of course the mass of other critical material also available.

A second substantial difficulty for scholars lies in the fact that despite his voluminous writings Gandhi was a man who rarely set down his ideas in any systematic from Apart form his two well-known narrative didactic works- the autobiography. The story of my Experiments with Truth (1929) and Satyagraha in South Africa (1925)- the only other work which attempts to set forth his ideas in anything approaching a systematic manner is Hind Swaraj written in 1909. Although a markedly early work this slim volume written at great speed in a kind of religious fervour is widely at regarded as Gandhi's seminal treatise and the key to understanding the later development of his ideas (see Parel 1977, xiii).

Despite the useful anchor that the hind Swaraj provides the generally unsystematic nature of his writings confirms what Gandhi himself was keen to point out that there is no such thing as Gandhism per se and that instead his life itself was his message (CW80: 209, 84:300). Although we might view this as our third and most infuriating interpretative problem to grasp this fact is really to hold the key himself above all else as a perpetual seeker after Truth as the title of his autobiography evidently signifies. It is for this reason that he has often been characterized as the supreme example of a modern day pilgrim (see for example Chatterjee 1983,4) Gandhi came to develop what he termed satyagraha-truth force or soul force-which was the name he gave to his technique of non-violent resistance to injustice and oppression. Although this is what famously becomes the hallmark of his political style it is essential to remember that he believed the effectiveness of its external manifestation that he believed the effectiveness of its external manifestations always depended on the on the continual spiritual evolution of the individual. Gandhi's own ever-reacting ever deepening inner voice had an internal logic which can be better understood with hindsight but which during his life-time was certainly unorthodox and often disorientating for others. Judith Brown has noted that it would often cause some consternation among his contemporaries who wondered where this unpredicatable inner authority would drive him next (1989,82) As T.K. Mahadevan has pointed out although within a given context the existential truth of Gandhi is always absolute admitting of no kind of compromise or adjustment… the relativity of such truth about which we make so much play comes from a contextual change (1969, 48). That is his Truth is absolute but not been thought out in conformity with a system situation as it arises (CW 49:256) or in comments such as what I am Concerned wit is my readiness to obey the call of truth my God From moment to moment (CW 55:61).

Absolute Possibility

To obey the call of Truth my God from moment to moment is to continually collapse the space between belief and action. This can be understood as a rejection of the law of conditionality in the realm of the human psyche or conversely a belief in what we might call the Absolute Possibility of the will. It is in effect a consciousness that in the words of Martin Green the world only exists as it does because we allow it to because we assent to its claims. Much of what we call or allow to be called the world 's substance human nature and our situation and what history teaches is quite unsubstantial. Reality could perfectly well be absolutely different tomorrow (1993, 20). Green has identified Gandhi as belonging to a certain cast of mind which he calls the naïve:

…naïve not meaning any lack of knowledge or of analytic power but a readiness to act on one's beliefs and hopes -as if one person or a small group could alter life without developing elaborate analytic theory simply by beginning to live differently between one day and the next (ibid.,15)

Such people are in Green's term life-experimenters.

Back To The Sources

The title of this study indicates dissatisfaction on the part of its author with much of the material that has so far been written on Gandhi and education. Faced with the arduous task of dealing with such prolific primary material a not insignificant number of writers have unfortunately relied too substantially on secondary sources or anthologies of Gandhi's work to try to posit Gandhian views or doctrine on particular topics. Such shortcuts are doubly reprehensible in the case of a personality for whom the temporal context was of paramount important for what he had to say.

Out of respect for Gandhi's own rigorous demand for truth the present writer has attempted to construct a detailed contextual study of the most decisive period in the become clear in due course this period of about six months beginning in the summer of 1937 was a crucial time for the consolidation and emphasized of certain ideas that had been germinating in his journal Harijan (hereafter, H) Gandhi himself emphasized this point nothing that what I have been through the glass darkly for the past 40 years I have been begun to see now quite clearly under the stress of circumstances.

At the age of 67 with little prior indication Gandhi Suddenly unveiled a revolutionary proposal that was to influence years. The aim of this study is to elucidate the context surrounding this educational scheme to penetrate to the Truth of its conception and to understand how and why from the very earliest stages of its development, it had begun to burn up in the very fire of its own radicalism. The analysis will therefore consist of chapters on in turn the political background to the scheme its core principle its influences its implications its transformations its transformation and finally an assessment of the scheme.

Whatever the explanations behind the so-called failure of Gandhi's strategy for education development its embodiment of Gandhi Truth is unquestionable and its significance is enduring. All that is necessary is an open mind.

The idea is original. That it many prove to be wrong does not affect originality. And an original idea does not admit of a frontal attack unless it is tried on a sufficiently large scale. To say a priori that it is impossible is no argument. (H 5:300).


Abstract ix
Fore word xiii
Introduction xvii
1Political Background 1
Congress and the Government of India Act 1919
Congress and the Government of India Act 1935
Background to the Harijan Articles
2The Harijan Articles 8
Holism: Body, mind and Spirit
Manual training as Medium or Correlation
Mother Tongue
Higher Education
3Influences 18
Historical Context
British Education in India
The Rise of National Education
Gandhi and National Education
Intellectual Context
The Ideal of the Good Society
5Transformation 54
The Wardha Conference
The Report of the Zakir Committee
Acceptance by Congress
6Assessment 62
Early Contemporary Criticism
Two Models of National Development
Nehru and the National Planning Committee
Conclusion 71
Bibliography 75
Appendix 80
Glossary and Abbreviations 87

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