22, May 2021

The education system of India has come a long way, though the age-old traditions have undergone many changes. When we talk about ancient Indian education, it had been so unique and was mostly based on experiential learning. The ancient Indian education system was referred to as the Gurukul system wherein gurus were known for their wisdom. Gurus were a figure who was respected and exalted in the highest position. Gurus were known for executing multiple roles like being a teacher, an advisor and so on. History bears testimony to the fact that gurus were given a special position in the palace Guru Shukarcharya, Guru Dhronacharya, Chanakya and so on. Interestingly, if we research our ancient educational system, one wonders how much we were far ahead and were so advanced. During those eras, schools were called ashram and usually, this ashram was situated in the deep forest away from home and luxurious things. Ancient Indian students were taught and trained in many diverse subjects like

Knowledge of different languages

Knowledge of different script/literature

Natak (Drama)

Ithihas (History)

Chitra Katha (Comics)

Shabad Shastra (Dictionary)

Sahitya (Literature)

Sangit (Music)

Musical Instrument

The list of subjects goes on, but it clearly reflects how the educational system was training the students in holistic and experiential learning. Transferable skills were always assumed to be tremendously significant at any given point. This skill was what helped many princes and kings in the ancient era. And this was the main essence of education meant in ancient times. If we study further it makes us realise that the ancient education system was wholly based on Liberal Education and the kind of subjects that were taught were fully focused on making the individual have knowledge of holistic understanding. For example, if we talk of Arjun in Mahabharata, we realise that Arjun who was considered to be the best archer was also trained in music and dancing and this skill saved him during his exile. If we talk of another example then it would be of Lord Rama and his brother Lakshman. During their exile in the forest, Lord Rama and his brother survived because of the experiential training they received from their guru.

But sadly, Indian history reflects a very painful transition from being invaded by Mughals and then by Britishers. These transition phases saw plundering of the rich heritage of the ancient educational system. In fact, the world first university Nalanda was plundered and destroyed wherein, thousands of rich knowledge was burnt in pyre. The present generation is caught between the modernity and the nonentity of directionless educational routes. Thousands and thousands of youth are graduating but the basics of knowledge are missing and they have no idea as to how to implement their degree into reality. Here, I would like to cite one example; Naveen is a mechanical engineer by degree but the profession he has chosen or was driven towards was totally away from his degree. Such kind has become so common in India that the real meaning of education is lost. The present educational scenario has become so obsolete that the students are directionless and are unable to fathom their own situation. A critical void of educational institutions different from traditional unyielding structures has been felt. Though many institutions have experimented with different models; however, the attempts have so far not been quite fruitful. This raises the question of what the country and the educational institutions require are new directions and new creative models. This is where the emergence of liberal education was needed most in India.

The new education draft policy is a good move in bringing liberal education into the system. This step will be beneficial to thousands and thousands of students of any discipline. It is important that we need to focus on experiential learning apart from the concept knowledge. This is possible by introducing and inculcating liberal education courses. When we talk of liberal education it means for students they have the freedom to study what they want as the list of courses is enormous. They also get freedom from how they want to study and when they want to study. Liberal Education offers very flexible norms and is almost different from formal structures, systems and processes.

It will take time for us to adjust, adapt and implement but it is always better for the future. It is imperative to make our younger generation lead their lives in the environment of the present, which is a continuity of yesterday and the past. It is important in order to carry the inheritance of our rich heritage that we make our younger generation to be in touch with their roots.

Our younger generation needs to be culturally sensitive and needs to be wholesome human beings who realize, recognise and acknowledge the interchange between multiple streams of knowledge as well as technological innovation. They need to explore multiple subjects like philosophy, literature, poetry, history and wisdom of the universe. This experiential learning will make them responsive to challenges. It will give them different perspectives of both national and global. Such perspectives will make them grow to be leaders of today and tomorrow because liberal education will shape them with the following salient traits:

Adventure and exploration of wisdom

Reciprocal of both inner and outer world of reality

Upholding the sanctity of relationships

In touch with self and nature

Courage to withstand any or many storms of life

In short, liberal education is a process that gives freedom for exploration as well as for reflection to discover ones own passion. Liberal education equips the student with the ability to raise critical questions and wrestling with answers. This will help the students to come across the fact and the realization that life is more than a specific task of education or occupation.

Written By:

Bharti Venkatesh

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