The committee appointed to prepare the draft of the proposed National Policy on Education has been granted an extension up to March-end. Formulating national education policy in a federal system is a tough and complex task. Once finalised, it could become the guiding light for the growth and development of the nation. It would have the responsibility to bring the best out of body, mind, spirit and intellect of the young of today. It has to prepare a generation equipped to make a mark internationally.
Education systems would become effective, egalitarian and inclusive only when these encompass traditional respect for moral, ethical and humanistic values, dynamically contextualised to support the national needs, international obligations and opportunities. At this juncture, the quality of the element of dynamism requires fresh analysis of the Indian tradition, contemporary thinking, international scenario, emerging expectations, resource mobilisation, and other issues.
It must assimilate the social change resulting out of global socio-economic and cultural transformation, and also acknowledge its responsibility to prepare India to lead the efforts to move towards ‘education for peace and human values’. The ancient Indian tradition of knowledge quest and comprehension of spirituality has established its eternal utility and remains relevant. Independent India had the advantage of ideas and innovations gained during 19th and 20th centuries that could augur the much-needed process of change in an education system that were transplanted in from an alien land. Obviously it has its limitations in the changed context of the 21st century.
In the light of the developments of the last seven decades, the urgency to revisit the epistemological basis of educational change, emerging out of the philosophical inputs of the modern thinkers and luminaries, could no longer be delayed further. It needs to be studied, explored and articulated. Educational policies must draw heavily from the educational philosophies and ideas of Swami Dayananda, Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi, Dr Radhakrishnan, Maulana Azad, Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar, and several other luminaries.
The formulation of integral humanism of Pandit Din Dayal Upadhyaya deserves serious examination at conceptual level as it could, like the Gandhian Basic Education, lead to infusion of ideas that could pave the path towards an equitable society. Tagore’s emphasis on power of ideas and imagination, love and respect for nature, and Sri Aurobindo’s famous formulation: ‘nothing can be taught’ could revolutionise the process. Dr Radhakrishnan unequivocally accepts that education is mass right and not the privilege of few. However, he also cautions that “intellectual work is meant only for the intellectually inclined”. It could lead to envision new ways and means to achieve quality enhancement in higher education.
Could a study and analysis of the Indian thinkers and philosophers in education lead to a new insight in re-energising Indian education? It could do so once these ideas and their implications are scrutinised in the light of the emerging aspirations of the young; and the opportunities they deserve to prove their worth nationally and internationally. Futuristic educational policies must not ignore agriculture, the farmer, local artisans and crafts, and developing smart clusters of villages. Policy makers must comprehend the role of the symphony of man and nature envisioned in the Indian thought and concept of integral humanism and man-nature relationship. They have a daunting task ahead of them.