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The Cultural Dimensions of Education

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Item Code: NAW071
Author: Baidyanath Saraswati
Publisher: D. K. Printworld Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 1998
ISBN: 8124601011
Pages: 258 (16 Colored Illustrations and 2 B/W Illustrations)
Other Details 9.50 X 7.50 inch
Weight 750 gm
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Book Description

About the Book

Traditional education strives to expand the spheres of existence through social awareness (forming kinship with the entire world), cosmological awareness (expansion of the being by self-transformation), and technological awareness (relating creativity to the ritual enforcement of life). In contrast, modern education teaches a way of life, which is limited by self-centred consumerism, which allows man’s ego to establish itself as the conqueror of nature, which fragments people through competitive vocations and specialized technical professions.

How do we resolve this deep dilemma between the traditional and modern systems of education? Or, alternatively, how can a sensibly worked-out system of education afford a symbiosis between ‘modernity’ and‘wisdom- tradition’? Addressing this vital question, the authors here look afresh at the relevance of art in the age of science/technocentrism, the role of education in promoting peace and concord, Gandhian system of ‘basic education’ and, finally, how far India’s national concerns are reflected in its national policy on education.

An assemblage of 16 education-related essays, this volume is essentially the outcome of a Conference on the "Cultural Dimension of Education and Ecology", held in New Delhi on 13-16 October 1995 — as a part of the Unesco Chair activities (in the field of cultural development) at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. It presents insightful perspectives on primary education, focusing specially on its current status, trends and problems in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and Thailand.

The volume will interest all those involved with education: whether as scholars, professionals, planners, or as reformers.

About the Author

Baidyanath Saraswati, an anthropologist of international eminence, is Unesco-Professor at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi. And is former Professor of Anthropology at the North-Bastern Hill University; Fellow of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study; and Visiting Professor at the universities of Ranchi and Visva-Bharati. Professor Saraswati’s published work comprises anumber of books and monographs, among which notably figure Pottery-making Cultures and Indian Civilization, Brahmanic Ritual Traditions; Kashi: Myth and Reality; and Spectrum of the Sacred — besides his edited titles, like Tribal Thought and Culture; Prakrti: Primal Elements —the Oral Tradition; Prakrti: Man in Nature; Computerizing Cultures; and Cross-Cultural Lifestyle Studies.


One of the major programmes of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) is to launch multidisciplinary lifestyle studies of cohesive communities for evolving alternative models for the study of cultural phenomena and the inter-webbing of environmental, ecological, agricultural, socio-economic, cultural and political parameters.

In January 1995, a Unesco Chair in the field of Cultural Development was instituted at the Centre. As a part of the Chair's activities a four-day international conference on ‘The Cultural Dimension of Education and Ecology’ was held at the IGNCA from 13 to16 October 1995. It called for a cross-cultural comparison and assessment of the problems involved in the fields of both education and ecology.

The proceedings of the conference are being published in two independent volumes. This volume deals with the question of education and development while the other (Cultural Dimension of Ecology) is devoted to critical issues pertaining to the natural environment.

Participants at the conference were men and women of experience and wisdom. They have been participants in the common endeavour of making education more relevant and meaningful. Chitra Naik in her prologue eloquently outlines the historical background of the state in which large sections of the globe find themselves. There are series of disjunctions and they manifest themselves in many spheres, most of all in education, specially formal education.

A system of education was established with the avowed goal of alienating the student from his immediate environment. Consequently, the moment of education became and continues to become the moment of uprooting the child from the culture to which he or she belongs. The numerous skills of literacy, numeracy and reason he acquires, the content of the education which is considered ‘global’ and ‘universal’, all make him or her an efficient tool in a vast machinery. The values inculcated are those of success, achievement, material progress of the little selfin a competitive world. More, the marked emphasis on uniformity in a rigid system makes him or her an automaton. The driving force of his aspiration is immediate achievement and ‘success’.

The few who go through the ladder of competition undoubtedly ‘achieve’, but in the process they are uprooted and certainly unaligned with the very ground from which they were nurtured. The larger number acquire minimal skills of literacy and bookish knowledge. Their harmonious world of work, function and ideation and faith is dead, and the new world is powerless to be born. Wastage is prevalent and unemployed educated youth people our lands. They are the human repositories of great energies which can be directed positively or negatively. The situation may differ in degree in different cultures of the erstwhile colonies, now young nation-states, but there is a similarity. With the exception of an infinitesimally small percentage who reach the pinnacle of the system and become global citizens, most others survive at the minimal level of comprehension, litle or no creativity and initiative.

In India, repeated Education Commissions were set up to reform and alter the educational system which was established by closing down madarsas and pathashalas, the gurukul and guild systems.

The reports of the Kothari Commission and the Education Commission of 1986 have called attention to the need for taking the cultural dimension of education into account. These reports recognised the need to reform the system in a manner that the world of work and the world of education, of home, family and education of individual and society, are not in conflict. Much earlier, Gandhiji had advocated a system of education known by its familiar names — ‘basic education’ and nai talim. Here manual and cerebral skills were in balance; the tools of education were through the use of the hands and the utilisation of local resources, natural and human. There was no undue emphasis on literacy.

After fifty years of experimentation, there is arenewed recognition of the relevance of the Gandhian model based ona total development of body, mind and soul, the values of restraint and self-reliance and both self-sacrifice and self-fulfilment through community participation. It is heartening to note that after a lapse of many decades and as a result of disillusionment with the present system of formal education, specially at the primary and secondary levels, many experiments have been conducted both in India and abroad. Mrs Oka's experiment and its success bear eloquent testimony to its efficacy. The Bose Foundation School is exemplary in its goals of achieving much in modesty. The Rangaprabhat experiment is unique in fostering the innate creativity of the economically disempowered. This is only to mention a few.


We, the people of the ‘developing’ countries, are struck by the contrast between the present age of ‘modernity’ and the wisdom tradition ofa past time. Yes, there are today extraordinary technology, ultra-rapid communications, remarkable information networking, and exciting and challenging changes in science itself. But where is the Man — the enlightened Buddha, the compassionate Christ, the loving Muhammad, the truthful Gandhi? With all the wonders of modern science and technology, where are we going? Are we not moving into the New Age with the burden of a new myth of materialism? Are we not suffering from the disease of machine mindedness? Most of us are asking such questions. Some say that these advances cannot bring into being a normal civilization. Others think that there is a profound way: cultivating wisdom from all the knowledge that mankind has gathered. Now, can we take on the responsibilities called for by the future of humanity?

In January 1995, a Unesco Chair in the field of cultural development was instituted at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. As a part of the Chair's activities, four field studies were carried out on the trends and problems of primary education and the natural environment. A Conference on the Cultural Dimension of Education and Ecology was held in New Delhion 13-16 October 1995 to pursue exploration in these fields. T he sixteen essays collected here refer to the state of primary education in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and Thailand. In particular, the experts have called attention to (a) evolving new perspectives in primary education; (b) developing Man the artist; (c) promoting a genuine culture of peace; (d) re-considering Gandhi's basic education; and (e) re-examining national policies on education.

Evolving a New Perspective All cultures do not share the same vision of life. The spirit of a ‘traditional’ culture, for instance, is not the spirit of ‘modern’ culture. This is clearly reflected in their conceptions and practice of education.

1. Traditional education aims at expanding the spheres of existence by social awareness (forming kinship with the entire world), cosmological awareness (expanding of being by self-transformation) and technological awareness (relating creativity to the ritual enforcement of life).

2. Modern education, in contrast, teaches a way of life limited by self-centred consumerism, allows man’s ego to establish itself as the conqueror of nature, and fragments people through competitive vocations and specialized technical professions.

How do we resolve this deep dilemma between traditional and modern systems of education’? The authors of these essays provide a renewed sense of awareness. In most experiments, what is being evolved is the ‘Middle Path’: without one extreme, without two extremes.

Gedong Bagoes Oka, an Indonesian follower of Gandhi, is in sympathy with the holistic approach, a Gandhian experiment, which

1. draws from the noble Vedantic dictum tat twam asi the oneness of life;

2. aims to bring out and foster all the potentials in the child and help it express these through ahimsic (non-violent) channels; and

3. makes the school a happy adventure of discovery for the child.

Dwarko Sundarani, a Sarvodaya social worker based in Bodha Gaya, also stresses on

4. total development, i.e., physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual; 5. the correlation of education and manual work, leading to self-reliance for the basic necessities of life; and

6. aharmonious relationship with nature and society.

Shakuntala Bapat and Suman Karandikar, with research experience in the rural areas of Maharashtra, favour

7. indigenous basic education consisting of elements which are local and culture-friendly.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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