Modern education system and culture of India
” Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organised life.” Immanuel Kant
During British rule in India, in 1834, new modern education system was launched in India, which was based on colonised British Grammar School type education. The traditional Indian system of education had withered away for the lack of official support.
The modern education, since its inception, has influenced the Indian society and its culture in a big way. It has both of constructive and destructive effects on its culture. On one hand, it offered to Indian intelligentsia the key to the treasures of scientific and democratic thoughts of Modern ‘West’, on the other hand, it had disassociated Indian people from their culture, classical roots, knowledge and traditional way of living. Along with it, faded Indian values, philosophies and traditions.
The issues that arise here are – what ‘Culture’ is? What is the culture of India? When and why the system of education was changed? How has it been affecting the indigenous culture of India? How can Indians remain rooted to their own Culture? How can its culture be further enriched by taking advantages of the wide horizon of knowledge, modern education offers and of the technologies developed in the Western world? And how people in general could be prevented from being swayed away by the glamour and materialism of alien way of life and its culture?
Animal instincts within human being – History of evolution points out that in the beginning, animal instincts within a human were quite prominent. Thomas Hobbes has described that at that time the life of man was “nasty, brutish and short”. Degree of selfishness was at its peak. Only fittest could manage to survive in that hostile environment.
Formation of civilized society – At some point of time, people joined hands and started living together. Human beings made conscientious effort to overcome the animal instincts hidden within them. They developed empathy and the spirit to cooperate and help each other. It was through socializing and development of norms that people learnt, how to live together or how to treat others and others him. That was the beginning of culture/mannerism, which inspired human to form a cultured civil society.
|Dictionary meaning of the term ‘culture’- According to dictionary, meaning of the term ‘culture’, it is –
Features that reflect Culture – Culture includes within itself all the following features collectively like
All these qualities together and way of life transmitted through generations for the welfare of people, expressed through language and actions are included in culture.
United Nation on ‘culture’ – According to United Nation, a culture is a set of values, attitudes, language and ways of life. Whenever layers of culture and civilization are overshadowed, man’s real nature with all its animal instinct is exposed. Everything works well, when people are humane and familiar with the basics of their culture.
Culture leading to refinement – For keeping humans disciplined, every society enforces its own social, ethical, or legal rules. Culture leads to betterment or refinement, whether it is an individual, society or a nation. The more one follows those norms, the more cultured one is.
In short, culture of a society includes within itself knowledge, belief and behavior as well as attitudes values, goals and practices of that society. Culture is the full range of refined human behavior patterns. It constantly changes. Across different nations all cultures are concerned about values that are humane and universal.
Culture of India
Cultural richness - India presents a fascinating picture of cultural richness, which is mainly based on Vedic literature and philosophy. Civilization of India is one of the oldest alive civilizations of the world. Because of its tolerance and capacity of internalizing alien influences, its culture has been able to be one of the oldest, continuous and uninterrupted living culture of the world.( The other three being Egypt, Mesopotamia and Greece)
Many principles and cultures developed in the past, within India as well as elsewhere in the world, had created such a wave that swept over the entire world for some time. An anti-wave, replacing such waves, emerged soon. It wiped off the previous influence. The Vedic culture and its basic tenets, however, have been proved to be an exception in this regard. It happened due to basic tenets of Vedic culture, which have always been very close to every Indian.
The word ‘Vedic’ is derived from the word ‘Vid’ meaning ‘Knowledge’ and signifies’ ‘knowledge par excellence’. The Vedic culture came into being due to intermixing of the culture of Aryan invaders, who came to India in waves, with the culture of indigenous tribal people of India during 2nd century BC to 650 AD.
The Indian culture is identified with the whole of India. To foreigners, it represents the ancient culture in its eternity. It mainly originated and flourished in northern parts of India and later on spread throughout India.
Origin of Vedic culture
The origin of the Vedic knowledge and its culture can not be traced in any single founder; neither can it be confined in one single authoritative text. Its sacred knowledge has been handed down from time immemorial, earlier by verbal transmission and later on, in written form by the ancestor to succeeding generations.
Never ending process (‘Neti’, ‘Neti’) – Vedas teach that creation and quest for knowledge is a constant process, without any beginning or an end. It is a never ending process (‘Neti’, ‘Neti’). The Sages (Rishis and Munies) were believed that even Vedas were not the end for quest for knowledge or prescribes any final absolutes.
Strength of Vedic culture
The strength of Vedic culture is proved by the facts: -
- Despite centuries of foreign rule over 75% of Indian population remains Hindu.
- Had it become obsolete, it would have given place to other religions and cultures.
- It influenced almost all other religions found in India.
Basic tenets of Indian culture
The basic tenets of Indian culture, which kept its continuity intact, despite numerous foreign invasions, migrations and assimilation of various groups, are as following:
Principles of ‘Varna’ ‘Dharma’, ‘Karma’ - The foundation pillars of systems of Indian culture were the principles of ‘Varna, karma and Dharma’. Principles of Varna, Dharma and Karma together provided the whole society a quality of life and contributed to its growth.
‘Principle of Varna’ – Doctrine of Varna has given the Indian Society a stable, sustainable social structure. In the past, it had assigned duties to different groups according to their natural endowments, instincts and qualities.
Principle of ‘Karma’ – Knowledge is supposed to be necessary for giving “Karma”, its due meaning, direction and value. Ignorance is considered to be leading to futile efforts destroying direction. Doctrine of Karma teaches people to accept their surroundings, as they are and extract as much happiness as possible. Principles of Karma make the inequalities, prevalent a society, tolerable.
Principle of Dharma – Principle of Dharma defines the duties and inspires people to do their jobs well, as all worldly honor and spiritual happiness were vested there. It assures the people that proper performance of one’s work, whether high or humble, whether of a priest, warrior, Shudra or yogi are equally important for the society and were, therefore, right, respectable and worth pursuing.
Sanatan Dharma (Concept of Eternal Values)- Sanatan Dharma (Concept of Eternal Values) nurtured the basic instincts of human beings over nature, after a deep study of natural instincts, inherent attributes and natural behavioral pattern and taking care of the basic physical, mental and spiritual needs of the human beings at different stages of life.
Spirit of Tolerance
Amongst all factors, which contributed to enrich and continuity of India’s culture has been the spirit of tolerance of Indian people.
Concedes validity to all the religions -Tolerance is most evident in the field of religion. Hinduism concedes validity to all the religions and does not lay down strictures against any faith or reject any religion or its god as false. That is why, all the twelve major religions of the world are present and flourishing in India without much hindrance. Hindu faith in an all pervading omnipresent god, multiplicity of god and goddesses as representing some portion of the infinite aspect of the Supreme Being, inspires it to accommodate people of all faiths.
No conversions – India has adopted the path of assimilation. Its main religion Hinduism does not believe in conversion or imposing its beliefs, practices and customs on others. It has neither repulsed any trend vehemently, nor allowed others to sweep its own established culture off the roots.
Truth, Ahimsa, peace and non-aggression – Tolerance is not confined to religion alone. It is seen everywhere in the Indian way of life. Firm belief in the principles, ‘Live and let live’, ‘to each according to his needs and from each according to his capacity’, ‘simple living and high thinking’ and faith in Truth, Ahimsa, peace and non-aggression have always been the part of Indian ethos.
Whole world is one family – ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, the whole world is one family Indians is the hallmark of Indian culture. In the past, people endure injustice and unfairness until they are pushed right to the wall. John Fischer mentions, “Even during Bengal famine, an extreme situation – when necessity knows no laws, people did not take law in their own hands, nor was there any violence. No grocery stall, no rice warehouse, none of the wealthy clubs or restaurants was ever threatened by a hungry mob… They just died with docility, which to most Americans is the most shocking thing about India.’(John Fischer, India’s insoluble Hunger – 1947)
Positive effect of tolerance
Many times in the past, Indians had accepted oppression and exploitation without much protest, while such situations would have led to bloody revolutions elsewhere in the world.
Negative effects of tolerance
Even today, the people are tolerating the corruption, scams, scandals and criminal activities developed in political sphere, as well as inefficiency seeped deeply in administration without much protest. Administration is one such area, where tolerance is harmful, as it not only hinders the development, but also pushes the nation backwards.
Effect of these principles on society of ancient India
All these principles together had organized orderly performance of various functions needed to provide a quality of life to its people in the past. It gave them a distinct character, defined roles and organized inter-relationship of various sections of society. It prepared an atmosphere for co-existence of different sections of the society – be it ruler or ruled, be it rich or poor. It served to give Indian society coherence, stability and continuity; and held together different castes and communities having diverse languages and practices for generations – thus making unity in diversity a reality.
Composite Culture of India
The composite culture of India has absorbed the good points of other cultures enriching it further. More than anywhere else in the world, it holds a multitude of thoughts, processes them and practices them. There has been co-existence of varied belief, pattern and thought due to inter-mixing and cultural mingling.
The composite culture of India grew out of: -
- Growth, influence and refinement of values of different religions generated within land of India.
- Creative interaction between values of indigenous religions and religions of diverse migrating or foreign communities like Islam, Christianity, Zoroastrianism etc.
All the sects present in India, whether foreign or indigenous, have been influenced greatly by Vedic culture – its thinking, practices and systems. For a few centuries after the downfall of Hindu’s rule (around 5th-6th centuries), first under the rule of Turks or Muslim, the culture of Islam and their style of living, practices, traditions influenced the Indian society and afterwards Christianity under British rule flourished and dominated the scene allover in India.
Fusion of different cultures
The wonderful process of assimilation and fusion of different cultures has been a continuous process of the India civilization. It contributed to the cultural richness of India. Such flexibility is not seen in the West. When Christianity broke away from Judaism, it departed totally from the common cultural traditions. Therefore, it is very difficult for the Western world to understand and appreciate Indian culture fully.
Composite culture of ancient times - Before 6th century, a cultural synthesis took place. In ancient India, the assimilation of various racial, immigrants, locals, tribal, professionals or other groups under its mainstream was done through caste system by assigning each new group a separate caste identity. Assimilation of different social groups was done without imposing on them Hindu value system or annihilating the originality, internal order, customs or language of new groups joining the mainstream. India provided the atmosphere and opportunity the culture of each identity, coming into its fold, to flourish in its own way. A major cultural synthesis took place during 6th and 10th century between Vedic Hindu culture, Buddhism and Dravidian culture between Vedic Hindu culture, Buddhism and Dravidian culture.
Composite culture during medieval period - After the downfall of Hindu’s rule, under Turks, Muslim and British rule, Islam and Christianity received substantial state patronage for sufficiently long period. Their cultures flourished and dominated the scene allover in India. It led to another major cultural synthesis. After the 10th century, the thinking of Arabs, Turks and Afghan, mainly guided by reason, influenced Indian thought. As a result, Sufi and Bhakti movements emerged into the scene. These two sects taught the people to love and respect all human beings irrespective of caste or creed. These two sects taught the people to love and respect all human beings irrespective of caste or creed. These also brought changes in the nature of mutual understanding, communal amity and accommodation.
Modern times – Once again, during the period of 18th to 20th century, major cultural synthesis took place with modernization and industrialization ushered in by the British.
Survived vicissitudes of time
Culture of India has survived the vicissitudes of time, saved itself by erosion from within and assault from outside only because of the adaptability.
The composite culture of India managed to continue despite numerous castes and communities living here for time immemorial; despite numerous foreign invasions, migrations and assimilation of new groups; and despite cultures of Hindus, Islam and Christians receiving substantial state patronage for sufficiently long period at different points of time.
Every time Vedic culture re-emerged
There were periods during its long period of evolution, when its main Vedic culture had weakened and shaken the confidence of people in Vedic literature and its philosophies, especially under foreign rules. However, every time, it re-emerged and whenever it re-emerged; it did not destroy the culture of other sects, but assimilated their good points within itself.
Major force retain the cultural identity
The composite culture of India acted as a major force for the failure of Islam, Christianity and other religions to make headway in India even after mass conversion. Through it, Hindus could retain their cultural identity, while living under an alien political order, whether it was Turks, Mughal, Portuguese or British.
Vedic literature not only religious books
‘Vedic literature’ is a gold mine of Indian philosophy. The ancient Vedic philosophy and literature are found in Indian scriptures known as ‘Vedas’, ‘Smritis’ ‘Sutras’, and ‘Upanishad’. These scriptures are not only revered scriptures of Hinduism or religious books, but hold in itself a vast reservoir of knowledge and experiences of great Indian scholars called Rishies, who had devoted their life in search of knowledge. It is a perfect guide to the art of living.
- “Ocean of knowledge in a jar”- According to Basham, these Epics contains “an ocean of knowledge in a jar.” (Wonder, That Was India). Vedic literature is a vast reservoir of knowledge. It presents a magnificent example of scientific division and orderly arrangement of rules, in a few words, in different branches of human knowledge, covering almost all the aspects of life, be it phonetics, arts, literature, medicine, polity, metrics, law, philosophy, astrology or astronomy.
- Perfect guide to art of living – Vedic literature is a perfect guide to art of living. It speaks of everything- on staying healthy, social values, improving concentration and tenets of behavior, which are relevant till today. Its rituals are techniques for leading a harmonious life.
- Self-restraint and self-discipline – In the past, culture of India had encouraged Indians to adopt a self-restraint and self-disciplined life-style; be in tune with the forces of nature; live harmoniously and peacefully with their fellow beings; practice non-violence in thought, action and speech and not cause pain to anyone including oneself. It advised people to lead a self-disciplined life, to do one’s own work sincerely, not to interfere in other’s work and escape from apathy or indifference. It taught people to be self-observant and try to mend one’s own mannerism rather than telling others behave.
- Stress on contentment – It has advised to be contented, to be self sufficient and to be satisfied with what one can earn honestly, but not to be greedy, jealous or too competitive; not to hoard or accumulate beyond one’s need; not to steal, beg, borrow or snatch belongings of others with or without their knowledge. According to Hindu philosophy, nature has provided enough for everybody’s need, but not enough for even one person’s greed.
- No destructive activity – It has advised people not to waste energy or over-indulge oneself in wasteful and destructive activity. People should be honest and willing to help others; observe austerity, simplicity and discipline in life; maintain cleanliness of diet, body and mind. In short, it advised people always to try to rise above the animal instincts hidden inside human-beings.
- Work is worship - Principle of Karma teaches people that “Work is Worship”. In modern world, when people are so conscious about ‘blue colored or white colored jobs’ and asserts their rights, pay scant attention to their duties, the faith in ‘Principle of Karma’ can inspires common man to do their duties sincerely. It teaches that any kind of work is worth pursuing and respectable. Any work done in its true spirit could never be derogatory or a waste. They should try for action par excellence. A work should not be valued so much for its external reward, as for the intrinsic satisfaction towards realization of Swadharma.
- No Revenge or putting blame on others – No human has any control over taking birth in a family of one’s choice. Very few are born with silver spoon in their mouth. Everybody else has to make efforts for a better future. Principle of Karma also offers a convincing explanation for inequality, affluence, poverty and happiness. It prevents people from being revengeful or putting blame on others for their own failures, miseries. Everybody has to face the inexorable consequences of one’s doings. It teaches people that they are not the slaves of circumstances/environment, over which they do not have any control. Principle of Karma teaches common man to keep on making efforts for better future. None of their effort goes waste.
- Hopes for better tomorrow – Nobody knows ‘when one is going to hook a fish’. Principle of Karma gives hope to people not to get disappointed by their present unfavorable circumstances. One should constantly make efforts to improve situation by performing one’s own duties well. By channelizing efforts, energies and capacities in proper direction and working hard, one can specialize in his specific area of work, strengthen character, improve economic status and contribute in social/national reconstruction.
Education restricted to those, who can keep its sanctity
In ancient India, education was confined to a very small section of Indian society. It was not so much that common people were debarred or denied access to education because of discrimination, as it was because of the method of education. In absence of any written material, priestly schools in India had devised a most remarkable and effective system of transferring knowledge to succeeding generations in form of hymns. They restricted it only to those, who possessed brilliant feats of memory and capability to keep its extreme sanctity. Opening verse of Chapter (IV) says, “I gave this philosophy of (life and action called) Yoga to men of responsibility, so that, through this philosophy, they will become strong to serve and protect the people, to nourish the people.”
Rituals guidelines to lead a harmonious, disciplined and healthy life
The rituals were the techniques to help and guide the masses of all sects of India to lead a harmonious, disciplined and healthy life. Some rules were prescribed to be observed in day to day life to stay healthy, others to live in a hygienically clean atmosphere, live a self-restraint and self- disciplined life and to develop human relationship including the give-and-take of socialization especially during a variety of festivities and life-celebrating events.
Essence of the knowledge and experiences of Intelligentsia – The knowledge and experiences of Intelligentsia of ancient India (Yogis, sages and Munies) benefitted the whole community from top to bottom. The sages of ancient India prescribed certain rules, customs and rituals to be observed by the common men. Through these rituals, masses benefitted by the deep thinking and experiences of sages of many generations; and the vast treasures of Indian philosophy, rational. These rituals gave a sense of direction to the masses. Masses were disciplined through infinite variety of rituals, prayers, practices, customs and meditation envisaged/prescribed by the learned sages.
Wrong practices developed deformities – Most of rituals, customs and traditions have lost their sanctity and developed many distortions because people started following them blindly and in a wrong way. People are losing the spirit of these rituals and festivals. It is necessary to understand correctly what for they actually meant, or what the messages behind it are. For example –
- Festival of Holi in India was traditionally played by making colors from the flowers and herbs. Gulal was popular for its soothing qualities. But over the years, natural colors have been replaced by synthetic colors. Synthetic colors spoil the fun. They can cause serious skin problems, eye irritation and from skin allergies can lead to cancer.
- The purpose of Holi festival is to inspire people to meet and greet each other with love and affection, forgetting old rivalries and enmity. Now many a times, people get beserk. They think holi is meant for fun. In the name of fun (mauj and masti), they play Holi in rowdy manner, misbehave and take advantage thinking it a good time to settle old scores. They use everything available to give others a really tough time, – pucca paints, dyes, grease, mud, throw each other in a pit of mud, throw balloons filled with water/coloured water and drink bhaang and get intoxicated and sometimes violent.
- The ill-effect of this change is that people dread to move out their houses almost a week before Holi. There are many fatal/serious accidents due to drunken driving, dangerous driving, over-speeding, triple riding, driving without helmets or seat-belts is common sight during Holi
Wrong practices, quite often develops a widespread misunderstanding and give birth to social evils, caste-conflicts, feudal oppressions and mass poverty.
Impact of Vedic philosophy and literature on Indian society
The impact of Vedic philosophy and literature on Indian society was as following –
- No confusion in matter of work – All the functions needed for the maintenance and growth of the society were divided amongst different groups. Each group was assigned a distinct function to perform. There was no confusion or frustration on matter of work, because every body had his traditional occupation.
- Dignity and honor for everyone –One of the unique features was that it provided work and employment to all. It avoided rivalry or bitterness for pelf, power or position amongst different sections of society. Each and every group served the community. All the groups lived with dignity and honor with the feeling that they, too, were contributing something to the society.
- Clear vision of responsibilities – Clear-cut definition of rights and duties for each group, based on its traditional occupation, developed clear vision of its responsibilities.
- Checks and balances – Orderly division of labor based on certain principles and its combination with the principle of inter dependence developed its own systems of checks and balances over arbitrary use of its authority.
- Decentralization of authority - There was an automatic decentralization of authority.
- Inculcated discipline in masses – Discipline was inculcated amongst ignorant masses through infinite variety of rituals, prayers, practices, customs and meditation envisaged/prescribed by the learned sages.
Contribution of some saints
Tulsi, a Follower of Bhakti (Devotion) Marg – Tulsidas took Rama out of Temples (Mandirs) or massive structures, freed Him from the clutches of Brahmins and placed Him in the hearts of common man. Importance of Ramayana, according to Sri Satya Sai Baba, is that principles of Ramayana teach peace, love humanity and unity. It teaches value of detachment from objective pursuits and realization the presence of Divine in every being. Renunciation leads to joy and attainment brings worries. The characters of Ramayana represents – Dasaratha is the representative of physical senses, three queens queens of three qualities (gunas) – serenity (satwa), passion (Rajas), sloth (tamas). The four goals of life are to get over ‘Kaam, Kroth, Lobh, Moh’. Rama represents righteousness in deed, word and thought, ever pure and totally free from blemish. Lakshmana symbolizes intellect, sugriva wisdom (viveka), Baali despair, Hanuman embodiment of courage. The three demon chiefs are personification of Passion (Rajasic), slothness (taamasic) and serenity (satwic). Sita is awareness of Universal Absolute (Brahma-jnana)
Kabir (15th century Sufi ‘Nirgun’ Sant) and other Sufi Sants – They did not believe in idol worship and criticized communalists and fanatics. Their followers interpreted the life and message of the saint poets. All their life they fought against orthodoxy, the ritualistic interpretation of religion and advocated spiritual uplift of a person. But after their death, most of them were caged in the same circle of rituals.
Vivekanand - (a 19th century scholar saint) – To Vivekanand, Dharma meant fulfilling duties, not performing mere rituals. Religions are the ways to reach the divine and not to confront any other faith. He did not believe in conversion and advised people to stick to their own religion. In his famous 1893 Chicago speech at World Parliament of Religions said, “I am proud of my Hinduism, which is tolerant and inclusive.” However, some fanatics did great disservice when they use this message not to spread Hinduism’s message of tolerance, but to express a supremacist mentality.
Modern education in India (Before Independence)
In 1835, Lord Macauley successfully laid the foundation of modern education in India. In 1844 through a Declaration knowledge of English was made compulsory for Government employment. It made English medium schools very popular. The traditional Indian system of education gradually withered away for the lack of official support.
The universities at Calcutta, Bombay and Madras were started in 1837 and higher education spread rapidly thereafter. Since the British were not much interested in scientific and technical education, only three Medical Colleges one each at Calcutta, Bombay and Madras was established by 1857. There was only one good engineering college at Roorkee.
Purpose of introducing Modern Education system
Finding it too costly and perhaps practically impossible to import enough Englishmen to man the large and increasing number of subordinate or lower posts in administration, British rulers planned of educating Indians in such a way that they “should through western education get Anglicized in terms of both cultural and intellectual attainments”. Lord Macauley clearly said that, “we must at present do our best to form a class, who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indians in blood and color, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.”
Served Double purpose
Introduction of modern education had served a double purpose for the British rulers- they got the credit for the amelioration of the Indian society. But at the same time, through it, they devised a unique method of distribution of power, kept balance of power and prolonged their rule in India by keeping the natives busy in their in-fights.
Welcomed by all
The atmosphere was completely ready, when Lord Macauley to lay the foundation of modern education in India by 1835. Missionaries as well as National leaders, intellectuals and Reformers not only welcomed but exerted pressure on the company to encourage and promote western education in India.
For Missionaries, modern education was a good recipe to brainwash Indians and to attract many Indians especially belonging to lower strata towards Christianity. Modern education and preaching of religious minded Westerners like William Webberforce or Charles Grant etc. had made their job easy. Formal education in educational institutions under British government led to mass conversion into Christianity. It had succeeded in leaving a deep influence in the minds of both educated and uneducated.
- Brainwashing educated Indians - In educational institutions under British government or in Missionary schools, an ideological attack was launched purposely on Indian value systems. Indian social structure and its values and systems were described as “discriminatory,” “iniquitous,” “exploitative,” “oppressive” “barbarous,” “uncivilized” and “highly stratified”. Indian social-structure, based on caste system, was held responsible for all evil social practices, feudalistic attitude, backward thinking, belief in dogmas and superstitions sustained by a unique set of rituals, and whimsical concept of purity and pollution.
Formal education in missionary or government aided schools and colleges developed a complex in the minds of educated Indians about primitiveness of Indian society and its value system. Many educated Indians were influenced greatly by the alien culture. Some of them got converted into Christianity.
- Education and employment an attraction for poor – Missionaries had attracted the attention of poor ignorant masses by preaching and by providing for submerged sections of Indian society opportunities to get free modern education in missionary schools and permanent jobs. Liberal grants were given by the British government to missionaries and their schools for this purpose. It helped missionaries to lure the downtrodden/people, belonging to lower strata, towards Christianity.
Hopes, national leaders and Reformists had from ‘Modern Education’
Humanitarians, intellectuals, leaders and leaders and social reformers welcomed rationality and other good features of Modern English education. They hoped that modern education would –
- Enlighten Indians by giving them the key to open the treasures of scientific discoveries and democratic, liberal and humanitarian thoughts of the modern ‘West’through Western literature and philosophy.
- Make people aware of the real issues hampering the progress of Indian society, remery the social, political and economic ills of the country and improve the life of common men by enabling them to conquer ignorance, hunger, poverty and disease.
- Spread of the Principles of Democracy across the nation to bring to an end imperialism and tyranny of British rule.
Impact of the efforts of National leaders
Modern education did produce much-needed manpower for lower levels of administration, as desired by the rulers. But it also generated groups of visionary national leaders, intellectuals and reformers during second half of the nineteenth century and beginning of twentieth century like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Dadabhai Naoroji, Ferozeshah Mehta, Gokhale, Gandhi, Jinnah, Ambedkar, Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, Moti Lal Nehru, Jawahar Lal Nehru, Neta Subhash Chandra Bose, Patel etc.
Aim, Economic and social uplift – The thrust of Indian leaders and intelligentsia was purely an economic and social. They put emphasis on education and science. They took upon themselves the responsibility to build a modern, open, plural, culturally rich, prosperous and powerful India out of a fragmented, poverty stricken, superstitious, weak, indifferent, backward and inward looking society.
Constructive Influence of modern education on Indian society
Eighteenth century onwards, modern education led to social awakening, gave impetus to social progress and brought many reforms. It had influenced substantially the working style and thinking of missionaries, reformers, educationists and many Indians, especially those belonging to elite and intellectual sections of society. Some of the positive effects of modern education on Indian society were as follows -
- Opened up the doors of the knowledge – Modern education opened up the doors of the knowledge flourished in Europe after Renaissance movement of Middle Ages. It had widened the mental horizons of Indian intelligentsia.
- Highlighted evil practices – Modern education had highlighted the weaknesses and real issues, which had developed in the system like rigidity and harshness of social customs and practices prevalent at that time for the weaker sections of the society i.e. women and lower strata of society.
- Attracted attention of social reformers – Modern education had attracted the attention of social reformers towards social evils caused by ignorance, superstitions or irrationality like mumbo-jumbo of rituals and superstitions created by some selfish people to entangle the ignorant and poor masses, un-touch-ability and inhuman treatment to women, Sati, Polygamy, child marriage etc. etc. prevalent at that time.
- Realization of the worth of liberty and freedom – Indians realised the worth of liberty and freedom. They got exposure to the philosophies of thinkers like Locke, Mill, Roussseau, Voltaire, Spencer and Burke etc. They came to know about the reasons and impact of English, French, American revolutions. It equipped national leaders with the intellectual tools, with which they fought the oppressive British Raj.
The destructive effects of modern education on Indian society
Some of the adverse effects of modern education system on Indian society were -
- Disintegration of Indian society – Divisive policies of British rulers divided the whole of Indian society into many uncompromising groups. The primary aim of British rulers was to ‘divide and rule’ and keep the natives busy in their in-fights. They adopted racial discrimination and many repressive policies in order to disintegrate Indian society. On surface, everything appeared fine, but in reality it compartmentalized the Indian society into uncompromising groups by taking the path of discrimination. National leaders, Reformers and a section of intelligentsia could feel the damage, British racial discrimination and their repressive policies were doing.
- Rise to unhealthy competition – Modernization of the pattern of education and occupations (making knowledge of English as basic qualification for white collared jobs especially in government) along with industrialization increased role of formal education and training for furthering future prospects of people.
In near absence of industrial, commercial or social service activity, people had to depend entirely on modern education and Government jobs for earning respectfully. Stiff competition for getting enough space in modern callings divided the Indian society. Opportunities in modern education and government jobs became the bone of contention between different sections of the society. The monopoly of Brahmins in these areas cautioned the British and generated anger amongst the non-Brahmin communities and Muslims. In the Southern states, there emerged two rival groups – Brahmins and Non-Brahmins and in the North – Hindu and Muslims.
- Biased census operation – British rulers redefined the structure of Indian society through Census operations according to their administrative convenience. Census operations divided Indian society into different political groups – Upper castes, Lower castes, Backward castes, minorities Tribals and untouchables – on basis of race, religion, caste, creed, or place. The government recognized all these groups officially. It divided Indian population into different un-bridgeable groups. It politicized caste and community, which were made tools for Indians to fight amongst them from now onwards.
The government allowed forming their own pressure groups. It gave encouragement to all of them to pursue their sectional interests or to insist for their claims in the areas of education, white collared jobs and power- structure of the country.
- Racial discrimination giving birth to National movement – During 1858 to 1905, the British Government adopted a racist attitude under the garb of the policy of apparent association. British, philosophers and writers started propagating theories of racial superiority and thereby, justified the domination of white races over dark races of the globe. Historians like Mill, Wilson, Ward vehemently denounced the culture, character and social structure of the native people.
The discriminatory and repressive policies and practices of British rulers alarmed the national leaders. Racial discrimination in the areas of education and jobs and their repressive policies elsewhere; Economic loot; political subjugation; assertion of lordly superiority over the subject on the ground of race; assumption of a haughty exclusiveness; persistent insulting and supercilious behavior towards all Indians; exclusion of Indians from all places of honor, authority and responsibility; and denial of their capacity for self-governance united Indians against British rule. The destructive character of repressive policies of British rulers lit the fire and gave birth to national movement.
- Masses remained illiterate – Though during second half of the nineteenth century, British government in India opened the doors of education to all sections of Indian society, irrespective of caste or creed, very few amongst the general public could avail the advantages of formal modern education. Education remained confined within a small section of societyIt was only impoverished group of Brahmin and caste Hindus in search of respectful livelihood, who opted for modern education. Educating general public was not the aim of British rulers. Relentless efforts of missionaries, with an aim to convert poor people into Christianity, could educate a very small number of people from amongst them. Reasons being:
- Modern education was very costly and, therefore, unaffordable by the masses.
- Masses did not see any immediate use of education. It was more important for them to work and arrange two square meals day.
- English as a medium of instructions in education and as Official language. It alienated the masses from the educated Indians. English gradually became the language of elite section of Indian society.
- White collared jobs- Introduction of modern education in 1835 and introduction of Wood’s dispatch of 1854, known as Magna Carta, which declared English as an official language, changed the scenario. It gave importance and popularity to ‘White collared jobs’ in organized sector. Declaration of English as Official language pushed the masses away from new employment opportunities. More a person withdraws from physical labor, more honored; civilized and qualified he/she is considered by modern society. The trend of easy and quick money started.
- Discredited traditional occupations – Emergence of white-collared jobs based on formal education tended to make many traditional occupations obsolete, as they were considered less paying, more hazardous or time consuming. It scattered the efforts, sense of direction and manufacturing skills of millions of artisans, craftsman, weavers etc. There had been casualty of workers first, afterwards their work style, commitment, motivation and culture. They lost their creativity, sense of achievement and pride. Work culture has changed tremendously since then.
- Unemployment increased – Very few of them could join modern occupations. Majority of people could neither enter into modern sector, nor could stick to their traditional occupations considering the menial work derogatory. In the near absence of industrial, commercial or social service activity, most of them had no option, but either to join band of agricultural labors, industrial workers and marginal labor for their survival or increase number of unemployed or under employed.
- Traditional jobs hijacked by educated entrepreneurs - Some young entrepreneurs, having education, money and awareness, did market survey and hijacked many discarded traditional occupations. They modernized such disdained and contemptuous jobs like mechanization of fishing or leather industry and made them profit oriented. Even less capital-intensive occupations like that of barber or washer-men have been hijacked by educated middle class. They re-christened them as saloon, laundry etc and employed those poor traditional workers, who were earlier practicing such occupations independently.
Modern education and Reform movements
Social reforms of 19th and early 20th century – The thrust of reformers was purely social. They got alarmed at the erosion of rich ancient Culture of India. Modern education was steadily disassociating Indians from their traditional way of learning, classical roots and knowledge. They undertook the path of internal reforms. They tried to revive it through Sanskritization.
Formation of Social reform organizations in 19th and early 20th century – The thrust of reformers was purely social. Many organizations were formed allover India, like Brahma Samaj founded by Raja Ram Mohan Roy (1828) in Bengal or Prarthana Samaj in Maharashtra (1867). Arya Samaj (1875) was founded by Swami Dayanand in Northern India, and Rama Krishna Mission, Theosophical Society of India (1879), Dev Samaj in Lahore and Servants of India society. They suggested people to form similar organizations allover India spread awareness amongst common man.
Efforts to awaken the masses and interpret religion rationally – Social reformers took upon themselves the job to revive their own rich ancient culture and prevent the masses from being swayed away by the glamour and materialism of alien culture.
They organized people, held conferences and published articles to inspire and spread awareness amongst the people allover India. They interpreted religion rationally. They familiarized the masses with the greatness of Hindu Vedic culture and about Vedas as the source of all knowledge and truth. The intellectual ferment was strongest in West Bengal, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu as there was more rigidity than other parts of India in observances of various rituals and rules. Illiterate and ignorant masses followed them blindly.
Advice of social reformers to Indians
Social reformers drew attention of the public towards the real issues hampering the progress of Indian society and guided people to remain firmly rooted to Indian Culture.
- Advice to eradicate social evils – Social reformers told people to stop all forms of exploitation, inequality and injustice and then move forward. Emphasis was laid on education and science. They asked people to fight against all inhuman practices or treatment given to women and lower strata of society at that time. Women were victimized because of evil practices like Sati, Polygamy, child marriage etc. And practice of untouchablity, which developed into the system made millions of people from lowest strata of society to suffer because of arrogance, ego and irresponsible behavior of some persons. Such persons were responsible for creating the mumbo-jumbo of rituals and superstitions to serve their own vested interests and entangle/exploit the ignorant and poor masses.
- Free Hinduism from all degenerate features – Social reformers advised people to set free Hinduism from all degenerate features without foreign intervention. They asked the submerged sections of society to fight with “Abhava” (Scarcity), “Agyan” (Ignorance), “Annyaya” (Injustice), and “Alasya” (Laziness), as these were the causes of all evils.
- Not the principles, but practices went wrong - Reformers believed that it was not the Hindu principles, but the practices, which went wrong. Vivekanand who founded the Rama Krishna Mission said, “It is we, who are responsible for our degradation.” … He said, “Each nation like each individual has a theme in this life, which is its center, the principle note, around which every other note comes to form the harmony. If any nation attempts to throw off its national vitality, the direction, which has become its own through the transmission of centuries, that nation dies.” i
- Call to ’Return to Vedas’ – Swami Vivekanand and many other reformers asserted the superiority of Hindu Vedic culture. They gave a call to “Return to Vedas”, as Vedas were to them source of all knowledge and truth. They advised Indians to interpret religion rationally and remain firmly rooted to their own Culture.
Familiarizing the masses of India and the Western World
Awareness about its greatness confined within a small group – For a long time, the greatness of Indian culture and its philosophy was known only in India, that too, not to the whole of India, but only to a few Sanskrit scholars. For the first time in the 8th century Sankaracharya placed it before the people. Even then, its worth was realized within the world of few scholars and saints.
Later on, during 19th and 20 centuries, Saint Jnanesvar, Vivekanand, Rama Krishna Mission), Lokmanya Tilak, Theosophical Society of India and others tried to reveal to the common man and Western world the greatness of Indian Philosophy and culture as well as the charm and graciousness of Vedic literature. They contributed in making Vedic culture popular all over India.
Inspiration not only Indians, but foreigners as well – From now onwards, this gold mine of knowledge and vast treasures of Hindu philosophy with all its rational thinking, social and religious experiences contained in Indian Scriptures and Epics have inspired not only Indians, but foreigners also, not only in the past, but at present as well. Indian philosophy and its value system gave to people, a purpose to live for and ideals to be achieved. It commanded the respect and attention of an average Indian once more. German scholars, in the early Nineteenth Century and English scholars in the late Nineteenth Century and early Twentieth Century were deeply fascinated by Hindu philosophy and its rich spiritual and traditional treasures, accumulated through centuries.
Scholars reinterpreted it for a rational mind – Intellectuals from India as well as various countries have translated it in their own languages and reinterpreted it for a rational mind with an aim to spread it throughout the world.
. After Independence
With minor changes here and there, the education system basically remained the same. Karl Marx remarked that British, “had a double mission in India, one destructive, the other regenerating; the annihilation of the old Asiatic Society and laying the material foundation of Western Society in Asia.”I (Dutt RP, India Today, p476) The regenerating character can be seen in the social transformation in India through modern education. British rulers made English language as a medium of learning and official language. There was modernization in economic sphere. It led to political unification of the country and laid foundations for many democratic institutions.
The reactionary and destructive character was seen in the economic and social sphere. The growth of casteism had a close connection with these developments. Its result on Indian society was –
Complex in the minds of many educated Indians about their social values -Modern education has developed a complex in the minds of many educated Indians about the primitiveness of Indian society and about efficacy of its value systems. Many educated Indians have lost faith in social customs and practices altogether. Some Indians consider Hindu philosophies and its way of life impractical, or its social practices indefensible.
Apathy towards their values and systems – Apathy towards their value systems has made a large number of intelligentsia alien in their own country. It has disassociated them from their own way of living, classical roots and traditional knowledge. With it; are fading steadily Indian value-system, philosophies and traditions. Usually a person becomes miserable, when he is cut off from his source of life – his own roots. A large number of educated Indians have lost faith in the traditional values, principles and way of life. They have lost faith not only in their fellow-beings, but also in themselves.
Wide gulf between common man and educated – Quality of education, especially in government or government-aided educational institutions has also deteriorated to a great extent. The costly nature of quality education especially in private institutions has further alienated uneducated masses from educated ones. Quality education has become a monopoly of the richer classes and city dwellers. Their youth have become quite insensitive, arrogant and does not hesitate speaking their minds bluntly.
Culture of Neo-rich – A drastic change is visible in the values, behavior and etiquette of a new educated neo- rich youth of elitist class, which has emerged especially in urban areas and Metros. Their life style and value system have been gradually replaced by the Western ones. They want to enjoy pleasures of modern life at any cost. They are more conscious of their rights.
Undisciplined behavior – Present-day youth want to enjoy life fully in any possible way without any bondage/restriction/comment on their behavior or way of life. Loosening grip of social bondage and observances has made many of them selfish, self-willed and arrogant. Some of them have become so intolerant and aggressive, that they out-rightly discard all social norms and etiquette. Their thinking and value systems are quite different from the older ones.
Failure of Present Education System – Education is supposed to develop positive thinking in learners, so that they can channelize their efforts, make their thinking-base broader and flexible, increase openness to information and enhance spirit to work hard, sincerely in a responsible manner in order to attain desired goals. Present system of education has miserably failed to inculcate in youth these qualities. They do not have a clear vision about their aims and ambitions, courage to own responsibilities, face bravely the challenges in life and a balanced approach towards one’s rights and duties, which are the basic ingredients of any cultured/matured/civil society.
Large population of Illiterates and unskilled work-force - ‘Education for all’ and ‘employment for all’ is still a dream. Lack of proper education and training systems combined with illiteracy and lack of skills amongst a large number of people has turned the visions of national development into empty dreams. Only 64.84 people are literate according to 2001 census, (Males – 75.26% and Females – 53.67%). In absolute number, the figure is alarming. No nation can afford to have a large number of its population to remain illiterate, ignorant and unskilled. Not only the number of illiterates and unskilled is a matter of concern, but also quality and insufficient resources of education and training are the matter of great concern. Population explosion has put a heavy pressure on available infrastructure of education and training.
All powerful Government making common man a pigmy – Being a ‘socialist’ and ‘Welfare state’, government has assumed absolute power and taken over itself the responsibility of improving the quality of life of its people from `womb to tomb’. Instead of being a facilitator, it has become the provider. Instead of teaching people ‘how to fish’, it obliges different sections of society by ‘giving a fish’. It has led to centralization of all control systems and made common man a pigmy.
Populist policies to catch vote-banks – In order to create vote banks discriminatory populist policies are being pursued in the name of ‘equality’ or ‘social justice’. More emphasis is being given in pursuing abstract and emotional issues rather than solving the real problems of people. Attempts for social changes make a virtue of narrow loyalties of caste and religion, generating sub-cultures like favoritism, lure for easy money, nepotism and, in-discipline in the society. Caste and communal conflicts are increasing. There are sectarian and regional imbalances generating social and psychological tensions.
Unhealthy competition – There is neck to neck competition for a few places in educational institutions of repute or in employment, especially in organized sector. Rivalry and bitterness for pelf, power or position is continuously increasing. Total aversion of youth from their traditional occupations and stiff competition elsewhere for employment pushed millions to poverty. It has rendered millions of people unemployed or underemployed, who are now wasting all their efforts and most energetic and creative time of their lives, while hunting for a job.
Effect of Political turmoils on Indian society – Recent political turmoils have adversely affected the whole atmosphere. A few Individuals and groups, with political, money or muscle power control the destiny of millions and have say in almost every walk of national life. They are working day and night to deny justice to common men and upright citizens. Favouritism, in-discipline, violence, corruption, lure for easy money, nepotism and chase of materialism based on ruthless competition have weakened the social fabric beyond repair. The erosion of basic moral and human values has turned the life of men, “nasty, brutish and short”.
Standard of Administration – Standard of governance has declined. Work culture in government offices whether at Centre, state or local level, has been degenerated. Under-currents of caste politics have made the task of governance difficult, making the governance difficult and ineffective. It has given birth to sectarian and regional imbalances generating social and psychological tensions. People are disgusted with the non-performance of government. The administration has become incompetent to solve the burning national issues.
Technological advancement – Scientific and technological developments has endowed human with tremendous power both to preserve and destroy. At slightest provocation, people do not hesitate to unleash destructive powers accessible to them. That is one of the reasons for increase in the incidents of violence and crimes.
There is no denial to the fact that Modern education has brought social awakening and awareness amongst people all over India. Recent revolutionary developments in the areas Science and technology, information technology and mass media have brought tremendous changes in the life style and working of people. Thanks to it, now any kind of information in any area of human knowledge or about any aspects of life is easily accessible, that too at the door-step of each and every individual. It has made the present generation much more informed about the developments happening anywhere in the whole world and knowledgeable than previous generations. But only gaining knowledge is not enough.
Khalil Gibran has pointed out that a little knowledge that acts is worth more than much knowledge that remains inactive. A person, whose knowledge is confined to books, is unable to use his wealth of knowledge, when the need arises. Knowledge, the object of knowledge and application of the knowledge – all the three are equally important for motivating to take a wise action.
According to Hindu philosophy, human beings possess three shakties (Powers) – knowledge, will and action. A human mind consists of right knowledge, wrong knowledge, fancy imagination (illusion), sleep, memory. It is only the right kind of knowledge, which gives essence and which is the source of spiritual light and remover of all ignorance. Knowledge brings in understanding and consciousness that vibrates with different types of learning. Right kind of knowledge, like a rock, is a solid support to human beings, which stays with them all the time. Spiritually it brings harmony and peace of mind and materially happiness, relaxation and celebration in life.
There is a difference between knowledge gained through information (intelligence) and its application to real day today life (intellect or wisdom). Intelligence leads to the world of information and knowledge. And intellect enables one to analyze, reason, judge the thinking process and distinguish between facts/realities and opinion. Intellect guides how to apply knowledge. It is lack of intellect that leads a person to vices like egoism, superiority complex etc and creates problems in people’s life and in the world. Only intellect can control human mind and lead it mind to right direction. When intellect becomes weak, negative reasoning takes over mind.
Intellect shows the path to come in touch with ones own inner truth, becoming truly aware of oneself. Self realization/self introspection changes the attitude of a person. After knowing ones strengths and weaknesses, rise above ‘I, me and myself’. It makes a person to put stress on life principles, understand better oneself and other people around without bias, make more intelligent choices and stay calm in the face of crisis and chaos.
Modern education led to ‘Intelligence’, but not to ‘intellect’ – Modern education has made people intelligent and knowledgeable, but could not develop the ‘intellect’ of people properly. Revolutionary developments in the areas Science and technology, information technology and mass media made all kind of knowledge accessible and organized knowledge, but could not guide people to organized life.
Deficiencies of modern education system – Modern education, which has been inherited from the British, has brought social awakening and awareness all over India amongst Indian people. But there are also certain deficiencies in it. Internally, as Mahatma Gandhi had pointed out long ago, modern education based on colonized British Grammar School type education has deprived masses. English medium has put undue strain upon the nerves of the Indian students, made them crammers, imitators and unfit them for original work and thought. India’s massive human resource needs to be cultivated through sound system of education and training to get out of the rut of mediocrity.
Ignored the culture of heart – Modern education has ignored the culture of heart and hand and confined itself simply to head. It has made people aware of their rights, but unfortunately not about their duties. It has pushed modern youth away from their roots and their own culture, which advised them to adopt a self-restrained and self- disciplined life style, to learn to be contented, honest and willing to help others; to observe austerity, simplicity; to maintain cleanliness of diet, body and mind and; not to waste energy or over-indulge oneself in wasteful and destructive activity. In short, it advised people to rise above the animal instincts hidden inside human-beings.
Pushed people away from their indigenous culture – It has not taught youth of the day to have pride in their surroundings. More modern and advanced they become, the farther they are removed from their surroundings and at the end, becoming estranged from their surroundings. People basically become miserable when they are cut off from his source of life- one’s roots.
Today, people are loosing their natural character, because they are getting away from roots, from their traditional aspirations and values in preference to the western materialism. The traditional culture in its true form can still give to the people, a purpose to live for and ideals to be achieved. Modern educated intelligentsia needs to stop imitating the ‘West’ blindly.
Common men in India still have faith in good intentions and wisdom of their ancestors, who have contributed in developing the culture of India. Rajgopalachari has said, “If there is honesty in India today, any hospitality, any charity— any aversion to evil, any love to be good, it is due to whatever remains of the old faith and the old culture”.
Today, when Indians are getting away from their roots, it is important to keep their feet firmly on the ground and to instill right values in them. In recent past, traditional values have lost their sanctity and developed many distortions because people started following them blindly and in a wrong way. It developed a widespread misunderstanding. Apathy of people towards the value system of Indian society has generated caste-conflicts, feudal oppressions, exploitation of vulnerable sections of society and mass poverty. Only after understanding the rationale behind them, people should follow them systematically.
Traditional value system still gives to the people, a purpose to live for and ideals to be achieved. Blind following quite often leads to practice social customs and practices incorrectly or in a wrong way. Later on, with the passage of time, there develops many deformities into the system and harms the whole of the society. All the principles, rituals or customs of ancient India should not be followed blindly without understanding the logic behind it.
But there are some values and systems, which are still relevant and inspire common men to lead a disciplined life style. After evaluating its worth in the light of present circumstances, people should follow them systematically. Modern times and circumstances have changed completely especially after 1970 with information technology revolution. There were many things which the ancestors did not know like World Wars, nuclear weapons, technological advancements in the areas of media, transport, and communications or in the world of computers.
Education should guide youth to have a clear-cut vision of one’s responsibilities and a balanced approach towards one rights and duties, which is a must for any matured/civilized society. It should lead to positive thinking, which could channelize human efforts in proper direction, make vision broader, thinking flexible, increase openness to information and enhance spirit to work hard. Discipline and productivity are also necessary for a sound system of education.
Modern intelligentsia, who have some faith in traditional values and system welcome the rationality and other good features of Modern education, but wish to remain firmly rooted to Indian Culture.
Reformers and intellectuals have shown their anguish at the declining moral and ethical standards and discipline of the modern society. They try to combat negative forces like deceit, treachery, violence, crimes and degradation of values and make the society a better place to live in. There is enough goodness inside and around every human being. Only people need to channelize their ambitions, desires and energies towards right direction through sound education system.
In the recant past, it is not the principles, but the practices, which went wrong. Today, when Indians are getting away from their roots, nothing is more needed than the constant interpretation of past experiences and present circumstances. Present should be a constant challenge to the opinions of past. A value or a system, which in the light of modern times appears more effective and beneficial, should be replaced by a better one. At the same time, it would be suicidal to sacrifice ancient value systems to an increasing passion for change.
After raising oneself from ignorance, and with a rational and open mind, a person can understand the greatness of the Indian culture and its value system. A knowledgeable and civilized person like a jeweller should spot out gems from amongst worthless pebbles from this ocean of knowledge; pick them up and leave the undesired obsolete elements developed into it with passage of time. In a changing world, nothing can be more disabling than its idolization of past.
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