Gandhi´s Ex­per­i­ment with Ed­u­ca­tion for Ru­ral In­dia: Nai Talim Sys­tem

Economic Challenger - - CONTENTS - − Dr. Trilok Ku­mar Jain − Ms. Anita Sharma


Re­cently I read an ar­ti­cle writ­ten by KK Khullar on " The Mean­ing of Ed­u­ca­tion " pub­lished in May 2011 is­sue of KURUKSHETRA Jour­nal for Ru­ral Devel­op­ment and I dis­cov­ered a whole new sys­tem of ed­u­ca­tion which is far more devel­oped, pro­gres­sive, com­plex and re­sult ori­ented for so­ci­ety then the ex­ist­ing syl­labus driven ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem. Ma­hatma Gandhi in­vented this new sys­tem dur­ing his stint in Africa and named it Nai Talim. To quench my thirst for un­der­stand­ing this sys­tem, I surfed on in­ter­net and found out a write up which throws the light on birth of the sys­tem and its jour­ney to the Golden Ju­bilee cel­e­bra­tion (1937 to 1987). This story of Nai Talim is writ­ten by the teacher Mar­jorie Skyes and re­pro­duced by the stu­dent Kanaka­mal Gandhi cov­er­ing 50 years’ pe­riod from 1937 to 1987. The write up is based on ex­pe­ri­ence of the teacher Ms. Mar­jorie Skyes had wit­nessed evo­lu­tion of Nai Talim and re­mained very close to Ma­hatma Gandhi dur­ing this en­tire pe­riod of evo­lu­tion. Write up con­tains ex­pe­ri­ence of Mar­jorie Skyes as a teacher and ex­pe­ri­ence of Kanaka­mal Gandhi as stu­dent of Nai Talim sys­tem and it gives very vivid and clear pic­ture of devel­op­ment phases of Nai Talim sys­tem.

On Golden Ju­bilee of Nai Talim sys­tem in 1987, the writer un­folded the ad­van­tages of Nai Talim sys­tem and de­scribed how it could fill the gaps cre­ated by con­tem­po­rary ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem. He also ques­tioned the present sys­tem on the pa­ram­e­ter of how far it had been suc­cess­ful in de­vel­op­ing the eco­nomic and so­cial po­ten­tial of a pupil.

The writer also pointed out the im­por­tant no­tion of ed­u­ca­tion for "peace" in Nai Talim sys­tem. The im­por­tance of teach­ing "peace" should not be lim­ited to few chap­ters in syl­labus rather it should be an in­te­gral part in the form of har­ness­ing co­op­er­a­tion and to­geth­er­ness among the fel­low ci­ti­zens.

Though the teacher Mar­jorie Sykes (Bri­tish teacher from Canada) , who wrote the story of Nai Talim was work­ing in South In­dia and had not much knowl­edge of In­dia’s strug­gle for free­dom and Gand­hiji’s role be­hind this. Yet the co­in­ci­den­tal anal­ogy of her fa­ther’s teach­ing style at Canada in a small school and ex­cerpts of Har­i­jan news­pa­per about Gand­hiji’s Nai Talim ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem ex­cited her to be a part of this silent rev­o­lu­tion of so­cial devel­op­ment.

Gand­hiji in his Nai Talim sys­tem em­pha­sized on three ba­sic pil­lars−" the child ed­u­ca­tion should not alien­ate child from its fam­ily and home", "they should be taught in their mother tongue" and "all chil­dren should be treated equally".

Gand­hiji ex­plained that there are two parts of ed­u­ca­tion/train­ing−" in­tel­lec­tual train­ing" and "man­ual train­ing". Th­ese train­ings be con­ducted not only in par­al­lel to each other; but th­ese should be en­twined like strands in a jute rope and should in­volve high and ma­jor pro­por­tion of man­ual train­ing. He ad­vo­cated that schools can be self−re­liant and self−fi­nanced by teach­ing the stu­dents the crafts of vil­lage in­dus­tries. Th­ese crafts could be col­lected, ware­housed and mar­keted by the state for fi­nanc­ing th­ese schools. Imag­ine if ev­ery school be­comes pro­ducer of crafts or any­thing−sell­able. Even teach­ers can be ben­e­fited with more earn­ings, school could de­velop in­fra­struc­ture and even stu­dents can get free ed­u­ca­tion with vocational ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Ini­tially there can be hic­cups from teach­ers’ fra­ter­nity that

such sys­tem opens all to­gether new and many more di­men­sions that can be dif­fi­cult to con­sol­i­date and to com­pact in a struc­tured syl­labus. Putting it dif­fer­ently it is not a prob­lem of learn­ing new rather it is a prob­lem of un­learn­ing the struc­tured ones and con­tin­u­ous re­learn­ing and dis­cov­er­ing new di­men­sions with­out stop­ping. For ex­am­ple, a stu­dent may fear from math­e­mat­ics. It may be a case that he likes all parts of math­e­mat­ics book but may not be able to un­der­stand cylin­der ge­om­e­try and he de­vel­ops fear for en­tire sub­ject and avoids his chances to come out openly. Such prob­lems should be iden­ti­fied by the teacher and teacher could de­velop in­ter­ven­tion based on prac­ti­cal ex­er­cises on cylin­der ge­om­e­try that sparks in­ter­est of that stu­dent and when he gets in­ter­ested, he may over­come fear. For in­stance, he can be given a task to make a cylin­dri­cal ta­ble lamp with cer­tain mea­sure­ment and tell him to iden­tify the for­mu­las of cylin­dri­cal ge­om­e­try to fit the ex­act ob­ject built−up.

Be­fore in­de­pen­dence, Hin­dus­tani Tal­imi Sangh was es­tab­lished to dis­cuss the pros and cons of Gand­hiji’s school of thought−Nai Talim sys­tem and the Bri­tish style of ed­u­ca­tion. Sev­eral ed­u­ca­tion­ists crit­i­cized the no­tion of in­dulging child in vocational train­ing and crafts mak­ing and they ar­gued that by this the schools might bur­den child, as a craft la­bor and that should not be the ob­jec­tive. An­other ar­gu­ment by crit­ics was that Gand­hiji’s Nai Talim sys­tem ig­nored lit­er­ary as an im­por­tant mea­sur­able re­sult. More­over, there was crit­i­cism from all cor­ners about the rec­om­mended child’s en­try age for vocational train­ing by Gand­hiji in Nai Talim sys­tem. Ghand­hiji ar­gued that stu­dents should be en­tered into vocational train­ing and ac­tiv­i­ties at the age of 7 or more but mostly peo­ple send their child to school at age 5 or six and Bri­tish style schools even al­lowed stu­dents in pre ed­u­ca­tion be­low the age of 5 also. At such early age child’s phys­i­cal sta­tus is inapt for vocational train­ing like craft mak­ing, spin­ning etc.

Most in­spir­ing thought about Nai Talim sys­tem was re­defin­ing medium of in­struc­tion. Gand­hiji prop­a­gated that medium of in­struc­tions must be work, not any lan­guage. The lan­guage of com­mu­ni­ca­tion must be the mother tongue of the tar­get stu­dents not English or any other lan­guage. With this piv­otal no­tion, the train­ing schools (th­ese were called ba­sic schools) were started with first one set up at ’Se­va­gaon’. The stu­dents here showed as­tound­ing progress in pro­duc­tiv­ity in spin­ning of cot­ton and cloth pro­duc­tion. Be­sides this, they also gained knowl­edge about va­ri­eties of cot­ton, agri­cul­ture of cot­ton, types of soils suit­able for cot­ton, spin­ning and spin­ning tools, ge­o­graph­i­cal and com­mer­cial knowl­edge about cot­ton etc. In ad­di­tion, stu­dents devel­oped co­op­er­a­tion and to­geth­er­ness at­ti­tude dur­ing work­ing in ba­sic schools and re­spect for all castes, re­li­gions and so­cial cadre among the stu­dents. The Bri­tish style pro­motes in­di­vid­ual devel­op­ment while ba­sic−school makes stu­dents a team worker, so­cialite and in­ven­tor. Stu­dents at ba­sic schools were very en­thu­si­as­tic and con­tra­dicted the skep­tics and doubts of many ed­u­ca­tion­ists that the stu­dents would feel bur­dened and bored. The stu­dents at ba­sic schools in­tro­duced new sys­tems of school shop and school sav­ings bank and made their par­ents learn the crafts, which they learnt at school and helped their fam­i­lies in in­creas­ing house­hold in­come.

With such un­lim­ited di­men­sions and po­ten­tials of ba­sic schools, there were fears about non−stan­dard­iza­tion and di­lu­tion of de­mar­ca­tions in Nai Talim sys­tem. The qual­ity and qual­i­fi­ca­tion of teach­ers and train­ing of teach­ers be­came a mat­ter of de­bate. How a teacher could be trained for crafts and lack of lit­er­a­ture about crafts also made things scary. In­stead of dig­ging out in­no­va­tive ped­a­gogy to solve such com­plex prob­lems, the than government and staunch ed­u­ca­tion­ists from Bri­tish style of school­ing sur­ren­dered to the easy one i.e. main­tain­ing sta­tus quo, si­lence and ig­no­rance.

There was great set back to the ba­sic school sys­tem of Gand­hiji when Congress also moved in sup­port of clos­ing such schools in Orissa in 1945 and when many mem­bers of Hin­dus­tani Tal­imi Sangh were jailed af­ter dec­la­ra­tion of "Quit In­dia" move­ment in 1941, the Bri­tish feared the ba­sic schools as safe havens and light houses for na­tional move­ment ac­tiv­i­ties. Con­se­quently,

the ba­sic schools were aban­doned and closed.

Later in 1944−45, Gand­hiji re­de­fined the role of ba­sic schools and said that th­ese schools are not mere four wall bounded struc­tures that teach only to those who come in to the school but th­ese ba­sic schools must in­ter­act with its vicin­ity and work as cat­a­lyst to clean the so­ci­ety’s phys­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment and soul of in­di­vid­u­als. Gand­hiji em­pha­sized not only free­dom for In­dia but also free­dom for vil­lages of In­dia through de­vel­op­ing vil­lages into self−sup­port­ing economies. The vil­lages must be so­cially and eco­nom­i­cally self− re­liant through con­tin­u­ous amal­ga­ma­tion of ba­sic school with its vil­lages in vicin­ity.

Gand­hiji’s silent rev­o­lu­tion also in­cluded adult ed­u­ca­tion and im­prov­ing liv­ing stan­dards of vil­lage so­ci­ety through adult ed­u­ca­tion in Nai Talim sys­tem. He en­vi­sioned that vil­lages should be­come self−re­liant in a way that they should be­come an en­ter­prise that should ben­e­fit all cadres of vil­lage so­ci­ety with­out any bi­ases. Ba­sic hy­giene, prac­tice of hav­ing pri­vate toi­lets at home, san­i­ta­tions, food, in­fra devel­op­ment, health etc., should be dealt with con­sen­sual and well thought plan­ning keep­ing ev­ery­body’s in­ter­est in mind. He put the suc­cess­ful case stud­ies of vil­lages that, through Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee and vil­lage sav­ings bank or­ga­nized by ba­sic school stu­dents, im­proved lives of all and sundry and learnt the new stan­dards of liv­ing.

Gand­hiji’s Nai Talim sys­tem drew some in­spi­ra­tion from Montes­sori school in UK es­pe­cially con­cern­ing the role of par­ents in child ed­u­ca­tion. As child spends more time at home than at school, sim­i­larly, he also learns more from par­ents then from a teacher. No mat­ter how many times a teacher teaches ben­e­fits of good hy­giene, the child will not learn un­til his par­ents un­der­stand and prac­tice ba­sic hy­giene at home. This evolves teacher’s role in bring­ing har­mony be­tween child’s learn­ing at home and learn­ing at school.

Teacher should take ini­tia­tives in fill­ing the gaps be­tween home’s learn­ing and school’s learn­ing by vis­it­ing stu­dents’ home and ad­vise the par­ents to act in ac­cor­dance.

Gand­hiji sug­gested that cur­ricu­lum de­sign should de­velop the stu­dent into self−re­liant in­di­vid­ual who is skilled for earn­ing, has be­lief in in­vent­ing and dis­cov­ery. Such cur­ricu­lum should de­velop stu­dents in a way that they be­come ready−help­ing hands for them­selves and the so­ci­ety also. For ex­am­ple, the stu­dent should un­der­stand how he should earn, spend; man­age his own bal­ance sheets help­ing vil­lagers to cop up with dif­fi­cul­ties, man­ag­ing gram bank ser­vices etc. So right from be­gin­ning the stu­dent be­comes self re­liant, con­fi­dent and un­der­stands the vil­lage prob­lems, plans to solve the prob­lems and par­tic­i­pates in im­ple­men­ta­tion.

For de­vel­op­ing such a rev­o­lu­tion­ary sys­tem of ed­u­ca­tion, the teacher’s train­ing be­comes cru­cial and com­plex. How­ever, out of this strug­gle, the foun­tain of learn­ing ex­plodes. For ba­sic school of Nai Talim sys­tem, teach­ers were trained to learn the crafts like spin­ning, ro­tat­ing charkha, cot­ton agri­cul­ture etc. and sur­pris­ingly, the vol­ume of learn­ing was found much larger when mea­sured. For in­stance, for weav­ing a pair of cloth for a man, teacher and stu­dent to­gether learn how many me­ters of fab­ric to be spun .for the re­quired quan­tity of fab­ric, how many spin­dles of yarn would be needed for re­quired amount of spin­dles, how much seeds to be sown .how much land is re­quired for sow­ing how much quan­tity of fer­til­iz­ers and water would be re­quired to source water and many more prac­ti­cal as­pects. More­over, this cre­ated enor­mous en­thu­si­asm among teach­ers and stu­dents.

Eval­u­a­tion of stu­dents in Nai Talim sys­tem was de­vised dif­fer­ently. The camps in place of pro­mo­tional ex­ams were or­ga­nized. Stu­dents were needed to gather at one place in a camp. They would them­selves or­ga­nize their daily chores and or­ga­nize weekly events for vil­lagers to ed­u­cate about san­i­ta­tion, ba­sic hy­giene, agri­cul­ture etc and no stu­dent was left with­out per­form­ing. Stu­dents were given projects for cre­at­ing herb garden in vil­lages by col­lect­ing medic­i­nal plants from the vicin­ity, de­vel­op­ing the herbal clin­ics in which medic­i­nal value of plants could be used for gen­eral health of vil­lagers. Such dra­matic eval­u­a­tion devel­oped th­ese ba­sic schools into real com­mu­nity ser­vice cen­ter. In­ter­est­ingly it put one ba­sic school en­tirely

dif­fer­ent from an­other ba­sic school be­cause one vil­lage hav­ing some thing might not be avail­able with an­other vil­lage. Ev­ery vil­lage had dif­fer­ent set of prob­lems and ben­e­fits, which devel­oped its ba­sic school in its own way. More im­por­tantly, the stu­dent at ba­sic school en­joyed habit of ex­per­i­ment­ing and dis­cov­er­ing. The writer in this story tells about how a girl in­creased milk pro­duc­tion of her house­hold cow by 50% through ex­per­i­ment­ing with cow’s nutri­tion and san­i­ta­tion con­di­tions af­ter learn­ing from her ba­sic school.

Gand­hian Nai Talim sys­tem was never in fa­vor of pro­mot­ing money econ­omy in vil­lages. Money econ­omy buys goods from out side world through spend­ing money hence in­creases de­pen­dency on out­side world and at the same time, makes vil­lages vul­ner­a­ble to the out­side world. The Nai Talim sys­tem in­tro­duced devel­op­ment of vil­lages as self−sup­port­ive, which means that vil­lage pro­duced it­self, con­sumed all of its pro­duce it­self, and de­pended min­i­mally on out­side econ­omy. The cy­cle of vil­lage re­source uti­liza­tion and re­gen­er­a­tion should run in tan­dem with­out ex­ter­nal help. Im­ple­men­ta­tion of such sys­tem came up with su­perb ex­am­ples of de­vel­op­ing in­ter­nally sourced ma­nure that in­creased crops yield dra­mat­i­cally and uti­lized hu­man and an­i­mal wastes for the same and thus im­prov­ing san­i­ta­tion and hy­giene of vil­lages. Such sci­en­tific ex­per­i­ments were gen­er­ated by think tanks of ba­sic schools and th­ese think tanks were school’s teach­ers and stu­dents.

This en­tire story of Nai Talim sys­tem of ed­u­ca­tion stretched from 1937 to 1987 came to al­most ex­tinc­tion due to many skep­tics raised by ed­u­ca­tion­ists about the model of ba­sic school. As it was mostly vil­lage cen­tric, ur­ban­iza­tion made it ir­rel­e­vant day by day as thinkers of Nai Talim did not ex­tend this model’s pe­riph­ery to ur­ban­ite or as­pir­ing ur­ban­ite stu­dents. Lack of stan­dard­iza­tion in terms of qual­i­fi­ca­tion and skills of teach­ers, eval­u­a­tion of stu­dents, model’s in­te­gra­tion with higher ed­u­ca­tions and more sciences that are com­plex then vil­lage in­dus­tries’ sciences etc led to aban­don the Nai Talim sys­tem. Ba­sic schools were also per­ceived to be poors´ schools where par­ents hes­i­tated to send their child. Par­ents feared that child would be en­cap­su­lated in vil­lage sys­tem and would not de­velop to the new edge ca­reers of elit­ists.

Gand­hiji’s sys­tem of Nai Talim was crit­i­cized as much as his procla­ma­tion of Swaraj was ap­pre­ci­ated but there are ef­forts in place to blow oxy­gen into it. Na­tional In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy & In­dus­trial En­gi­neer­ing−Mum­bai has devel­oped cre­ative work­shop of young en­trepreneurs on the no­tions of Nai Talim sys­tem. NITIE Cen­ter for Stu­dent En­trepreneur­ship (NCSE) is try­ing to de­velop bud­ding en­trepreneur­ship on the no­tion of Nai Talim sys­tem of Gand­hiji. Af­ter brows­ing var­i­ous sec­tion of NCSE, it seems the crit­ics of this sys­tem must have ig­nored the very ba­sic na­ture of Nai Talim sys­tem of un­learn­ing and re­learn­ing. The Nai Talim sys­tem has im­mense po­ten­tial to find out ways to in­te­grate with higher ed­u­ca­tion if it is al­lowed to do so. The con­cept of glob­al­iza­tion is old now. There is a buzz­word− Glo­cal­iza­tion. The glo­cal­iza­tion means us­ing global prac­tices and ex­per­tise to de­velop the lo­cal po­ten­tial, re­spect­ing the lo­cal con­tent and give new per­spec­tives to solve lo­cal prob­lems, fa­cil­i­tat­ing ex­change of success and fail­ure sto­ries of lo­cal in­dus­tries/ vil­lage in­dus­tries. The Nai Talim sys­tem can pro­vide the ba­sic ma­trix to mould the new di­men­sions, vi­brancy and ca­pa­bil­i­ties of aban­doned lo­cal vil­lage in­dus­tries.


KK Khullar," The Mean­ing of Ed­u­ca­tion", KURUKHETRA: Jour­nal for Ru­ral Devel­op­ment, Vol. May 2011.

Mar­jorie Sykes," The Story of Nai Talim− In­tro­duc­tion: A Per­sonal Tes­ti­mony", March 1988.­shan­tar/naital­im­mar­joriesykes.htm.

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