Was there ever a glorious education system which India always boasts about?
Well ever wondered why we always mention about the glorious past, well agreed that the Vedas and Upanishads were master pieces at their time, but those were written in the early age of Aryan culture what was there after that? Takshila and Nalanda lay as ruins soon.
Dark Age of Indian education!
Propagators of Gurukul system seem to be very sure that teachers selected were of high caliber in knowledge and character. Well the reality is that there was no central authority controlling the appointment of teachers. There was no fixed syllabus.
Each and every person by virtue of being born as a Brahmin had an inherent right to be a teacher. He could open an ashram and take pupils as and when he likes, and he could give certificate of completion of studies as and when he chooses. He was not bound by any law of land nor any convention of teachers’ body. There used to be guilds and bodies of merchants and craftsmen, but I am unaware if some institution was established to supervise the teaching and conduct of the teacher in such gurukuls. Most of the gurukuls were single teacher residential ones free from any royal or academic control. What was the guarantee of quality under these circumstances? It is a matter of egotism, vanity and conceit to think of quality in such teaching institutions. These gurukuls had no respect in foreign lands and never attracted any foreign students.
There seems to be misconceived idea that a student coming out from such a school had all the requisite qualities of a good citizen. This is far from the truth. He used to have learned by heart the Brahmanic sastras, which hardly make him versatile. He could never think of outside matters. What is not in his books does not exist for him. Al Biruni, for example, mentioned that Indian scholars have no knowledge of civilization abroad, and they disbelieve if somebody tells them about it. Their thought process centered on the rituals, vratas and ceremonies.
The Brahmanic knowledge consisted of recital of Vedas, without understanding the meaning of what is being recited, and was miles away from the actual life of productive castes. As a matter of fact, it was enjoined that the recites must not try to understand the meaning of what he reads.
The education was more centered around training some parrots who could sing than create some educated civilized citizens. Writing new books or literary texts, doing scientific study was never encouraged. The medium of instruction was Sanskrit which is a dead language of any value for the community.
Infact, there was no medium for scientific study till the 18th century. The educated class predominately used Sanskrit and Farsi. ( Haath kangan ko aarsi kya, padhe likhe ko farsi kya… meaning like you are not expected to need a mirror for the ornaments in your forearm, you are expected to know farsi if you call yourself educated)
Sanskrit was constructed in the poetic lines (where the stanzas need to by rhyming) which makes it tough for any recording work. The Hindi which we very proudly say as ours was never a written language. It was first written in a paragraph form ( like it is today) by British scholars in the 18th century.
And we blame British to ruin our education system.
One cannot stick for a couple of centuries with the same book in hand and say it is the ultimate source of all knowledge and is written by god himself. Like civilization even books need to evolve. Saying that this scientific discovery was already mentioned in so and so stanza of this ancient book is ridiculous. If you already knew about it then I would say… shame on you Vedic scholars. You are sitting on a gold mine of knowledge and have gained nothing from it.
Chanakya’s views (Now writing as DeadManWalking)
I have heard about the glory of the upinishads and vedas since I was born. Everything we have now is already in the vedas. Recently a girl told me that we have had no progress in the field of medicines new in medicine thats not in ayurveda or ancient Chinese medicine! were her exact words. I dont know much but i definitely don’t think this is correct. I don’t believe penicillin is mentioned in the vedas is it ? Coming to the vedas its all about interpretation isn’t it. A shlok praising the sun god calculates the value of pi to huge number of decimal places. I don’t know Sanskrit but i found that to be awesome (i am not being sarcastic here).
Between Chinese and Indian aurveda a huge amount of knowledge is covered. However one still has to remember that we still have no cures for a huge number of diseases and we seem to be very apt at finding new ones. diseases which were not even there in ancient times definitely have no cure today. Oh yhea and cancer and radiology and tumors. Let me see the ancient method for tumor in the brain was to remove a part of the skull so that the pressure on the brain decreases (practiced in very few places most places would just kill off the person calling him crazy) . Nowadays i can choose to have my brain fried in case of tumor.
But medicine has not improved much over the ages. However the others parts of the medical world has improved. Surgery for example. We are so intent on glorifying our past that we tend to forget the present. the past is always perfect isn’t it? We keep on hearing about the great things being found in the vedas. The design of an aircraft for example, however within a few months of the claim there was no longer any more information about it. If the vedas are such a huge storehouse of knowledge then why hasn’t it all been brought out?? just random parts from people who disappear over the horizon.
The vedas have information there is no doubt about it. but what i don’t know and as far as i see no1 else really does except that they know its there.
As far as the ancient education system goes which denied every person the right to study. The immorality of it all is still beheld as being a great system by a majority of the country. Considering that even today the caste system is so prevalent in India i find it absolutely ridiculous. Not that our present system is any better, if you can afford it u can get education. What was initially being denied by virtue of caste is now being denied by virtue of cash. and lets not talk about the government mid day meal programs and its education effort. when the process will be able to lift a person from the downtrodden to reach one of the premier institutes of the country without reservations then ill say it has succeeded.
while i cannot comment about the course content of the gurukul system especially since i wasn’t there nor have i really seen anything other than in the serials and movies. If the vedas were that good i believe then all those stuff must have been imparted into the disciples by the gurus. But somehow it doesn’t look like it happened did it? were the teachers so righteous that they forgot to impart knowledge written in books ? or did the books come to be written at a time when all knowledge had been forgotten. But one thing is guaranteed the aim of an education system such that the knowledge is limited to a particular caste is bound to fail in one way or the another. if education in those times was how and why we are better than the person whom we have conquered in the past then no thanks i say. i cannot believe that we can stil think about that as being a great system of education