Ancient Indian Education and Ethics - Its Relevance Today

We are here to critically understand the relevance of Ancient Indian education system in the modern time. Has the modern education ethos has helped to understand the Indian society. Do we want to become original thinkers again or remain in the present system which breeds mediocrity? India need to think carefully how much foreign system of education has helped her. Time has come to go back to high level of education which will produce thinkers.

Basis of Indian education has been learning and understanding. It became just memorizing after countless invasions. India was the most prosperous nation in the world in the ancient times. It believed in exploitation of the natural resources just that much which was needed. Excessive exploitation of natural resources was not done nor was it encouraged. In India people worship nature: plants, wind, fire, water, sun and so on. This proves the respect it gave to all the living plants and animals on the Earth. In Hindu religion it is said that over exploitation of the sea, should be avoided and that is known as "samudramanthan." Giving education was considered as noble job, a solemn duty of the teacher and he should not expect remuneration from the students. A teacher used to be dedicated and did take teaching as a mission.

Academics also helped to reform the societies. We could recall the contribution made by the great economics teacher of Takshashila and Nalanda Universities; Chankaya who realized that for economic development in the region it was necessary to make an undivided nation: India. He helped Chandragupta to establish the Mauryan Empire which ruled the entire subcontinent and beyond. This empire in recent time gave the system that gave us the ethical standards which Indians value even now. The education standards were high and people came from far lands to study all streams of subjects here in India. Indians also worship goddess of education "Saraswati." Even today it is celebrated with great fanfare.

Hindus do have a function where the child is introduced to learning and that is the culture of India. Indian society is based on education. People in education are given the highest position in society called Brahmins. In ancient times one had to work very hard to become a Brahmin. In those days it was not by birth. One had to take that profession then only he could become a Brahmin. The Brahmin could not take money to give education. Education in ancient India was free to all. The kingdom would fund education. India is a country which has low literacy but high education. People know about life, nature, plants, and its importance and so on.

Indian education system was based on the principle of total development; mind and emotions. Indian system paid great emphasis to development of ethical sole and therefore, introduced brahmacharya system. During this period a student is supposed to learn only. Indian system gave emphasis to learning through practice. It was indeed based on religious practices and religious acts. One must appreciate that religion in those days was just a way of life hence, no conflict with education. One had to follow a strict way of life which one has to still follow. Athavaveda an ancient book talks in detail the education part; the system and methods to be followed.

It however, had some defects. Education was restricted to those who deserve and was not available to all. Second it was Guru (teacher) centric i.e. for every thing one had to depend on the guru and his knowledge was considered perfect. Buddhism democratized the education by allowing all to study. This helped to spread education and institutionalise education by forming Universities. Buddhism did not deviate from Hindu system of imparting education but made it broad-based. Here again educators and students had to be religious people and had to follow a strict rules. Even here it was not fully devoid of old Guru System. Even Buddha said "Buddham saranam gachchami" (Come to Buddha to get enlightenment). Mind you, in ancient times the great saints did research on their own and developed body of knowledge which was in contrast to what Buddha said. However, he challenged the system of concentration of knowledge in few hand. This might have diluted the quality of knowledge but this improved the understanding of the people in general in India.

This also developed a bond among people of India which is keeping this country together. This is the secret of unity in diversity of India. A diverse country became one population having same principle of life that is achieving mokshya (eternal bliss).

Indians always paid great importance to education which would improve the ethical standard of the population. Resilience of ancient Indian education system was proved again and again. Since the early stages of foreign invasion India lost all its material wealth but not the Indian ethos and superiority of our (Arian) culture and believes. This was possible because of the foundation of Indian education system. Others talk about Ethics but Indians practice through education.

Aims of the Indian System as I think were:

1. The direct aim was to make all students fit to become useful members of the society so that they could follow the duties of all other Ashrams of life faithfully.
2. The aim was to make firm and good character through moral values.
3. The Indian education system made a distinction between mere scholarship and total education.
4. The aim of the system was development of total personality.
5. Next was inculcation of civic and social duties. India in ancient time was a society mainly governed by social laws which gave us our strength. It is the only society where the social system of conducting business was so strong and independent that we survived in spite of foreign invasion and rule.
6. Indian education promoted social efficiency and happiness. We all know in our ancient books there are examples of people helping the society.
7. Ancient education system taught preservation of national heritage and culture hence we still have a culture different from all other societies. This still remains our strength and some day we will be able to re-establish our national pride. This has given us the unbroken continuity since the ancient times. It is the strength of our ancient education that we survive as a nation.

Then the question is where did we go wrong? Our education system got encased in a shell for it had to be protected from foreign influence. This violent massacre of our culture by foreign invaders made us extremely introvert. The openness of our society was lost and formal education became the domain of few. This destroyed the ability of our academia to expand knowledge. The burning of our established centers of education made people scared. The mass lost the desire to learn because they did not value home-grown knowledge. People drifted from formal learning process and this gave way to all sorts of raw practices in our society. Indian society lost the basic ability to acquire and take advantage of knowledge. The body of knowledge became foreign which was a rare commodity only the rich could afford. The British rule took advantage of this void and introduced a system to suit needs of the Empire. The system did not encourage beyond copying. This practice is still prevalent in Indian education system. It discourages boys from having their own independent opinion on a subject.

We stopped learning and all our ancient texts were being considered as part of religion. We should re-design our education system incorporating the main ethos of our time- tested old system with new knowledge. We must reintroduce the concept of self-control which has been there in our society. This may make our people to appreciate need for ethical standards. Yes, let us go back to the relationship that existed between education and society defined by our age-old tested system. The quality of some of the books written 2500 years ago or beyond is so high that people of today can not write. That was the level of our original research why and when we lost that ability is a matter of concern even now. We must revive that and rebuild the education system in India as we want it; the total development. Copying of the west has not helped and it shall not help in future this has to be recognized once for all. We believe in the Ethical values of the society and that can not be compromised at any cost. Society has lost thousands of years and let us not loses further time in search of right education for India.
Dr Aloke Chakravartty
School of Management

Dr. Aloke Chakravartty is at present Dean of TIG Business Schools in India. He has over 28years of experience of the industry and over 6 years of international consulting experience. He has set up many projects small medium and large. He was promoted to write this article after seeing how private education in developing countries are growing

We Need to Begin Teaching Civics Again

In 1776, some ordinary citizens opposed to Britain's colonial policies decided to secede from the empire. On July 4, they wrote to King George III, stating their goals and their reasons. We call their statement the Declaration of Independence. Naturally, the King didn't welcome such treason. After the Revolutionary War, the victorious rebels designed a new country from scratch. Imagine that. No one had ever done it before. They called it The Noble Experiment.

They based their new nation on the premise that the people are the source of government power and authority. It was a radical notion, but they took the risk. After much debate and one false start, they devised an arrangement based partially on the Iroquois Confederacy.

Their nation's Constitution has been a model for other countries for 222 years. It is the oldest working constitution in the world. It still affects your life in countless ways every day. It takes about an hour to read it, yet few people ever do. This is its preamble:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Those six tasks outline an enormous responsibility. It does not lend itself to "small government".

If "we the people" are going to control our government, then "we the people" need to know its structure, how it's supposed to work, and how it actually does work. If we can do that, then all of our lives will improve.

Unfortunately, most of our schools do such an abysmal job that too many Americans are socially, politically, and economically illiterate. Yet no matter what our schools teach, if PARENTS don't reinforce lessons at home, our children will not learn. Parents, please. Learn this stuff. Teach your children. Read the newspaper. Discuss current events at the dinner table. Attend a city council meeting. Watch C-Span instead of umpteen TV reruns.

I've read the United States Constitution dozens of times. I wrote a book about it. I carry a copy of the Constitution in my purse because people always insist on arguing with me about what's in it. A few months ago, I was in Washington, D.C. While in the Capitol Building, I heard a tourist ask a tour guide where in the Constitution Jesus is mentioned as the foundation of our government. He was aghast when the guide told him that Jesus is not in the Constitution - at all. No, he isn't.

When you know how legislators make laws, then you can influence the process, and be your own lobbyist.

When you know how to find the text of a bill online, you can read it for yourself to determine which TV talking heads are telling the truth.

When you know how the three branches of government work together, who your government officials are, what they do, and how to contact them, then you can find help when you have problems with government agencies.

When you understand how Congressional committees work, and the power that Congressional staffers hold, you'll understand why bills live or die - and the evening news.

When you know how to evaluate your representatives' work, you'll make good choices in elections.

When you know what's in the Constitution, and what's not, you'll know who's grabbing power, and who's not.

When you understand the First Amendment, you'll know that someone criticizing your words is not violating your free speech rights.

Actor and activist Richard Dreyfuss has established the Dreyfuss Initiative, a project working to restore civics education and responsible discourse in our schools and our society. This week, I watched "Time for a Talk", a webcast produced by the Initiative to begin its work. It was an inspiring event, and I look forward to more of the same. The panel of eight middle-aged, upper-middle-class, white men, and one similar woman, discussed the state of civic participation in America. I do wish they had injected some age, cultural, and economic diversity into the mix.

As the Dreyfuss Initiative's website says:

America is hard. And it doesn't happen by itself. If you think things like "There's nothing I can do", stick around and learn how much power you have. This country is a miracle and the whole world knows it, except Americans, because we don't teach it.

Knowledge is power. America is in the state it's in because too many Americans have relinquished their power. Reclaim yours.

For more information:

Read the U.S. Constitution

Our Government

With a background as a social service provider and public policy advocate, Pat O'Malley is a freelance writer and consultant for nonprofit organizations working toward social justice. Pat's online column, Community Matters, uses current events to illustrate the American government process and function, with emphasis on the US Constitution. She explains the how and why our government works.

Social Policy & Programs Consulting
Community Matters

The Future of Education in the US

The future forecast of what the coming years have includes a number of new theories about things like "gift" economies, sustainable environments, and new civic processes as well assessing the future trends in education. One dilemma is the tension between the marketplace for increasingly personalized learning and the social mandate of the public schools to provide foundational education to everyone. But this doesn't include varying income levels or what people can afford.

The reality is that our global society is starting to fragment into subcultures each with their own strong belief systems. So what do these trends mean for education? Recently U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced the approval of two growth models that follow the bright-line principles of the "No Child Left Behind" program. It seems that now our states have finally developed the framework in which they can measure student skills every year, as the law requires. Spellings has asked the states to participate and to demonstrate progress over time so that we can later adapt a more sophisticated measurement system to be shared by all states. This is known as the growth model or value-added approach.

The reality is that whether we are talking about the U. S. Department of Education's program, or the hundreds of other private or non-profit programs in place across the U.S. - it is really all about accountability and results for individual students.

One example is Jonathan, who before attending his Create Success after school program in Brooklyn New York, can now solve any math problem because of the extra "individualized" help. Plus he discovered that he loved to learn. "It's fun here," said Jonathan. "Discussions help him of his homework completed." Once his homework is finished you can find him searching the bookshelves for his favorite topic - reptiles.

It is all about holding schools accountable for the goal of each student performing at or above grade level by 2014. So, the Department of Education will gather data to measure student improvement while holding the schools accountable for results. Another theory out there is focusing on experiments in sharing or "gift" economies, sustainable environments, and new civic processes -- basically the fact that local value grows economies of group connectivity, and that this combined with fears of globalism, political gridlock, and some concerns over dominance of big business will create a revival of localism.

Think tanks are also assessing the future of education. One of thd dilemmas that they have identified is the tension between the marketplace for increasingly personalized learning and the social mandate of the public schools to provide foundational education to everyone - regardless of the backgrounds of people or their income levels. Other thoughts include economics, urban space expansion and the fact that society is starting to fragment into subcultures with strong belief systems.

If you want our children to do better in school, then it is important to begin to understand the reasons why they are not doing so well. In researching the various trends and strategies in education, everyone, including educators and parents alike, can communicate more effectively about the issues. It was in 1997 when Congress first formed the National Reading Panel to evaluate the research on teaching practices to determine what really works. Thereafter, the Federal government's No Child Left Behind Act required that school districts use scientifically proven instructional methods as they strive to make all children proficient in math and reading by 2014.

Kristin Gabriel is an author and social media marketing professional and works with Rocco Basile ([]) of the the Basile Builders Group based in New York. Basile is involved with several charities including Children of the City and the Joe DiMaggio Committee for Xaverian High School.