“There is no country where the love of learning had so early an origin or has exercised so lasting and powerful an influence as in India.”

There are a hundred definitions of education but the one which comes closest to its core is that education is what remains with you after you have forgotten all what you learnt at school, college or university.

Indians have always had a great reverence and devotion for learning and education.  They have always enjoyed the reputation of being known as learned people during the medieval period in our history. Learning and education has always been deep-rooted in our nation. India was among the earliest centers of learning called the Taxila and Nalanda, and the only comparable university in the ancient world during that period was Alexandria in Egypt. Mainly the credit for having such love for education goes to the rich tradition of our Indian mythological Folklore which has instigated among the masses to be more learned and educated.1

A Sri Lankan scholar and researcher wrote about India  in his book that – ‘Indian pedagogy and tradition, while strong in Reasoning, Logic, and Analysis, also had strong roots in Listening, Memorizing, Questioning, Creative Thinking, Contemplation and Intuition. From the very beginning Indians had a strong base on education at various levels of society and this gave birth to the great scholars who contributed for our national development.’2

Vedic education was regarded as the most important tool for self-realization during Aryan Civilization. It was more or less compulsory education system for every boy- the Brahmans, the Kshatriyas and the Vaishyas. (Girls were never allowed to be a part of this system). It began at the age of 8th and lasted till the age of 24th after that when the student got married and entered Grihasta (Family Life). The student in these 16 years spent a long period of apprenticeship, living a life of simplicity and hard work, learn to pray, to offer sacrifices, and perform his/her social and religious duties under the guidance of Guru’s.

After a great revolt and cultural set-backs, came rigid and restricted caste system which germinated new roots in the field of education. Buddhism was evolved which instituted new teaching methods for learning. All the learning were centered round the monasteries, education which was sacred as well as secular, and was in the hands of monks which was neither taught as a Vedic study nor priestly classes. Some of the monasteries acquired an international reputation during that period, especially those at Nalanda and Taxila.

A Chinese traveler, Hieun Tsang, who came to India during Seventh Century A.D penned about Nalanda University:

The priests to the number of several thousands are men of the highest ability and talent. Their distinction is very great at the present time, and there are many hundreds whose fame has rapidly spread though distant regions. From morning till night, they engage in discussion. The old and the young mutually help one another.’

But, as the modern 21st century is completely propelled by knowledge acquired by all means, education to all has become the focus of attention all over the world.

The question, therefore, arises as to where have the things gone wrong? How the creators of history have become its creatures. Education and learning methods has literally come to mean just a paper degree, the pedagogical significance has been reduced to simply transfer of notes, from the professors book to students book, through the pen, without entering into the mind of either.The true meaning of education is somewhere lost in the midst of creating quantity and converting knowledge into pennies, the true meaning of student-teacher relationship has turned into rote learning and now there are no rooms left where the purpose and process of learning can be defined.

Swami Vivekanand

The purpose and meaning of education is to exact the full potential within each human being ‘Manifestation of the perfection already in man/woman. Education is not filling the mind with facts. He said, “Education is not the amount of information that is out into your brain and runs riot there, undigested all your life. We must have life-building, man-making, character-making, assimilation of ideas. If you have assimilated five ideas and make them your life and character, you have more education than any man who has got by heart a whole library.”

M.G. Gandhi

Gandhiji also said that the purpose of education is to establish a non violent, non-exploitative social and economic order, a society where everybody is equal and nobody more equal, where women can live with honor and dignity.

Jean Piaget

The principle goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women, who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done, men and women who are creative, inventive and discoverers, who can be critical and verify and not accept , everything they are offered.

Nelson Mandela

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

Kofi Annan

Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development.

BanKi Moon

Education has shaped my life and the history of my country. I grew up in a society ravaged by war and mired in poverty. Schools had been destroyed. My classes were held in the open under a tree. We had no desks, chairs or other basic necessities. The Republic of Korea was on its knees, but education enabled the country to stand tall again. The United Nations and other international partners provided books and school supplies to help pave road to recovery. I will never forget the hope that these basic tools gave us. Even in the worst circumstances, education helps to give children confidence to face the future. As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I want every child, without exception, to have the same sense of opportunity that I had. The power of education to transform lives is universal. When you ask parents what they want for their children — even in war zones and disaster areas — they seek the same thing first: education. Parents want their children in school.

Manmohan Singh

I was born to a family which had little means to provide for children’s needs. In my childhood, I had to walk a long distance to reach the school where I read and had to read under the dim light of a kerosene lamp. He stressed the fact that it was only education which accounted for all his achievement. His desire is that he wants every child, irrespective of the gender, to be touched by the light of education. With education alone, every Indian can dream of a better future and realize his/her dream.

 A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

It is more about motivation, than money. Its not only about 100% education,it is about the right kind of education. If we release the locked potential in every child, there is nothing that India cannot achieve.

 “Creativity leads to thinking, Thinking provides knowledge knowledge makes you great”

1.Extracts from “Pivotal Issues In Indian Education By S. K. Kochhar” 2. Susantha Goonatilaka,’Towards a Global Science: Mining Civilizational Knowledge (1999)’

Through her work, Arunima has discovered the stark reality of the state of education system in government schools in rural areas. Her field work, survey, research and study about the education system has made her more inclined and motivated to work towards this cause.

Previously, Arunima designed and drafted a 'Training of Trainers' (ToT) Manual for a rural School Management Committee, in which she compiled different learning materials for the role of community and trainer's in ensuring access to quality education. Her future plans are to study further and research on the primary education system in India, so that she can contribute to provide a platform for those millions of children who are not going to school. Her interest is towards creativity, designing activities, reading, research and documentation.

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  1. really interesting, arunima. i’ve been having so many conversations here about the system of education and this is one of the things that inevitably comes up: how a country that has given so much to the rest of the world in terms of knowledge, skills, and creativity, can be emphasizing so heavily a plan to stuff brains with facts and stifle the individual contribution. this approach seems so incredibly contradictory.

    so many ancient civilizations seem like such hotbeds of intellectual domination and stimulation compared to what they are now. i feel pretty jealous of that atmosphere…until i remember they also died at 16 of typhoid. one foot forward and the other foot back i suppose

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