By education I mean an all-round drawing out of the best in child and man – body, mind and spirit. Literacy is not the end of education nor even the beginning. It is only one of the means whereby man and woman can be educated. Literacy in itself is no education. I would therefore begin the child’s education by teaching it a useful handicraft and enabling it to produce from the moment it begins its training.
I hold that the highest development of the mind and the soul is possible under such a system of education. Only every handicraft has to be taught not merely mechanically as is done today but scientifically, i.e., the child should know the why and the wherefore of every process. I am not writing this without some confidence, because it has the backing of experience. This method is being adopted more or less completely wherever spinning is being taught to workers.
I have myself taught sandal-making and even spinning on these lines with good results. This method does not exclude a knowledge of history and geography. But I find that this is best taught by transmitting such general information by word of mouth. One imparts ten times as much in this manner as by reading and writing. The signs of the alphabet may be taught later when the pupil has learnt to distinguish wheat from chaff and when he has somewhat developed his or her tastes.
This is a revolutionary proposal, but it saves immense labour and enables a student to acquire in one year what he may take much longer to learn. This means all round economy. Of course, the pupil learns mathematics whilst he is learning his handicraft.
Given the right kind of teachers, our children will be taught the dignity of labour and learn to regard it as an integral part and means of their intellectual growth, and to realize that it is patriotic to pay for their training through their labour. The core of my suggestion is that handicrafts are to be taught, not merely for productive work, but for developing the intellect of the pupils.
Surely, if the State takes charge of the children between seven and fourteen, and trains their bodies and minds through productive labour, the public schools must be frauds and teachers idiots, if they cannot become self-supporting.
We have up to now concentrated on stuffing childrens minds with all kinds of information, without ever thinking of stimulating and developing them. Let us now cry a halt and concentrate on educating the child properly through manual work, not as a side activity, but as the prime means of intellectual training…
You have to train the boys in one occupation or another. Around this special occupation you will train up his mind, his body, his handwriting, his artistic sense, and so on. He will be a master of the craft he learns.
Literary training by itself adds not an inch to one’s moral height and that character building is independent of literary training. Let the students realize that learning without courage is like a waxen statuebeautiful to look at but bound to melt at the least touch of a hot substance.
Music should form part of the syllabus of primary education. I heartily endorse this proposition. The modulation of voice is as necessary as the training of the hand. Physical drill, handicrafts, drawing and music should go hand in hand in order to draw the best out of the boys and girls and create in them real interest in their tuition.
A wise parent allows the children to make mistakes. It is good for them once in a while to burn their fingers.
Gandhi had great clarity on education, as he had on several other areas. Are his ideas still relevant? Should we fundamentally rethink education and make it more appropriate to the context rural or urban? Do share your thoughts in this regard.