buddha

What is the Importance of Education in India?

 

Education is closely tied to religion in India.  The significance of and value placed on education are a product of millennia of religious teachings, common experiences, and historical events.  Dharmic religion is the source of the oldest educational institutions and practices.

Nalanda, a famous ancient university rivaled only by Egypt, was a sprawling Buddhist monastery that attracted scholars from all over the world.


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There was also the Gurukula system, which was a Hindu educational system consisting of a guru (an expert scholar), a Gurukula (an instructor),  and students.  Hinduism considers a teacher to be a god in human form.  It is his job to remove the blinding darkness of ignorance.  Under the Gurukula system, students were expected to memorize, and be able to thoroughly explain, every piece of knowledge taught by their guru.

 

gurukula image

An Image of ancient Gurukula in India

Dharmic beliefs and practices are woven into the fabric of Indian society and remain despite foreign influence.  It is this quality and tradition that has allowed India to continue to value education when outside influences, like European culture, do not.  It is a defining characteristic that sustains India and gives it distinction.  It has caused India to be one of the fastest growing nations in the world.

Though Dharmic beliefs have had a lasting impact on views of education, they have also caused traditional education systems, in their pure form, to fall out of favor.  Traditional education systems discriminated against certain classes.  This caused more willingness in India to adopt foreign methods from Europe and west Asia that appeared more democratic, however, it was quickly discovered that these new systems were far from a panacea.

Prominent Indians like Swami Vivekanand were instrumental in education reforms and nationalism designed to focus and assert goals which truly served India’s interests.  This opposition boiled over after Indians realized that foreign education methodologies and systems were designed merely to train a servant petit bourgeoisie for the English.

This era of reform was significant because it was a real return to tradition, and also created a wonderful hybrid educational system that combined the best elements of traditional and foreign systems.  After this era, India began to really examine the details of curriculum and to also examine the issue of accessibility.  These reforms mirrored reforms of virtually every other nation.  Today, the focus is in the areas of preparing students to be globally competitive and to grow the nation in key markets.

 

Sachin Bansal, flipkart founder

Results of Modern Indian Education.  Sachin Bansal, Flipkart.

Despite the quality, improvements, and focus on detail in the Indian educational system, it still receives harsh criticisms.  There is a storm of class warfare and bitterness about reality that is causing brutal attacks against Indian education.  The governing bodies of India value education as much as Indian society does; thus, great efforts have been made to both improve accessibility and improve quality.

This has been met with resistance on the issue of affirmative action.  There is also anger within a certain demographic.  This demographic is the segment of India which pursues a college education with the belief that a white-collar slot with good pay is waiting for them after completion.  The reality that there are many people competing for the relative few slots is very difficult for them to manage.

These conflicts are evidence of a problem within education that only a few are addressing, and that is that education is now much too slanted towards the west.  It is the western mentality to have a limited view of education.  It is also western to offer education to students that do not prepare them to properly analyze the world around them; for example, these angry unemployed graduates could be doing something to not only create their own jobs but to improve the nation in some way.

The western philosophy of education divorces education from life, the nation, and society.  Education is merely something to serve the interests of corporations or a ruling class.  It is this mentality that births these angry groups.  This is also why some groups are extremely opposed to government initiatives like reservations.  Rather than arguing that there should be more institutions or more quality institutions, they argue about seats.

It is important to the nation that every citizen is well-educated regardless of who they are or what their socioeconomic status happens to be.  Though meritocracy is certainly important, there is no room for debate on the matter of improving the nation and its quality of life; it would be like debating who should have clean water or food.

 

Azim Premji, India's biggest philanthropist

Azim Premji, India’s biggest philanthropist

As Kartikeya Sharma NewsX points out that, It is a symptom of westernized education when people cannot see the “bigger picture.”  They have either ruined their mind with limited or poorly designed education, or they have been indoctrinated with the idea of serving corporations rather than their families and nation.

When an individual receives an education that is not whole and complete, their brain is similar to an unused muscle.  If a muscle is not properly exercised, it is weak and the body is unhealthy.  When an individual associates with groups of people who are of that condition, their brain is affected in the same way an individual’s muscles are affected by associating with people who are not physically active.

When an individual receives a steady diet of information designed to limit their thinking, their brain is like a muscle that has been trained over many years to perform in a small, specific way.  Decades ago, there was lobbying for education that mirrored tradition and served the interests of India.  It appears that it is once again time to fight for this quality in education.

 

Swami Vivekanand

Swami Vivekanand

Though there are conflicts within education around policy and philosophy, there is still appropriate value placed on education.  Indians will do amazing things within and for education that people in other societies and nations will not.  Examinations within India are not for the faint of heart.

In western systems, people can receive credentials for demonstrating that they generally understand the material.  This is often accomplished through tasks that have little to do with the subject, or that do not truly demonstrate acquisition of knowledge.

 

students taking examination

students taking the examination

Indians endure rigorous testing in which the student must prove that they have not only memorized key information, but also obscure minutiae.  India also has longer and more school days than most nations.  Indians are also more inclined than almost every other culture or group of people to pursue medicine.

Other groups are terrified by the rigors of medical training.  Indians will also leave their home, all of their extended family members, and everything they love and know if they feel it is necessary in order to receive a quality or better education.  They will go to any corner of the world and endure any hardship if they feel it will give them and/or their children the education they need.

Education will transform globally in the next few decades.  There will come a time in the near future when education is almost completely private.  Education is quickly becoming a new service.  The penetration of technology and its plummeting prices will ensure that the student of tomorrow has more viable options than they can consider.  The importance of education in India will ensure that these new strategies are employed in a way that truly serves India.

 


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