National Education Policy (NEP) underlines the need for holistic education to lead the country into the 21st century and as per NEP holistic education has to be imparted in all educational programmes ranging from traditional disciplines of humanities, social science, science to various professional, technical, and vocational disciplines.
The Indian vision of education has always relied on imparting education to the individuals that lead to the holistic development of the personality, meaning the integrated development of body, mind, intellect and soul. Only by educating the whole individual and addressing his physical, emotional, ethical, moral, cultural, social, and academic needs can a compassionate, knowledgeable personality be developed.
Our teaching-learning system from pre-primary school to higher education level must focus on imparting education in an integrated learning format that creates individuals who have intrinsic reverence for life, who are physically, mentally and morally sound, possessing exemplary knowledge and skills in the chosen disciplines, but serving as the treasure of humanitarian values such as compassion and peace, realising the purpose of life and purposeful connections between the local community and natural world and imbibing high ideals and values of our age-old great Indian culture and tradition.
With rich culture and traditions, India represents the oldest civilisation of the world, built overages by great Rishis and Acharyas possessing the knowledge and skills in various disciplines with the highest level of perfection. Our conventional Gurukul system of ancient India, based on Guru Sishya Parampara, was a sacred model of holistic education. Students were mentored by their Gurus to develop their personalities, following principles of rigid discipline and hard work.
Besides, practice-based experiential learning involving a judicious combination of subjects such as Vedas, physical education, culture, philosophy, religion, yoga, economics, political science, archery, hunting, defence studies, astronomy, medicine, law, life skills, etc., Gurukul system aimed to create materially, morally, culturally and spiritually sound personality of the youth, besides being empowered with knowledge and skills in the chosen disciplines.
Ancient India was an advanced knowledge society. India was Vishwa Guru due to its strong fabric of the glorious educational system built on the Indian vision aimed at the learner's holistic development. The world-famous great higher educational institutions of ancient India, Takshashila, Nalanda, Valabhi, Vikramshila, Odantapuri, provided holistic and multidisciplinary education to the students from across the globe with the spirit of philanthropy and humanity in its nucleus. Acharya Chanakya was a teacher in Takshashila, where he composed the famous treatise, Arthashastra. The great Emperor Chandragupta and the famous physician Charaka studied in Takshashila.
National Education Policy (NEP) -2020, rolled out by the Government of India on July 29, 2020, has one of its major thrust areas to provide holistic education to every learner. It underlines the need for holistic education to lead the country into the 21st century. The policy advocates for a major curriculum revamping to incorporate holistic learning at all levels, right from school to higher education. The policy emphasises achieving holistic development of the student by promoting ethics and human values, creativity and critical thinking, life skills such as cooperativity, teamwork, social skills, behaviour in society, communication, courtesy, responsibility, respect for diversity, integration with nature. The students would be educated about glorious Indian knowledge systems, traditions, culture, and values to derive pride in India's rich culture and traditions. With strong Indian values instilled in them, the produced students will pride themselves in being Indian in thoughts and actions.
The policy aims to produce holistically developed knowledge and skill empowered global citizens deeply rooted in Indian culture.
When India came under British rule, the Indian traditional and ancient education system was shattered due to the British Education Act introduced in 1835 based on a 'Memorandum on Indian Education' presented by Thomas Babington Macaulay. With this act, the glorious Indian Gurukul system of education, which was a highly decentralised system, is famous for holistic learning and learning of native culture in Sanskrit and vernacular languages as per Indian vision, where holistically developed highly competent students were produced, was systematically wiped out. A Western curriculum with Western narratives for Indian history, culture, science and technology was introduced with English as the language of instruction. To win over and control India, Britishers were successful in destroying the best education system, which was the pride of India.
During the period of Indian freedom struggle against Britishers and after that, great national patriots, philosophers, social reformers and educationists of India unequivocally stressed the need for education which produces holistically developed youth, who are physically, mentally, emotionally sound, sensitive and compassionate with upright character, engrossed in Indian values besides excelling in different disciplines of knowledge. Rabindranath Tagore, a great educationist and a Literature-Nobel-laureate who founded Vishwa Bharati University, believed that the aim of education is self-realisation and that students should be provided with a holistic education, deeply rooted in one's culture, surroundings and also connected to the wider world.
Tagore believed that education should generate in students respect and intimacy with nature, artistic abilities and creativity.
Shri Aurobindo, a philosopher, Vedic scholar and educationist, propounded the concept of Integral Education, which could lead to the integrated development of body, mind and spirit. Shri Aurobindo also emphasised the need for spiritual education to connect between spirit and matter and realise the rationale of both material and spiritual life. According to him, a student should grow spiritually because spiritual education endows the student the capacity to face life with greater faith and an integral outlook. In this way, holistic development in the views of Shri Aurobindo included spiritual development as an important component besides the development of body, mind and intellect.
The great Indian philosopher and saint Swami Vivekananda, who contributed immensely to spreading the essence of Indian culture across the globe, believed Vedas and Upanishads as great sources of energy, wisdom and strength. He believed that 'the ideal of all education should be man making' and that 'education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man.' He emphasised that 'we want that education by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased, the intellect is expanded, and by which one can stand on one's own feet.' Thus according to him, education should produce an integrated developed person, an all-around developed complete human being with upright character.
According to Swami Vivekananda, all those studies necessary for integrated development of mind, body and soul, including spirituality and the country's cultural values, should be included in the curriculum. According to him spiritual development of the students is essential because Indian culture is deeply rooted in spiritual values and these time-tested values need to be imbibed in the students. He also stressed that religion should form the foundation of education because religion is the power by which character is built.
Bharat Ratna Mahamana Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya Ji who was a great patriot of Mother India, an outstanding statesman and freedom fighter, a great champion of Indian nationalism, who founded the great Temple of Learning, the Banaras Hindu University and established a new chapter in the history of education in the global arena, emphasised that holistic development should be the core value of the educational philosophy and that character building in students is more important than intellectual development.
He strongly urged students to be patriotic as the spirit of patriotism motivates them to do a high level of selfless service. His philosophy of holistic development of students included the development of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual powers. According to him, a student should possess the virtues to speak the truth, follow brahmacharya principles, do exercise, possess thrust for learning, patriotism, the attitude of self-sacrifice, compassion, love for all, devotion to the motherland and its culture, ethical and spiritual values rooted in Indian culture, etc. Malaviya Ji emphasised that ethics and religion should be an integral part of education for character building in the students.
Emphasising the dire need for implementation of holistic education in all higher educational institutions of the country conforming to the mandate of NEP- 2020, Union Education and Skill Development Minister Shri Dharmendra Pradhan, in his address to all Vice Chancellors of Central Universities on September 3, 2021, stressed the need to have education holistic and vibrant to establish India as a knowledge superpower through NEP. The Chairman of University Grants Commission, New Delhi, Prof. Dhirendra Pal Singh, in his letter dt. July 9 2021, addressed to all the Vice-Chancellors of the universities of India, requested to implement holistic education teaching in all universities and colleges. He also stressed that as per NEP-2020, the aim of holistic education is the development of all capacities of human beings- intellectual, aesthetic, social, physical, emotional and moral, which is essential for producing well-rounded individuals across all disciplines of knowledge to meet the challenges of 21 st century. This stresses the necessity of holistic education, which is to be provided by all country's educational institutions to every student across the disciplines ranging from humanities, social sciences, sciences to various professional, technical, and vocational disciplines.
To march ahead on the implementation road map of NEP – 2020, many universities and higher educational institutions of the country have either devised a course curriculum for holistic education or are devising it with different modules, depending on the infrastructure the capacity of the faculties. In one convenient module, all students can take such courses irrespective of their core disciplines, as short credit (maybe 2 credit) compulsory courses in all semesters, either non-CGPA or CGPA courses. Due to the compulsory
nature of the courses, all students taking graduation or PG degrees will clear these courses in their examinations. The curriculum would necessarily include the components of Indian Knowledge Systems and Traditions, Glory of Indian Culture, Indian Traditional Values, Ethics and Human Values including Citizenship Values, Life Skills, Holistic Health, Organic living, Environmental Education, Personality Development, Communication Skills, Yogic Practices, etc.
As per the mandate of NEP-2020 holistic education has to be imparted in all educational programmes ranging from traditional disciplines of humanities, social science, science to various professional, technical, and vocational disciplines. The Policy specifically emphasises that under the purview of holistic education, environmental education will include the components of climate change, pollution, biological diversity and wildlife conservation, sustainable development, etc., whereas value education will include universal human values, Constitutional and ethical values, truth, righteous conduct, love, peace, non-violence, citizenship and social values, etc. and life skills would include the concept of service (Seva) and community service. With the inclusion of these components as compulsory courses, the students, besides getting specialised in their chosen core disciplines, will receive education for all-round development of their personality within the framework of an Indian vision where materialism will be linked with morality, so that with the development of the body of the student, the mind and soul will also develop towards purity.
It is essential that aligning with NEP-2020 and conforming to the Indian vision of education as cherished by great educationists and philosophers of our country like Swami Vivekananda, Tagore, Aurobindo and Malaviya Ji, and our students are holistically educated with the compulsory inclusion of holistic development courses in the curriculum, so that cultural ethos and spiritual wisdom of India are instilled in the youth and they possess the qualities of a good human being like high-quality thoughts, non-violence, truth, patience, tolerance, compassion, love for the nature, love for all including self-reverence, the quest for knowledge, patriotism and devotion to
Mother India and its glorious culture and ideals. Such holistically all-around developed students will be physically, mentally, socially, morally, emotionally and aesthetically sound complete human beings engrossed in Indian values and traditions who will serve as founding pillars for an Atmanirbhar Bharat and fully prepared to take up the national and global challenges of 21st century.
(The writer is the Vice-Chancellor of Central University of Gujarat)