What is the Meaning of Education in Indian and Western Context?

There have been variations in the very concept of education. Eastern and Western concepts have differed to some extent.

Indian Concept of Education:

Education being an important social activity, its meaning has been changing through the ages due to change in social and physical conditions. Different educationists have interpreted it differently.

education | Capacity Building for Sustainable DevelopmentAccording to Rig-Veda, “Education is that which makes a man self-reliant and selfless.” The Rig-Veda regarded creating confidence in the person as the only function of education whereas the function of education is unlimited.

The Upanishad explains, “Education is that whose end product is salvation.” The Upanishad regards attaining salvation as the function of education whereas education develops a person physically, intellectually, socially, economically and culturally.


According to Vivekananda, “Education is the manifestation of Divine Perfection ready existing in man”

According to Tagore, “Education makes man’s life in harmony with all existence.”

According to Kautilya, “Education means training for the country and love for the nation.”


According to Gandhiji, “By education I mean an all-round drawing out of the best in child and man, body, mind and spirit”

Western thinkers have given following definitions:

According to Aristotle, “Education is the creation of a sound mind in a sound body.” Aristotle has regarded the meaning of education complete by mentioning physical and spiritual development.

According to Frobel, “Education is unfoldment of what is already enfolded in the seed it is the process through which a child expresses his internal abilities.”


Frobel called education as a process through which internal abilities are expressed.

According to Pestalozzi, “Education is the natural, harmonious and progressive development of man’s innate powers”. Pestalozzi has talked about the development of innate powers whereas education also brings about personal, social, moral, cultural, economic, national and international development.

According to T.P. Nunn, “Education is the complete development of individuality so that man can make an original contribution to human life according to his best capacity.”

Nunn and James have also stressed individual and social development but their definitions are also vague.

According to James, “Education is the organization of acquired habits of such action as will fit the individual to his physical and social environment.”

According to Bossing, “The function of education is conceived to be the adjustment of man to his environment, to the end that the most enduring satisfaction may accrue to the individual and to the society.”

Bossing has emphasized individual and social aspects but did not make clear the meaning of education.

According to Dewey, “Education is the development of all those capacities in the individual which enable him to control his environment and fulfill his possibilities.”

According to Redden, “Education is the deliberate and systematic influence exerted by the mature person upon the immature through instruction, discipline and harmonious development of physical, intellectual, aesthetic, social and spiritual powers of human being.”

Redden has not considered the non-formal and economic aspects of education.

According to Ruskin, “Education does not mean teaching people what they do not know. It means teaching them to behave as they do not behave.”

Ruskin has mentioned the function of education only to make man a social animal. He has not bothered for other aspects.

After studying the interpretation given by various educationists, we can classify the meaning of education into two categories- Narrower and Broader.

In the narrow sense, education is regarded as equivalent to instruction, imparted in school or college. Education is believed to begin with the entrance of a child to the school and end with his departure from the university.

Education includes those specific influences which are brought to bear upon the child with a definite purpose in a pre-planned, suitable, and methodical manner, by parents, teachers and other members of the community, for the preservation of the cultural heritage.

According to this view education is limited to classroom teaching and readymade materials. Education is given in a formal way, under set and controlled conditions and environment. It is pre-planned and is given by teachers in the classroom.

According to J.S. Mill, Education in its narrower sense means, “The culture which each generation purposely gives to its successor in order to qualify, to keep up and to improve the level attained.

Thus education becomes a purposeful activity which is planned deliberately for the purpose of the child’s individual and social development. This activity is organized through the school as the chief agency of education.

According to Dnmvile, “Education includes all the influences which act upon an individual during his passage from the cradle to the grave.”

According to Lodge, “In the wider sense, all experiences are said to be educative Even the bite of mosquito and the taste of water melon experiences have a directly educative effect on us the child educates his parents, the pupils educate their teacher. Everything that we say, think or do educates us.

In this wider sense life is education and education is life. Whatever broadens our horizon, deepens our insight, refines our reactions and stimulates our thoughts and feelings educates us. Life is a long process of education and education is synonymous with the act of living.

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