Friday, March 25, 2005


Education is not the amount of information that is put into your brain and runs riot there, undigested all your life. We must have life-building, man-making, character-making, assimilation of ideas. If you have assimilated five ideas and made them your life and character, you have more education than any man who has got by heart a whole library.
Swami Vivekananda

There was an article in today's The Hindu 'Teachers walking a tightrope today'. It says teachers are feeling the heat because of a few students who committed suicide after being scolded by teachers. Teachers, who took the trouble of holding special classes on weekends, are too scared to bother.

"We don't tell the girls to work hard and study any more," says one teacher. "It is difficult to feel a sense of involvement in our work, when we are being blamed for everything — neither the students nor the government took our side."

The authority of the teacher has been thoroughly undermined, says the headmistress in a feeble voice. Several teachers in private and Government schools across the city feel the same. With increasing incidence of student suicides, the teacher is often the first scapegoat.

Educationist S. Swaminatha Pillai says every teacher is walking a tightrope. "With single or double children families, parents are pampering their children. Every want of the child is catered to. But at school, the child is one of 40 boys and girls. The teacher cannot be as sensitive as a parent. Moreover, the teacher is constantly under pressure — to finish the portions, to bow to the wants of the management, to deliver cent per cent results... "

This is expected. The worse is yet to come. In the US kids go on a shooting spree. "We don't know why he did it," say the parents and teachers. The reason is obvious - stress.

Education has become commercial. More students mean more money. So schools try to accommodate as many students as possible. It is common to see more than 40 students in a class. How an we expect a teacher to control 40 brats? Ask any mother - controlling a single kid itself exhausts her. Forty kids? It's insane.

The way students are taught has also become mechanical. The relationship between the teacher and the student has to be almost personal. The student must be made to think of the teacher as a friend. In the ancient gurukula system, students stayed with the teachers. It was one big family. It is not the case now. The child goes to the school in the morning. So do teachers. The students become a scapegoat for their tensions.

The way students are taught also leaves a lot to be desired. The teacher stands on a pedestal and shoves the material into the students' throats.

Swami Vivekananda says: No one was ever really taught by another. Each of us has to teach himself. The external teacher offers only the suggestion which arouses the internal teacher to work to understand things. Then things will be made clearer to us by our own power of perception and thought, and we shall realize them in our own souls.

You cannot teach a child any more than you can grow a plant. The plant develops its own nature. The child also teaches itself. But you can help it to go forward in its own way. What you can do is not of a positive nature but negative. You can take away the obstacles, and knowledge comes out of its own nature. Loosen the soil a little, so that it may come out easily. Put a hedge round it; see that it is not killed by anything. You can supply the growing seed with the materials for the making up of its body, bringing to it the earth, the water, the air that it wants. And there your work stops. So with the education of a child. A child educates itself. The teacher spoils everything by thinking that he is teaching. With man is all knowledge, and it requires only an awakening, and that much is the work of a teacher. We have only to do so much for the boys that they may learn to apply their own intellect to the proper use of their hands, legs, ears and eyes.

My idea of education is personal contact with the teacher — gurugriha-vasa. Without the personal life of a teacher, there would be no education. Take your universities. What have they done during the fifty years (this was told at Madras in 1897) of their existence? They have not produced one original man. They are merely an examining body. The idea of the sacrifice for the common weal is not yet developed in our nation.
One should live from his very boyhood with one whose character is a blazing fire and should have before him a living example of the highest teaching.

What is education? Is it book-leaning? No. Is it diverse knowledge? Not even that. The end of all education, all training, should be man-making. The end and aim of all training is to make the man grow. The training by which the current and expression of will are brought under control and become fruitful, is called education.

To me the very essence of education is concentration of mind, not the collecting facts. If I had to do my education over again, and had any voice in the matter, I would not study facts at all. I would develop the power of concentration and detachment, and then with a perfect instrument I could collect facts at will.

We want that education by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased, the intellect is expanded and by which one can stand on one’s own feet. What we need is to study, independent of foreign control, different branches of the knowledge that is our own, and with it the English language and western science; we need technical education and all else that will develop industries; so that men, instead of seeking for service, may earn enough to provide for themselves and save against a rainy day.

Discipline. This is one of the most misunderstood concepts. When teachers try to 'enforce' discipline, what results is only the outward resemblance of discipline. Discipline cannot be forced. If forced, it will explode. Discipline must come from within. J. Krishnamurty says: Discipline in schools becomes necessary when there is one teacher to a hundred boys and girls – then you jolly well have to be very strict; but such discipline will not produce an intelligent human being. And most of us are interested in mass movements, large schools with a great many boys and girls; we are not interested in creative intelligence, therefore we put up huge schools with enormous attendances. At one of the universities I believe there are 45000 students.
You know, soldiers all over the world are drilled every day, they are told what to do, to walk in line. They obey orders implicitly without thinking. Do you know what that does to man? When you are told what to do, what to think, to obey, to follow, do you know what it does to you? Your mind becomes dull, it loses its initiative, its quickness. This external, outward imposition of discipline makes the mind stupid, it makes you conform, it makes you imitate. But if you discipline yourself by watching, listening, being considerate, being very thoughtful - out of that watchfulness, that listening, that consideration for others, comes order. Where there is order, there is always freedom. If you are shouting, talking, you cannot hear what others have to say. You can only hear clearly when you sit quietly, when you give your attention.

Till we change the education system, teachers and parents will continue to walk the tightrope.