When we speak of a global learning community, we should understand why it is a notion geared less for creation and more for destruction of knowledge. However, to avoid polarization and controversy it is wise to yield to limited practicability of this idea. If we allow that sweep of time is going to annihilate all then, for a little while, the album of such a notion might well carry faded pictures that fail to live the actual tale of life. It is essential that we understand and accept the duality of formal, structured one for global uniformity systems and traditional, discipline-specific systems of proven merit. We respect the second by not including them in the first and by treating them both at par. However in most cases, the formal systems can never match the intensity of the traditional ones. For example, notice how a boy of 5 or 6 begins to learn Tabla or Sitar in a Benares or Calcutta generational musician family. As he grows his learning hours grow to 12-14 hours a day. Same is true of other ancient Indian knowledge systems that commercialization in its bid for profit has usurped for exploitation. Does a student in the formal Ayurvedic medicine course take a morning walk to identify medicinal plants? He would scarcely be able to match the name with real thing. Do we even care to provide him with a walk in a place with medicinal plants? If we forget our holistic methods of learning and exchange them for cut-and-dried research based methods, how can we expect education to serve people at grass-roots?
The three forms of education are primarily for three different learning communities.
The formal system is the largest system structured according to present and future needs as perceived by mandarins of State. From our experience of education system in India we can deduce its function and failures:
1. Purported function is to enable the population to enhance their social, economic and political status. As a huge part of population is on fringe of mainstream, the structure has constantly modified itself to include them. This socio-political necessity has taken its toll on academic aspect, becoming facile and laborious for the intellectually advanced (plans for bright students in 70s, 80s were advanced, but they grew out of fashion rather than academic standards; the superiority of infrastructure driven by commercial interests, came into existence; after that all discussions had little to do with education, more with appearance and profitability).
This is for middle classes geared for upward mobility. This serves to give planners, civil servants and main-stream white-collared work force.
2. The semi-formal existed with state support to religious institutions, which allowed some traditional knowledge to be delivered, mostly in a mediocre fashion.
This is generally for weaker sections unless an empowered individual specifically desires to pursue this. Blue collared and agricultural workers generated out of this helped in maintaining traditional ethos and harmony. Largest section of the populace, it is this group that displays the true democratic fervor of a nation. Amity, endurance and hard work that bind the society are outcome of their faith.
3. Informal education of traditional wisdom has survived through individuals following the Guru-Shishya tradition either with support from community, charity or through sheer personal will. Excellence and perfection resulted out of dedication and devotion, where the knowledge gained was its own reward. It is this group that is vastly threatened today by penetrative, all-pervading, despoiling stance of modern systems. It is this informal system of life-view transference that needs to be safe-guarded.
This serves for creating specialized professionals from scholar to the artisan. The knowledge gain here is inter-mingled with meditation of and actual life-style. People from all economic sections are accommodated within its various forms.
The need therefore is to keep the last two throbbing and vibrant as we perfect the first for smooth operation. Learning, which leads to wisdom, is born out of a life-style that serves both, the individual and the community. Modern scientific approach may improve the formal structure so long it does not denounce, denigrate or despoil the traditional systems. There never is a question that ancient learning systems deliver. This premise serves as starting point for all action groups. When these systems are denounced, the deep-rooted understanding is of their possible and certain outcome. They proffer and produce resistive strength towards desirables of modern behavior – mindless consumption due ambition and greed; limited intelligence suitable to carry out certain tasks without deviating from predictable SOP (standard operating procedure); lack of strong social bond and personal time together which may lead to rejection and revolution.
Formal structures serve to create an army of obedient slaves till their mechanical alternative is perfected. Well, not always; but because they leave little to open stimulus or external flux, they may well be engineered for total compliance. However, it is less about fault-tolerance than their actual status. Structured training can also open up new vistas within a person, if consciously perfected for this end. Ordinarily, with greater concern on eroding individual traits, it often breeds a common point of view and similar preferences.
The second has been forwarded to accommodate the globally structured one; otherwise, as corollary to knowledge delivery through different traditional systems, it is already included. After all the structured system too has a tradition to speak of.
In planning educational changes across India, the first realization should be that we are different from Australia, Canada, America etc., because we are not a recently discovered geographic location. We well might be the beginning of civilized existence of mankind. Our history has been unbroken and our culture banks on continuity.
America is most glorious place in the world — freest of them all. Its history starts with migration after renaissance. The world (European world) had struggled with evolution, civilization, war, famine, dark ages and re-awakening, all before they knew of this geographical part of world. So, it was fully developed and cultured people from different nations, beliefs and creeds who travelled to this place and created a rational society based on their cumulative diverse experiences after eradicating the natives and importing a working class from Africa. Almost all days — Father’s day, Mother’s day… — were created here. They do not arise out of any previous cultural/ religious practice but out of need to create a common cultural inheritance. This is an example of how all its proposed strategies and plans are founded on rational practices (as opposed to organic evolutionary ones) and to serve lowest common denominators cut off from geography, history, vocation, religion and racial memory. To be able to start off with a clean slate! Truly a dream-place for democracy so long it remains a conscious value. Rational men may treat each other politely but would hardly engage in such irrational tasks as love, honor, narrow loyalty, custom, ritual that might propel a member of an organically evolved society to act out. Rational persons work on a single principle — profit / gain. If through certain action the world ‘gains’ knowledge it is good and so on. Even after this, the rational thinkers understood well that if administered properly, the personal ‘gain’ motive could be harnessed for a better and stronger community. Pride in their nation as an example of best governance counter-balanced greed; the intoxicating faith in its power was blinding.
India is a country that has survived on wisdom of sages threaded into a complete life style — education, work, fulfillment, self-contemplation, belief — with built in social security, safety valves, law and order. The beauty was inner integration. Software designers speak of the ideal ‘foundation code/core’ with different ‘user-interfaces’ serving all without anyone realizing the massive expanse of design. Indian system catered to all human needs – personal and social; even surreal, ethereal. Lacking which, people in the great free land of America behave in short-termed fashion – rationally to situations within their experience and unpredictably to anything out of normal. Lack of deep faith brings in strange responses – people reacting in utmost irrational fashion, committing mass suicides (the only such hysteric cases in India were people committing suicide on death of great film-stars in South like MGR; but they too have waned) to news of change in movement of heavenly bodies. See this report on National Geographic
Human evolution has been measured by material (technological) gain, intellectual maturity (social/political order) and emotional sensitivity (reflected in all behavior but consolidated in Arts). We might spy a natural opposition in Technology and Arts: the first groups, the other detaches or distinguishes. Whereas, classically the material gain created a prosperous social order which celebrated human spirit/sensitivity, today it has surpassed all others — it is an analogy gone berserk: rather than material existing for human consumption, humans exist for consuming material; like breeding rats because you have a cat in the house. There have been many stories regarding this inverse extreme — Midas dying of hunger because all he touched turned into gold, Bhasmasur blessed with ability to annihilate anyone by touch and running to burn the god who empowered him.
Sanity does not come through gain alone; renunciation too is required. Where do we find the act of renunciation built within any modern rational system? Planning for one’s retirement begins here from day one of your job. I saw an ad for a seminar by best-seller writer of Rich Dad Poor Dad. The gist seemed to imply that as today the values of getting better education, hard work, savings etc. have been made useless by the current materialism, he would teach new methods of saving your money. “With the Choose to be Rich Coaching Program, you start doing what the rich do and the poor and middle class don’t.” It is clearly a case of value being replaced through local strategies/ tactics. He is all praise for education: “A good coach is someone who’s been there and done that, who knows the rules and strategies like the back of their hand. Someone who has knowledge and experience—and a track record of success after success. A good coach will point out your weaknesses, challenge you to grow, give you helpful training, and cheer you on when you succeed. A good coach will take you to the next level.” Did I say education? Sorry! It is coaching: coaching you to not get discouraged by your poor performance in the race of greed and wealth. Run, man, run! How apt was the coinage for such a life: rat-race.
That India still practices renunciation was dramatically exhibited to the world when an heir-apparent used the privilege to place the most competent person as CEM. Is it in the same world where dictators remain glued to their thrones wreaking cruel justice?
Now, when we plan any strategy for India, we should first examine our stand-point:
1. Are we looking from outside (Non-Indian) position? (Stake-wishers, Alien Promoters)
2. Are we on inside and wish to import future through verbatim imitation (Stake-holder, Materialist)?
3. As insiders do we wish to restore ancient traditions through complete denial of present reality (Stake-holder, Fundamentalist)?
4. Insiders using tradition to evaluate present reality for a sustainable future (Stake-holder, Integrationist)?
If you choose the position that seems best option for the people, do you find others who have as clear an idea about themselves and their role? It was the purpose of education to create such persons. If you realize that we do not have sufficient number of true-stake-holders, work towards their creation based on whatever qualities demanded by your stance.
Need I say more?