The state of higher education in Bharat has been crying for reforms right from Independence. There have been several attempts to implement drastic changes in the higher educational machinery. As a result, many diverse institutions have cropped up. The major bulk of college education is still under the State universities, which lack funding, faculty and infrastructure. On the other hand in the last decade, plenty of private colleges and universities have come up all over the country. Some of those have created state-of-the-art infrastructure, but the cost of education has risen exponentially and such facilities are totally out of reach of the middle class students. Even in such costly institutions, there is a dearth of qualified academicians to fill up the faculty.
Apart from these systemic constraints, the most important lacuna of Bharat's higher education setup is total neglect of value based education. When the ghastly cases like brutal assault on Nirbhaya shook the whole nation, the talk for the need for value education in all levels of education gained momentum. Many conferences and seminars have begun coming up and many universities have come forward with value education curricula, while others are attempting co-curricular and extracurricular activities. These are all very important and must be encouraged but the main reform needs to be in the total structuring of education. When the overall structure is oriented largely towards individual achievements, rather than the community, it would be very difficult if not impossible to implant value education measures.
Values are essentially one's response to others individually or collectively. Community living is the best method of inculcation of values. Individuals must be attuned to a way of living that promotes a sense of the collective good. Living for others demands a degree of self-sacrifice, mutual consideration and an inclination towards general discipline.
The challenge is to formally make the time-tested values part of the educational system. For this, there needs to be an overhaul of the higher education structure. One has to start from redefining the aims of education. If one's life duties are towards the larger entities such as family, society, nation, humanity, nature, etc, then the aim of all education would be to prepare the next generation to fulfill these duties productively and efficiently. This is the paradigm shift that is most needed as a prerequisite to any other reform. Here the aim of education is defined collectively and not individually. All kinds of personality development or individual efficiency enhancements must thus be oriented towards a larger common goal. This collective consciousness would then have to manifest itself in the course structures, campus culture, and teaching methodology.
The university education should be oriented towards learning rather than being teaching centric because self-motivation is the most important attitudinal requirement for value inculcation. The onus of learning must be shifted on the students collectively from the present system of a teacher centric educational process. Classrooms, tutorials, libraries, and laboratories must become student oriented. The learning process must be a collective project of students, guided by motivated teachers. Teachers, though important, are incidental, whereas students are the essential component in the educational structure. In this value-centered paradigm, senior students would act as mentors for the newcomers. Mentoring would also be the most important aspect of the educational experiences of the senior students. This open framework allows a large number of students to have a more fruitful and productive educational experience with the able assistance of few faculty members. Presently the universities restrict the number of seats in all the courses thus creating a false demand that results in many types of malpractices and corruptions. Open structure of student centric collective learning can cater to any number of students with existing infrastructure and knowledge resources.
The most important value which needs to be emphasised in the present scenario is that of co-existence. The cut throat competition of the professional world begins at the campus level thus smothering the spirit of cooperation at the outset. A structure encouraging group studies and collective evaluation would promote cooperation rather than competition. In all modern professional activities, teamwork has become more important than individual excellence. Many companies in recent times have shown a trend to recruit second tier students rather than the toppers. A study by one of the business schools elaborated on the reasons behind this trend. The toppers are found to be intensely individualistic and fiercely competitive. These characteristics are major impediments in team work. A team in modern management parlance is defined as a group of individuals working to fulfill a common task. The Bharatiya concept of family is more profound because it is based on oneness instead of commonness. In a family everybody feels one with each other. Pains and pleasures are felt as of one's own. Success of one's family member gives joy to all others as if he/she has succeeded. Education which cultivates this quality of realising oneness will create a more harmonious society and will also help in professional functioning based on teamwork.
Apart from oneness of existence, the other most important reality of life is the uniqueness of the individual. Each individual is born with irreplaceable set of attributes which make him/her a unique person. Education must help in the blossoming of this unique seed of personality. An open structure which promotes collective growth should have enough flexibility to give space to this unraveling of uniqueness. Multiple choices of subjects, smooth vertical or horizontal credit transfers, multiple entry and exit options will ensure these opportunities for individual unfolding.
Everything that exists has a purpose. Even the manmade objects have a purpose of existence. The chair that has been made by man, has a purpose behind its existence. It provides comfort to others by facilitating them to sit on it. It does not enhance its own comfort. Similarly, the purpose behind the existence of the car is to transport others to their destination. It does not exist for transporting itself. Hence we can conclude that each and every particle of the universe has its mission of serving others and therefore man also does not exist only for himself but for serving others. These basic concepts should become part and parcel of the educational process and should get enshrined on the psyche of all the students. We should not merely stuff the value of community into the educational curricula and impose it on the students in a mechanical and monotonous way. Doing so would be counterproductive and the very purpose of holistic education would be defeated. The techniques of evaluation should be designed in such a way that one who contributes will get more credits than one who acquires. This will create a character which values 'giving' rather than 'taking'.
Value education is not an appendage to be added to the existing labyrinthine of educational philosophies but it is an organic process of inculcating character-building habits. It is not possible to achieve value education by mechanical maneuvering. It needs nurturing facilitated by love and care. The process of value education is very similar to that of gardening, each and every sapling planted is carefully tended, protected from expected hazards, nourished by manure, water and provided a propitious environment till it finally evolves into a sturdy tree not only capable of independent existence but also contributing to the society in the form of fruits, wood, and other valuable products. There are several parallels between the conscientious manner in which the mother judiciously blends admonition and affection to mould her child's character and the skilful manner by which the value education should get transmitted from the teacher to the students. -Mukul Kanitkar
Reviving lost Vedic tradition
Maitreyi Gurukulam, Dakshina Kannada District, Karnataka
Established by Ajeya Trust, a unit of Hindu Seva Pratishthana, in 1994 at Moorukaje Village, four km off Vittla under Bantwal Taluk of Dakshina Kannada District, Maitreyi Gurukulam is an effort to revive the tradition of Vedic education for women that was lost in the passage of time. Gurus sit on the platforms and shishyas sit on the floor, right beneath the huge ‘cool’ green trees. No blackboards, chalk pieces and dusters; the oral tradition being practised flawlessly. Most of the girls come from rural areas. The admission is open to all girls above 10 years of age without any consideration for caste and class with only 20 students per batch. The first phase consists of six-year course and the admission to the higher course is given on the successful completion of the first phase.
The medium of instruction is Kannada with working knowledge of Sanskrit conversation. Additional orientation in the use of English and Hindi is also there. Vedas, Yoga, agriculture, native medicines and modern science form the core subjects of the multidimensional curriculum. Like Prabodhini Gurukul at Hariharpura, which is for boys only, the students are coached in ‘Panchamukhi’ education i.e. Veda, Yoga, Kala Koushala, Vijnana and Krishi. What started as a small initiative today has students from all districts of the State and some students from Madhya Pradesh. Today there are 95 students and 172 have passed out.