A revival of the Gurukul education system has been promised in the Virat Gurukul Sammelan held in Madhya Pradesh this week but how do we ensure the widespread adoption of this model? Here are some insights from our participation in the sammelan.
In current times, the education model of Finland is considered to be one of the best in the world. This has come through years of fine tuning the education system and through well designed educational policies. Many educational administrators visit Finland to study the model. It is recognized as a system where there is a high level of equality to educational access, tuition is free of cost, teachers are highly respected, high focus on learning by doing and emphasis on thematic learning. These characteristics may sound familiar to those who have read about the Gurukul system of ancient India or are part of such Gurukuls today.
The Gurukuls of India were not just academic institutions but centers where all round development took place. A detailed account of the Gurukul system and Indian education is available in a series of articles by Ms. Sahana Singh.
With modern education becoming highly structured and standardized, more and more young parents have started looking at alternative schooling models including homeschooling that focus on all-round development of children. About 3.4% of children in the US are homeschooled and this trend is coming to India as well. While the legalities of homeschooling are debated at different points in time, there are a good number of parents willing to homeschool their child or put them in alternate schools. These want to offer their children an environment that is stress free, personalized, balances study and play and brings out the best in children.
Several parents, who are oriented to Indic values, see the limitations of the current education system in terms of distorted Indian history, westernized curriculum and pseudo-secular values. They are sincerely exploring ways and means of introducing Indic cultural and traditional values through the Gurukul model of education. While it is common for an urban Indian parent to assume that there are few or no Gurukuls in the country, one will be surprised that there are thousands spread across the country catering to a wide variety of students.
The Virat Gurukul Sammelan, held at Maharishi Sandeepani Rahitriya Ved Vidya Pratishthan, Ujjain from 28-30 April, was one such congregation of Gurukuls in the country and Nepal. In recent times, it is one of the largest gathering of Gurukuls where more than 900 Gurukuls participated in the event and was a host to some of the most talented students from the Gurukul system. Aimed at reviving the Vedic model of education, the sammelan brought together experts in Gurukul model, current Gurukuls and people interested in adopting this model of education. More information on the sammelan proceedings is available at article 1 and article 2.
The key to success of reviving this model will lie in how the children who are part of this will integrate into the society and take up higher education or livelihood. Infact this is a question that every parent who is inspired by the model has in his/her mind. National Institute of Open Schooling has created provision for NGOs interested in starting Gurukuls to get accredited under the Indian Knowledge Traditions category. Children registered under this will be able to undergo traditional courses especially Sanskrit and other Indian sciences. These NIOS students become eligible to write NEET and even become eligible to take up IIT-JEE. Infact the Tamil Nadu topper in 2017 IIT-JEE was an NIOS student (though not part of Gurukul education). With more and more people getting interested in Gurukuls, the Government is opening up more possibilities. Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Sh. Shivraj Singh Chouhan has committed to create more Gurukuls and treat them at par with mainstream schools.
Now that a significant step has been taken towards reviving Indian education, what will make this a success?
Access: Though thousands of Gurukuls exist today, more are need in strategic geographic locations. Tier 1 and 2 cities, villages close to rivers, serene mountainous places etc all need to have Gurukuls. This is how existing modern schools have become accessible and this has to be adopted by Gurukuls as well. Not just geographic access but economic access will also play a vital role in its success. Sponsorship models, philanthropic grants and Gurukul corpus funds can be immensely beneficial to support the financially needy students. Like ancient times, Go Daan and Bhu Daan will be very important.
An important aspect of Gurukul education is the Sampradaya. We will need models that harmonize the various Sampradayas and be accessible to students of various sampradayas.
Blended Models: Today, Gurukuls are sought not just by traditional people living in rural areas but also by parents who live in urban areas. While a pure vedic Gurukul may be ideal, we will also needed institutions that blend ancient and modern knowledge catering to urban children. These institutions can balance the time allotted for traditional and modern education. This will help students to integrate easily into the society once they graduate, motivate them to take up higher education in areas where they can deepen their traditional knowledge etc. Infact students coming out of blended models can lead research that is at the intersection of traditional and modern science and technology. Such schools can impart STEM education with completely Indic content.
Hand Holding: There are many young people who have the resources and interest to start Gurukuls but will need guidance and support. Existing Gurukuls can handhold such people for a certain period of time to kickstart the Gurukul. The hand holding could resemble the typical startup accelerators that systematically train people to effectively manage and run new organizations.
A Board of Education: There have been many attempts in the past to institute a seperate board of education for schools imparting indic education. Though as of now nothing is clear about the formation of such a board, in the long run it benefit children who are part of Gurukuls. Such a board, with global recognition, can ensure that students can seamlessly get into mainstream higher education institutions in a more organized manner. This will also motivate higher education institutions to create courses and research projects where such students can deepen their knowledge.
Best Practices Portals: This is the age of aggregators where information about diverse things are available on one-stop portals. While many Gurukuls are doing a fantastic job, their visibility on the internet is fairly poor. With outdated websites and minimal information, they are hardly accessible to global audience. A portal that showcases various Gurukuls in the country, their best practices, admission criteria and curriculum can extremely benefit parents of potential students.
The Virat Gurukul Sammelan is definitely a significant milestone in reviving Gurukul education in today’s times. The percolation of its message and the adoption of the model will depend on how flexible, adaptable and contemporary it is, true to the essence of Sanatana Dharma.
Featured Image: Akhand Bharat News
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Smrithi Adinarayanan is the Co-Founder of Anaadi Foundation, a social organization offering programs based on Indian principles. Several of Anaadi Foundation’s programs are based on the Ithihasa especially the Mahabharata. Smrithi can be reached at [email protected]