Traditional education strives to expand the
spheres of existence through social awareness
(forming kinship with the entire world),
cosmological awareness (expansion of the being
by self-transformation), and technological
awareness (relating creativity to the ritual
enforcement of life). In contrast, modern
education teaches a way of life, which is limited
by self-centred consumerism, which allows
man’s ego to establish itself as the conqueror of
nature, which fragments people through
competitive vocations and specialized technical
How do we resolve this deep dilemma between
the traditional and modern systems of
education? Or, alternatively, how can a
sensibly worked-out system of education afford
a symbiosis between ‘modernity’ and‘wisdom-
tradition’? Addressing this vital question, the
authors here look afresh at the relevance of art
in the age of science/technocentrism, the role
of education in promoting peace and concord,
Gandhian system of ‘basic education’ and,
finally, how far India’s national concerns are
reflected in its national policy on education.
An assemblage of 16 education-related essays,
this volume is essentially the outcome of a
Conference on the "Cultural Dimension of
Education and Ecology", held in New Delhi on
13-16 October 1995 — as a part of the Unesco
Chair activities (in the field of cultural
development) at the Indira Gandhi National
Centre for the Arts. It presents insightful
perspectives on primary education, focusing
specially on its current status, trends and
problems in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and
The volume will interest all those involved
with education: whether as scholars,
professionals, planners, or as reformers.
Baidyanath Saraswati, an anthropologist of
international eminence, is Unesco-Professor
at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the
Arts, New Delhi. And is former Professor of
Anthropology at the North-Bastern Hill
University; Fellow of the Indian Institute of
Advanced Study; and Visiting Professor at the
universities of Ranchi and Visva-Bharati.
Professor Saraswati’s published work
comprises anumber of books and monographs,
among which notably figure Pottery-making
Cultures and Indian Civilization, Brahmanic
Ritual Traditions; Kashi: Myth and Reality;
and Spectrum of the Sacred — besides his
edited titles, like Tribal Thought and Culture;
Prakrti: Primal Elements —the Oral Tradition;
Prakrti: Man in Nature; Computerizing
Cultures; and Cross-Cultural Lifestyle Studies.
One of the major programmes of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) is
to launch multidisciplinary lifestyle studies of cohesive communities for evolving alternative
models for the study of cultural phenomena and the inter-webbing of environmental,
ecological, agricultural, socio-economic, cultural and political parameters.
In January 1995, a Unesco Chair in the field of Cultural Development was instituted at
the Centre. As a part of the Chair's activities a four-day international conference on ‘The
Cultural Dimension of Education and Ecology’ was held at the IGNCA from 13 to16 October
1995. It called for a cross-cultural comparison and assessment of the problems involved in
the fields of both education and ecology.
The proceedings of the conference are being published in two independent volumes.
This volume deals with the question of education and development while the other (Cultural
Dimension of Ecology) is devoted to critical issues pertaining to the natural environment.
Participants at the conference were men and women of experience and wisdom. They
have been participants in the common endeavour of making education more relevant and
meaningful. Chitra Naik in her prologue eloquently outlines the historical background of the
state in which large sections of the globe find themselves. There are series of disjunctions
and they manifest themselves in many spheres, most of all in education, specially formal
A system of education was established with the avowed goal of alienating the student
from his immediate environment. Consequently, the moment of education became and
continues to become the moment of uprooting the child from the culture to which he or she
belongs. The numerous skills of literacy, numeracy and reason he acquires, the content of
the education which is considered ‘global’ and ‘universal’, all make him or her an efficient
tool in a vast machinery. The values inculcated are those of success, achievement, material
progress of the little selfin a competitive world. More, the marked emphasis on uniformity
in a rigid system makes him or her an automaton. The driving force of his aspiration is
immediate achievement and ‘success’.
The few who go through the ladder of competition undoubtedly ‘achieve’, but in the
process they are uprooted and certainly unaligned with the very ground from which they
were nurtured. The larger number acquire minimal skills of literacy and bookish knowledge.
Their harmonious world of work, function and ideation and faith is dead, and the new world
is powerless to be born. Wastage is prevalent and unemployed educated youth people our
lands. They are the human repositories of great energies which can be directed positively
or negatively. The situation may differ in degree in different cultures of the erstwhile
colonies, now young nation-states, but there is a similarity. With the exception of an
infinitesimally small percentage who reach the pinnacle of the system and become global
citizens, most others survive at the minimal level of comprehension, litle or no creativity and
In India, repeated Education Commissions were set up to reform and alter the
educational system which was established by closing down madarsas and pathashalas, the
gurukul and guild systems.
The reports of the Kothari Commission and the Education Commission of 1986 have
called attention to the need for taking the cultural dimension of education into account.
These reports recognised the need to reform the system in a manner that the world of work
and the world of education, of home, family and education of individual and society, are not
in conflict. Much earlier, Gandhiji had advocated a system of education known by its familiar
names — ‘basic education’ and nai talim. Here manual and cerebral skills were in balance;
the tools of education were through the use of the hands and the utilisation of local
resources, natural and human. There was no undue emphasis on literacy.
After fifty years of experimentation, there is arenewed recognition of the relevance of the
Gandhian model based ona total development of body, mind and soul, the values of restraint
and self-reliance and both self-sacrifice and self-fulfilment through community participation.
It is heartening to note that after a lapse of many decades and as a result of disillusionment
with the present system of formal education, specially at the primary and secondary levels,
many experiments have been conducted both in India and abroad. Mrs Oka's experiment
and its success bear eloquent testimony to its efficacy. The Bose Foundation School is
exemplary in its goals of achieving much in modesty. The Rangaprabhat experiment is
unique in fostering the innate creativity of the economically disempowered. This is only to
mention a few.
We, the people of the ‘developing’ countries, are struck by the contrast between the present
age of ‘modernity’ and the wisdom tradition ofa past time. Yes, there are today extraordinary
technology, ultra-rapid communications, remarkable information networking, and exciting
and challenging changes in science itself. But where is the Man — the enlightened Buddha,
the compassionate Christ, the loving Muhammad, the truthful Gandhi? With all the wonders
of modern science and technology, where are we going? Are we not moving into the New Age
with the burden of a new myth of materialism? Are we not suffering from the disease of
machine mindedness? Most of us are asking such questions. Some say that these advances
cannot bring into being a normal civilization. Others think that there is a profound way:
cultivating wisdom from all the knowledge that mankind has gathered. Now, can we take on
the responsibilities called for by the future of humanity?
In January 1995, a Unesco Chair in the field of cultural development was instituted at
the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. As a part of the Chair's activities, four field
studies were carried out on the trends and problems of primary education and the natural
environment. A Conference on the Cultural Dimension of Education and Ecology was held
in New Delhion 13-16 October 1995 to pursue exploration in these fields. T he sixteen essays
collected here refer to the state of primary education in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and
Thailand. In particular, the experts have called attention to (a) evolving new perspectives
in primary education; (b) developing Man the artist; (c) promoting a genuine culture of
peace; (d) re-considering Gandhi's basic education; and (e) re-examining national policies
Evolving a New Perspective
All cultures do not share the same vision of life. The spirit of a ‘traditional’ culture, for
instance, is not the spirit of ‘modern’ culture. This is clearly reflected in their conceptions
and practice of education.
1. Traditional education aims at expanding the spheres of existence by social
awareness (forming kinship with the entire world), cosmological awareness
(expanding of being by self-transformation) and technological awareness
(relating creativity to the ritual enforcement of life).
2. Modern education, in contrast, teaches a way of life limited by self-centred
consumerism, allows man’s ego to establish itself as the conqueror of
nature, and fragments people through competitive vocations and specialized
How do we resolve this deep dilemma between traditional and modern systems of education’?
The authors of these essays provide a renewed sense of awareness. In most experiments,
what is being evolved is the ‘Middle Path’: without one extreme, without two extremes.
Gedong Bagoes Oka, an Indonesian follower of Gandhi, is in sympathy with the holistic
approach, a Gandhian experiment, which
1. draws from the noble Vedantic dictum tat twam asi the oneness of life;
2. aims to bring out and foster all the potentials in the child and help it express
these through ahimsic (non-violent) channels; and
3. makes the school a happy adventure of discovery for the child.
Dwarko Sundarani, a Sarvodaya social worker based in Bodha Gaya, also stresses on
4. total development, i.e., physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual;
5. the correlation of education and manual work, leading to self-reliance for
the basic necessities of life; and
6. aharmonious relationship with nature and society.
Shakuntala Bapat and Suman Karandikar, with research experience in the rural areas of
7. indigenous basic education consisting of elements which are local and
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