Education, to Gandhiji, was a means to achieve perfection of individuality on the one hand and an instrument of service to the nation on the other. Thus, individual and social both the aims of education were considered by him equally important. “By education mean an all-round drawing out of the best in child and man-body, and spirit”, he said.
This in other words meant development of whole child, the whole personality of the child. Harmonious development of all the aspects of human personality such as physical, intellectual and spiritual was emphasized by him as an individual aim of education.
Emphasizing the social aim of education he said that the individual has a responsibility to work for the welfare of the whole society. “Willing submission to social control and restrain for the sake of the well-being of the whole society” were considered by him important attitudes to be developed in the people through education.
Good of the individual and good of the society were interdependent. So education should be both for the child as well as for the state.
Education, to Gandhi, was something more than literacy. Though he did not belittle the importance of vocational aim of education, self-realization and knowledge of the Ultimate, God was considered the ultimate aims of education.
Emphasis on vocational aspect led him to say that education has to be self-supporting, a theory which culminated into his system of basic education.
Cultural refinement of human personality through education was also considered important by Gandhiji. But, it was Indian culture that was emphasized by him. Culture, according to him was in quality of the soul which was reflected in all aspects of human behavior. For achieving this kind of cultural refinement he emphasized the study of the Geeta and the sacred books of all other religions.
Gandhi attached much importance to character education and moral development of the child through education. This would mean to him development of such qualities in the individual as purity of personal life, self-restraint, and service of humanity, courage, strength of conviction, righteousness and sense of responsibility. The attitude of “Ahimsa”, non-violence was the supreme value to be developed in the people through education.
The ultimate aim of education according to Gandhiji is the Self-Realization. All other aims are important as they lead to self- realization. Self-realization, to him, means realizing that the ultimate reality, the Truth is the universal soul, some unknown supreme power and that the man is only a spark of that which fuses with that supreme ultimately.
Gandhiji considered elementary education the most important phase of the educational system. He, therefore, expressed his views only about the curriculum of primary stage curriculum. About this stage he said that intellectual development alone should not be emphasized.
The curriculum should be so designed that it caters to the development of all the aspects of child personality. Physical, social, moral and spiritual development, too, are important.
Hence, there should be provision in the curriculum for activities, experiences and subjects of knowledge that can help achieve these developments also.
He, then, suggested making the curriculum activity centre by introducing teaching of some craft like spinning, weaving, handicraft, book craft, art, agriculture, and pottery etc., whichever is close to the child’s life in his environment. Besides, he recommended that mother tongue should be the medium of instruction at this stage.
It was also suggested by him that mathematics, social studies, drawing and music should necessarily included in the curriculum. General science including biology, chemistry, physical science, hygiene, nature study, physical education and general knowledge of astronomy were also recommended to form the basis of the curriculum.
He also suggested that upto class boys and girls should be subjected to the same curriculum. But, after that girls should be taught home science instead of general science.
Method of Teaching
Gandhiji once wrote in Young India (1921) that “schools and colleges should become almost, if not wholly, self-supporting”. He, then emphasized that teaching should be done through arts and crafts, work and play, voluntary activity and self-chosen activity.
Gandhiji said that the method of teaching should be such as it provides to the child freedom, a chance to come into closer contact with the teacher, a chance to be an active investigator, observer and experimenter.
Craft-centre teaching and correlation method may be said to be the most important ingredients of the educational method Gandhiji suggested. Correlation method would mean relating the knowledge, of each subject being taught to the craft on the one hand and to the child’s life on the other.
Gandhi, emphatically, demanded that craft should be made the center of all education, centre of the school life. The idea, afterwards, found an expression to the Basic Education System which was introduced in all the states of the country.
Some writers have tried to put labels on Gandhiji as a naturalist, an idealist and a pragmatist. In fact we find elements of all these three philosophies in his views on education. But, basically, he was an idealist.
His emphasis was on character formation and spiritual development of the child. He himself lived a spiritual life and stood for higher values throughout his life. The good of the society, according to him, was contingent upon the goodness of each individual.
The perfect and spiritually developed individuals alone ‘ could constitute an ideal society. So he emphasized that education should lead the individual to self-realization, realization of God and should develop in him attitudes of self-control, social service, ahimsa, sacrifice righteousness, brotherhood.
These are all higher values like the idealistic he also emphasized that education should be used to cultivate these moral and spiritual values in the people.
There are elements of naturalism and pragmatism too found in his educational philosophy. He considered the child an important element in the process of education and emphasized, like the naturalists, that education should conform to the nature of the child. The child should be allowed freedom.
He should be taught in natural environment for “drawing out the best in the child”. Like the naturalists, he also said that education should aim at the development of all aspects of child’s personality.
Activity, play, experimentation and own experience as the strategies of education were emphasized by Gandhiji also like, the naturalists. He also considered books as the means of imparting knowledge to young child unimportant. Thus, several ideas of naturalism are found expressed in Gandhiji’s educational philosophy also. Yet, it cannot be said that he was a naturalist only.
Some elements of pragmatic philosophy may also be seen in Gandhiji’s educational philosophy. His emphasis on making education self-supporting and preparing individuals for vocation, craft-centered education, activity centre, teaching, learning through child’s own experience and experimentation, correlated teaching clearly brings him closer to the pragmatists.