Title: ABC’s of Indian National Education. Author: Dr. Beloo Mehra. Price: Rs. 495 (Hardcover). Number of pages: 155. Publisher: Standard Publishers (India), New Delhi. ISBN: 978-81-87471-94-3.
During the British rule in India, the education policy of the land was formulated with the view of building a “nation of clerks” to suit the requirements of the British Government. Such was the impact of this system of education that it lasted for more than four decades after India gained her independence on 15 August 1947. One can argue about the effectiveness of this system but it is interesting to observe that the former rulers of the land knew quite well how flawed it was. The greatest flaw of this system was that it lacked an integrally Indian approach. Yet, this flawed system was overlooked by the very Indian ministers who came to power post-independence. Some time in 1984, the Government of India formulated a new national policy of education which has been revised and modified more than thrice in the following years.
However, one cannot ignore the fact that there has certainly been a radical progress in the education sector in the past two decades. But unfortunately, the educational institutions of India aim primarily at producing brilliant students instead of living souls. All the students are compelled to participate in the rat-race, study for the sake of obtaining degrees in order to get high-salaried jobs and that’s all. The so-called process of learning includes only memorizing the contents of the textbooks and reproducing them almost verbatim on the answer-sheets. As a result, the students comfortably forget most of what they have learnt soon after the examinations are over. One can also not fail to notice how a student is pressurized by his parents, teachers and private tutors to excel. When he fails to live up to their expectations, he is rebuked so harshly that he tends to lose all confidence within him. How can one possibly ignore the ever-increasing number of suicides by young promising lads due to the aforementioned pressure?
Whom should we then blame? The parents? No. The teachers? No.
It is the education system which needs to be blamed. Acquisition of knowledge and information should be a part of the education system while its heart should be the development of the potentialities of the student, thus, helping him to analyze and synthesize the knowledge he is acquiring.
But how can it be done? Are there any clear-cut practical methods?
Fortunately Dr. Beloo Mehra has gifted her readers an extraordinary book titled ABC’s of Indian National Education where she has discussed distinctly how true knowledge can be successfully rendered to the students. There are twenty-six chapters in this book—each deals with a theme which begins with a letter of the English alphabet. For instance, “A”—“Aim of Education”, “B”—“Beauty—A Beautiful Education”, “D”—“Diversity”, “H”—“History and Heritage”, “J”—“Joy of Discovery”, “K”—“Knowing Oneself” and so on.
Though the author has referred to the works of Rabindranath Tagore, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Shashi Tharoor, Pavan K. Varma, Makarand Paranjpe and others, the inspiration behind ABC’s of Indian National Education is certainly the works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. The author has delved into the ocean of their writings and presented before the reader a number of invaluable pearls of wisdom related to the theme of education.
The academic scenario of the country would have been quite different had Sri Aurobindo’s concept of education was put to practice. The path to progress has been showed by Sri Aurobindo and his spiritual collaborator, the Mother, but the author has shown—in ABC’s of Indian National Education—how to tread on it successfully. It would be an error to assume that this book is only for the members of the academic world. Nay, on the contrary, it is for the general reader as well. One cannot help but appreciate the author’s lucid style of writing and her thought-provoking insights and observations on how the academic model should be. She has hinted how we can have a modern outlook on education as well as a modern method of educating without ignoring the rich cultural heritage of the land. The author has also successfully explained how the system of education in India could be appropriately Indianized.
For the benefit of the reader, certain excerpts from the book are quoted beneath:
• ‘Education… becomes the means to help prepare learners for a deeper transformation and inner evolution, which requires that all parts of their being—mental, emotional and physical—are properly prepared and developed to their fullest potential in order to manifest a harmonious and integral personality. In this light, education begins with the birth of the individual and continues throughout the life. At the same time education can never ignore its collective or social purpose which is closely inter-related to the individual existence. But the collective purpose is not only limited to the immediate society or nation, it extends to the whole humanity. This has great implications for curriculum planning, pedagogy and actual day-to-day teaching practice in classroom.’ (p. 23)
• ‘If teachers truly become mentors and guides for their students, surely they can’t be “experts”—they have to be humble learners alongside their students’ learning journeys. Experts speak from a position of their expertise; mentors offer suggestions for students to explore and come to their own decision. Experts know the right formula, mentors are willing to say that they don’t have the answer but they are willing to explore with the student. If nothing can be taught, it only means that all can be learned. So teachers and students can learn together as they work together—they just may have different roles but they are both seekers in their own unique ways.’ (p. 43)
• ‘Hiring policies for teachers must also be rethought in the light of greater individualization that must be necessary to allow learners with varied temperaments and natures to feel their way through their self-discovery processes. For younger learners, parents may be given more opportunities to become part of their children’s learning processes in classrooms because they are the ones who are most closely familiar with their children’s temperament and nature. Pedagogical innovations must be encouraged to allow greater individualized learning, even in classrooms with a large group of students. Greater flexibility in assessment of student learning must be allowed. Schools must gradually figure out the much needed balance between imposing an outer discipline and facilitating learners to gradually find their sense of inner guidance and self-discipline. While allowing the learners to grow in a multifaceted way by giving them opportunities to develop all their parts—physical, intellectual, emotional, aesthetic, ethical—education must never forget that ultimately all these parts are instruments of that inner being which gradually grows through them, and it is that which alone can be the source of the true inner guide which learners and adults need to walk through their lives. Even an intellectual acceptance of this idea can help guide those in the decision-making roles in educational institutions and other apex bodies in their work. The tendency to erect a system of strictest possible rules and regulations may gradually wither away and in its place we may find a more humane and individual-centred flexible system of broad guidelines and directions.’ (p. 49)
• ‘It is of utmost necessity that teachers must first unlearn what they presently know or think they know about the function of a teacher. And they should then re-learn the true role that a teacher must play in the child’s life—that of a gentle facilitator who tries to create an ideal atmosphere where the children can discover the knowledge that lies hidden within them through proper impetus and gradual unfolding and development of various faculties.’ (p. 113)
The author does not merely deal with the theoretical aspect of national education in this book but shows how it can be successfully implemented. If read with an open mind without any possible prejudices, this book is bound to bring about a change in one’s way of thinking. The author deserves to be congratulated for leading us to that Light of Knowledge and Wisdom which is capable of illuminating our lives. For, after all, education is the only light which can disperse the darkness of ignorance for ever.
There are books which we read and keep in the book-shelf. And there are books which become a part of our daily life. Dr. Beloo Mehra’s ABC’s of Indian National Education belongs to this second category.
With warm regards,