Revisiting the Educational Heritage looks at different dimensions of Indian education as it was practiced in India. Today we equate education with what was set up by the Europeans to prepare employees for doing mundane clerical work. It is a one size fit all education that rarely focuses on making the students think.
The book begins by taking the reader on a whirlwind trip of ancient universities spread across the geography of Bharat. I say Bharat as it includes the regions that fall outside the current political boundaries of India. As a traveler, I loved reading this. My visit to Nalanda and various Buddhist monasteries came flashing back as visuals. My urge to visit Takshshila multiplied manifold. I longed to see a real Ghatika in action. Remember searching for it in Kanchipuram and not finding one. I remembered the Agrahara I visited in the Sanskrit-speaking village of Mattur. The description of an Agrahara fits perfectly to this village, even today. Watch it here
What I learned was the specializations different universities had like Ujjain was known for astronomy and by corollary for astrology.
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There are chapters that deal with women in education, the role of education in civilization, various methods employed to teach, and the system of Guru Shishya Parampara. We might think Guru is the only term, but like everything else in India, there are nuances and we have Adhyapak, Acharya, Shikshak, etc. Each of them has a different role. Of course, we never underestimate the role of our first Gurus – our parents and elders in the family.
The book is written in a simple and easy-to-read format. Chapter and subsections are small, bite-sized – very easy to digest. There are ample quotes from various ancient scriptures to our contemporary scholars working on similar subjects. All these amounts to 200+ reading references, including from the web. I have marked a few books that I definitely want to read like that of Vikram Chandra.
British killed the Indian Education System?
Towards the end, the book talks about how the British killed the Indian education system. It touches upon the caste system that was literally introduced past the first census in the 1880s, as the British could not understand the Jati Varna system. We have learned to see ourselves from their eyes and we are stuck with the notion of caste being evil. It highlights how the real loss happened during British Era. I also think we lost a lot in the last three decades as well when the American wave overtook us.
There is a bit of lamenting towards the end, which incidentally I have read a lot about. So, for me, it was a lot of repetition. I like the books to end on a happy note, even when they are non-fiction. I also see a lot of efforts to revive the education system – be it the digital courses or games-based learning or sudden resurgence of Sanskrit learning. It may be a very small beginning, but it definitely gives me hope.
Read More – From The Beginning Of Time By Ganesh Swaminathan
New Education Policy
To be fair, the author does give her opinion on the New Education Policy. I have not studied it. So can not really comment on it.
Personally, for me, this book is a compilation of a lot of what I knew from an educational perspective. I liked the bits on the philosophy of education sprinkled across the book but well introduced in the first chapter. The fact that learning is life long process and what you learn from your formal teachers is just a part of what you learn will leave you thinking.
Overall, it is an important documentation of the educational heritage of India. Education is a part of each of our lives, even if it remains informal, it is relevant to all of us. However, I hope that all the people in the field of education read this book to understand the educational lineage they belong to. Those who design courses and curriculum can use it as a ready reference. Especially those working on vocational skills, science, mathematics, and learning aids. Those who write our school history books can include content from this book.