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What is National Education?

Following a session of the Indian National Congress, H V Dugvekar, in 1917, came out with a compilation of essays by prominent freedom movement leaders including Bipin Chandra Pal, Gopal Krishan Gokhale, Annie Besant and Lala Lajpat Rai. A speech from Bipin Chandra Pal, founder of the Brahmo Samaj and part of the triumvirate Lal-Bal-Pal (for Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin himself), grabbed my attention.

National Education has been defined by a resolution of the last National Indian Congress as education conducted along national lines and under national control. I would, however, amend this definition a little by adding a clause towards the end. Education may be conducted along more or less national lines and may be more or less under national control and yet it may not be National Education.

He suggests that we may adopt practices on a large scale in pedagogy, set the medium of instruction and establish a public mode of ownership, but this

may not be National Education, because the object of this education, though conducted to a certain extent along national lines and though worked practically under national control, may not aim at the realisation of the destiny of the nation, and an education that does not direct its efforts towards the realisation of the national destiny, even if it be conducted along national lines, more or less, and even if it be ‘under national control’, apparently, to some extent, yet it would not be national education in the fullest and truest sense of the term…A nation is not a mere collection of individuals, it is an organism…The nationality that constitutes a nation is the individuality of a nation.

That should make us think – what is the National Destiny that is sought to be realized through our system of national education? What is the individuality of our nation that we should strive on creating?

In the sense that the education system is fundamentally, or should be, a reflection of the needs of the nation, this question is closely linked to how we define the education system itself. That definition is usually  some expansion of the idea of a holistic development of the individual, with the hope that the mature, intellectually developed, disciplined and enculturated citizens that are produced/engendered by the education system, will in some way be able to shape the national destiny. But how do schools respond to alternate and changing national destinies? Can they articulate them effectively and adapt? Can they create national destinies?

Or is Indian Education karmic and we are not to think of our destinies because they are already pre-decided; we can but only perform our duties honorably without worrying about the fruits?

“कर्मणये वाधिकारस्ते मां फलेषु कदाचन । मां कर्मफलहेतुर्भू: मांते संङगोस्त्वकर्मणि” ।।
(Bhagwat Gita: Chapter Two verse 47)

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