‘Dharm, Samskruti Aur Rajya’ by Guru Dutt – Chapter on Education: Part 4

This series of articles presents the English translation of the Chapter on Education from the book ‘Dharm, Samskruti Aur Rajya’ written by Sri Guru Dutt and published in 1964 by Hindi Sahitya Sadan. We hope this will introduce interested readers into the rich world of Sri Guru Dutt ji’s writings. Many thanks to Hindi Sahitya Sadan, New Delhi for permitting the English translation of this work. Other parts of this series – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3


Curriculum

Primary education, delivered through schools, should not have an overload of subjects. The primary focus at this stage would be on languages. In these eight years, students should acquire good command over languages. Regional languages and the national language would be taught in this phase.

Together with languages, some history and mathematics should also be taught. Learning of Adhyatama (spiritual education) should also be initiated from the beginning itself. Out of the total time available for studies, 50% should be devoted for languages, 20% each for history and mathematics, and the balance 10% for adhyatmic shiksha. Further, teaching of basic geography and civics can be accommodated along with the study of history. Music and arts such as painting are important subjects and could be included as part of the adhyatma shiksha.

Schools run by individuals and public organizations will operate as private institutions. It is, therefore, important to set high standards for entrance tests to ensure quality education, as rigorous entrance exams usually lead to excellence in education.

Students of primary schools should not be burdened with overload of subjects. Learning of languages is crucial at this phase. Once a strong foundation for languages has been laid, students graduating from elementary education become capable of doing self-study of any subject of their choice.

Primary education, as described above, will be free and compulsory. Therefore, the curriculum should be such that students can easily manage it, and if they decide not to pursue higher studies, they could derive benefit from this education in the life. This is the reason for our insistence upon giving a higher priority to learning of languages than, say, history. Language is the gateway to acquisition of all sorts of knowledge so it is a must to make satisfactory provision for learning of languages.

Adhyatma shiksha will run during the entire duration. Therefore, the quantity of this education should be such that it is easily absorbed by students at any stage of student life. Further, the focus should be on the practical aspects of spiritual education.

Secondary education: Institutions providing secondary education are known as ‘vidyalays’. These institutions will be separate for boys and girls. This education, while being free, should not be made compulsory. Only those students who pass relevant entrance examinations will be eligible for this education. A committee of university members should decide the standards for entrance examinations. The number of students clearing this exam should match the number of seats available in the ‘vidyalays’. The objective, and management, of secondary schools should be such that at least 50% of the students who finish primary education are able to enroll for higher studies.

As every child is entitled to free primary education, so should be all who are eligible to be admitted to secondary education. At this level, all the qualified students lacking in resources should be provided financial assistance for their studies.

The separation of boys and girls at this stage is necessary not just from a moral point of view, but also because their studies will have differences as well.

There will be need for good buildings and equipment at this level and the main sources for funds will again be government grants and private charity.

At this level, the study of regional languages and the national language will not be made mandatory. The study of these languages should be made formal – as electives – only for those students who wish to obtain honors degrees in these subjects.

It could be proposed that, at the secondary education level, the study of one other regional language be made available as a subject. Another subject could be any art, to be offered as an elective. Yet another subject could be related to forging, machine fitting, smith-work and any handicraft.

Apart from the above, there should be three other subjects. The first one – science – should be a compulsory subject. The second subject could be mathematics, history, geography, economics, philosophy, national language, regional language or other relevant subjects.

Thus, the study of science and adhyatma will be made mandatory in secondary school. Students would be allowed to choose, as electives, one each from regional languages, handicrafts and arts, and two from mathematics, history, etc. In all, each student would have to study seven subjects.

The time division among these subjects will be as follows: Science – 20%; two topics from mathematics, history, etc. – 20% each; adhyatma, regional language, arts and handicraft – 10% each. 

As was the case with elementary school system, it is absolutely necessary to establish and maintain high standards of entrance examinations to ensure the excellence in secondary school education. This too will be overseen by a committee of the relevant university.

College Education: The institutions offering education beyond secondary schooling may be called Colleges or ‘mahavidyalay’. Students between the ages of 18 and 21 will be qualified for admission to these institutions, via clearing an entrance test. Those who have completed secondary schooling for five years shall be eligible to take such tests. In addition, students who completed primary education but were unable to study further may also be admitted, after a review and approval by the examination committee.

The curriculum will comprise of adhyatma and three other subjects. One should be from the pool of science, mathematics, economics, philosophy, art, political science, history, linguistics and other subjects such as literature, etc.

The second subject will be an elective such as combination of chemistry (main subject) with physics or vice versa. Similarly, economics with political science, political science with philosophy, mathematics with physics and other such combinations shall be allowed as an elective.

The third subject could be Sanskrit or a foreign language such as English, French, German, Russian, etc. 

The division of time for studying these shall be as follows. Main subject – 40%, elective – 30%, Sanskrit or foreign language – 20% and adhyatma – 10%.

The final examination at the college, termed as the graduation exam, will be conducted by the affiliated university. Our concept of universities is that they should be centers of research in one or more fields. The contents and quality of examinations for these colleges will be decided by the relevant university which specializes in those subjects. If there are multiple universities teaching same subject, then a joint committee of all universities should decide the content and structure for college examinations in that field. 

The intent behind the above scheme is to make sure that production of graduates does not become the primary goal of education. All students in the country cannot become graduates as there is no need for everyone to take the route of secondary and college studies and obtain graduate degree. An exceptional student, however, could be admitted with special permission. The standard of entrance examinations must be set high to ensure that the number of private students is kept to a minimum. Also, colleges will not have any form of official or unofficial charter so that their focus always shall remain on imparting education of the highest standards and quality.

We had explained earlier why degrees from school, high school or college should not be made eligibility criterion for any job. Every job or a seat in an institution instead should have separate procedures and entrance tests. This approach will make education an avenue for acquisition of knowledge, not jobs. And, although, individuals do have freedom to utilize education for material benefits, it is still preferable to keep consideration for such benefits out of the scope of, and purpose for, joining educational institutions.

Students who clear college final examinations and graduate will obtain degrees with significant value. For example, a law graduate will be qualified to practice as lawyer, an engineering graduate can become an engineer in the relevant sector / industry and so on.

Only graduates, especially those with high grades, shall be allowed to enroll in the universities. However, even students from private education (i.e. self-taught students) may be allowed to enroll, but only after graduating from colleges with high marks.

Universities

A university should be set up to facilitate research in specialized subjects, but only after obtaining assured services of highly qualified scholars both from within the country and abroad. These scholars should select, from a pool of highly qualified graduates, students to conduct research work. If any division is unable to find research specialists, that division should be closed.

Before initiating research into any area, arrangements should be made for providing specialized education in that field. This can be called “post-graduate” studies.

In addition to conducting research, it should also be the responsibility of a university to frame curriculums for colleges and manage exams. Universities should provide full funding of expenses incurred by both faculty and research students, supported by government grants and private charity. Universities should also enjoy full autonomy in all matters related to education.

Summary

This short chapter has discussed the issue of education to illustrate a pathway to reform the system. The suggestions given here are neither complete nor final. Still, they do indicate a possible way forward, and we believe adoption of these ideas will lead to education fulfilling its central purpose for the society.

We would like to summarize the chapter as follows:

1. The philosophical foundation of life in Bharatiya culture is not materialism. It welcomes material prosperity, but only in synthesis with affirmation of existence of atma and paramatma, and applies the four Purusharthas – dharma, artha, kama and moksha – in defining “progress”. Therefore, education will remain incomplete without inclusion of the adhyatma vidya. Hence, spiritual studies or adhyatmavad and teachers of adhyatma vidya should be integrated into education to make it complete and wholesome. 

The study of adhyatma would be rendered at every stage of education in a student’s life. We call this “Freedom of Education from Materialism”.

2. Education should be kept free of state control and political interference. The government should provide funding for education and can appoint auditors to ensure its proper utilization. However, the state will have no role in the formulation of the content for, or the management of, educational institutions. We call this “‘Freedom of Education from Politics”.

3. Education can never be ‘secular’. An education system incorporating study of manas and atma will naturally have a communal (sampradayik) color. This does not, however, mean that such education will be anti-national in nature or spread disharmony among various segments of the society.

Propagation of anti-national activities and spreading of hatred should be made punishable offences in law. The main problem is the belief held by our elected representatives that winning elections and gaining control of the state power are far more important than the welfare of the nation. In pursuit of votes, these politicians turn a blind eye to anti-national activities of many people, and thereby let them go unpunished.

All sampraday were started with the intention of human welfare, not for consolidation of political power. It is the responsibility of the law and order machinery to identify any attempts to use communal issues to consolidate political power and gain political advantage. Barring these, every community must have full freedom to propagate their communal beliefs, as it is not a crime to teach communal education to the public.

The success or failure, of any community in such educational endeavors will then depend only upon the strength and soundness of their principles and teachings.

4. Primary education should be compulsory for all in the 5-13 years age group – a mandatory schooling of eight years, with the last three years done separately for boys and girls. The main emphasis at this level should be on teaching language skills. The scheme of education should be such that in eight years, children become well-versed in regional languages / national language and can comfortably read books of science and other subjects on their own. Besides languages, basic mathematics, adhyatma vidya, introductory history and geography should also be taught at this level.

5. There should be no need to pass examinations for completing the primary school education. However, there should be entrance examinations for admission to secondary schools. Secondary education need not be mandatory for all, only for the eligible students. Such education should be for five years. In this period, the study of adhyatma vidya, science, one regional language, one arts subject, one subject related to handicrafts and two subjects from mathematics, history, geography, political science, philosophy and languages should be undertaken by students. 

6. College Education should be for three years. Adhyatma vidya and three other subjects should be taught – one subject as major and the others as electives. Sanskrit or foreign languages can also be made available as electives. Colleges for boys and girls should be separate.

7. University education should be only for the best students and research should be the primary focus of such education. Besides commonly popular subjects, philosophy and spirituality can also be made available as one of the specialized subjects for research at this level.

8. Industrial Education: After primary education, a student should be free to pursue practical industrial training at factories and businesses, with or without being part of the secondary education.

9. Any individual, organization or institution – religious or secular – should be eligible to open schools and colleges. Monetary support by the State should be based on the strength of pupils in the institution and the curriculum being taught. Rich donors should be motivated to contribute for this cause as also for the creation of endowments.

Our estimate of student size is: 8 crores in primary schools, 2.5 crores in secondary education, 60 lakhs in colleges and 1 lakh in universities. The total funds required from the governments – state and central – for all students will be around 2000 crores. A similar amount of funding can be raised from private donations and charity.

(Concluded.)

-Translated from Hindi to English by Hariprasad N


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