The great Sage Angirasa said, “Two kinds of knowledge are to be gained, as told by the knowers of the supreme truth, parā – the transcendental spiritual knowledge and aparā – the fundamental material knowledge.”

If we look back at the ancient Indian system of education, it flourished on the grounds of a valuesbased system where the guru held himself completely responsible for grooming his students into noble and able personalities, and the sishyas found themselves to be humble and grateful recipients of knowledge, love, values and wisdom that was imparted by the guru selflessly. The gurus shouldered the responsibility of being a parent, a teacher, and mentor for the students for the complete duration of their education of 12 or more years.

Knowledge was bequeathed as a free, comprehensive, profound, pragmatic, and enjoyable process. The very purpose of acquiring knowledge and skills was to share and serve, to promote the peaceful co-existence of all. The result of this kind of education system was very much palpable in the way societies lived in harmony and peace in those days.

The industrial revolution and the decline of Indian education

The industrial revolution during the colonial era led to the downfall of the gurukula system which promoted Indian education. This primarily focused on reading, writing and arithmetic in vernacular languages after which the students were trained according to their talents and capabilities in different fields ranging from scriptural studies to architecture, from poetry to pottery, from traditional medicine to social economics and so on. However, as soon as a straight-jacket approach of western education that would create English speaking employable Indians replaced this time-tested gurukula system, the Indian education declined drastically.

The western system of education in India started making its intrusion since the year 1813, and slowly spread wide, starting with charging fees for education, replacing ancient wisdom with textbooks on secular subjects, making employment and earning money the purpose of education, and diluting and destroying the loving bond between teachers and students.

It's time to shed our cloak of ignorance

We do not need scientific surveys to tell us what our own eyes and ears are revealing today. Excessive competition, parental expectations, commercialisation of education, negative impact of media, misuse of information technology, consumerism etc. have put immense pressure on children, families, and schools, which have led to distortion of basic human values. There is an urgent requirement to understand that right kind of education is the solution to all the problems faced by humanity today; a model that will induce the innate values of life into the veins of education and give adequate importance to holistic and integral formation of individuals with a sincere commitment to address the manifold issues and needs of our times. Institutions that bear a moral responsibility to increase the awareness, knowledge, skills, and values needed to create a just and sustainable future, is of paramount importance.

It is time to ring the bell for true education that calls for us to shed our cloaks of ignorance and embrace the glorious reality of who we truly are. Times have changed and the need is clear, and hence there can be no more of protracting the topic about the need for a values-based system of education throughout India. Silently yet firmly, children and youth alike are calling out for their rights from the society to receive an education that befits their innate inner beauty and not the one that greases it with fuzzy shades.

The need of the hour is an equitable education system, available to all, that can create problem solvers trained in the latest knowledge systems, at the same time deeply rooted in unshakable conviction in morality and ethics; in other words – the amalgamation of the ancient and the modern.