We have a 3000-year-old heritage that is rooted in great wisdom. Something we take for granted for the most part of our lives. In his excellent book “The Indian Renaissance,” Sanjeev Sanyal (adviser to Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi) discusses how India is experiencing its third “renaissance,” or period of extraordinary achievement. Sanyal makes an important point regarding education by referring to other magnificent eras in our country’s history, such as the pre-Vedic Harappans, the Iron Age Mauryan, and the golden age of the Guptas. One of India’s greatest assets has been its ability to absorb knowledge from all across the world, filter it through its own wisdom, and produce something deep. Thus, India’s times of greatest progress and prosperity coincide with those when we were most open and free to the interchange of ideas with the rest of the world, but also fully secure in our own place in that world. Today, we are at the start of a similar time.
However, portions of our colonial hangover –and a view that all things Western are somewhat better – continue to plague us as Indians. And while there are a lot of good things that can be absorbed from the West, we should also be more aware about the rising popularity among parents to choose “foreign” schools and “globaleducation.” Instead, we need an education system that acknowledges the deep-rooted traditional wisdom while equipping our children to become global citizens who are well aware and empowered to perform in a global environment while retaining their Indian values. It is easy today to lose oneself in the plethora of social media and a milieu of global influences, especially for young impressionable minds. And that is where a Culturally Holistic education system needs to come in.
What is a Culturally HolisticEducation System?
A comprehensive system that is firmly rooted in the realities of India, both its enormous challenges and wonderful assets, while also helping children make sense of the global environment and help them find their place there, is vital in today’s times.Additionally, education as a term needs to be viewed as a personality development mandate that involves focusing on not just the intellect but also the physical and spiritual development of a child – something that the Indian cultural and value systems are well equipped with. Adopting such an approach is what constitutes a Culturally Holistic education format and can go a long way in creating confident, empowered and modern citizens who will not shy away from claiming their place on the global platform.
Needless to say, leveraging our cultural strengthsis the key to this process. The intrinsic strength in numeracy and sciences due to a cultural focus on logic and numbers, a healthy respect for teachers and adults, an endless trove of mythology and culture to draw on as examples, a varied form of fine arts and performing arts, brilliant forms of team and individual sports, and a wise pool of teachers that can bring the natural multi-lingual, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural nature of India to the classrooms, offers us a vast canvas and treasures of knowledge. These are things that, when effectively leveraged, will enrich not only the intellect but also the soul of the young students!
Improving the learning environment
There are aspects that can and should be enhanced through international learning, such as critical thinking beyond numbers, debate and argument, the most recent developments in neuroscience and their implications for teaching approaches, and so on add to the Culturally Holistic learning experience of children. To deal with the circumstance, many strategies must be established by rising to the occasion and addressing their curious minds and their need to make sense of a volatile and highly reactive adult world around them.
If we look at it from a broader perspective, the significance of inculcating Indian cultural values as part of the school curriculum will be enhanced when we truly understand how much richly gifted, we are as a culture! And once we wake up to this realisation, it will be impossible to not pass this to the children! And schools have to play a significant role in continuing and renewing education, particularly in designing and implementing a reformed curriculum for a meaningful learning process.
(Mr. Rohan Parikh, Chairperson – The Green Acres Academy)