Anda di halaman 1dari 15

The Educational Theory of Mohandas Gandhi

Reita Bakshi,
Andrea Mangold,
Robert Weinert


Mohandas Gandhi was "a great thinker in beggar's garb," an activist whose method of social reform was
simultaneously radical, novel, and timelessly simple (Gutek, Gerald, 1997, pg. 351-367). The socio-cultural
context in which Gandhi lived and worked made his method of enacting change uniquely powerful; in one of
the most populated nations on the planet, at a time when world conflicts were raging, Gandhi used peaceful
means to affect a revolution of cultural and political change for the Indian nation that resonated around the
world. His experience in South Africa not only changed his outlook on politics but also helped him to see the
role education played in that struggle (Garse, Sharma, 2010.)
In order to understand Gandhi's contributions to education it is important to understand "The Great Soul" in
his full context of time and place in the world. What Gandhi did in word and deed was much like a pebble
dropped into a still pond; his views on human rights and cultural dignity reverberate still among social
activists, and his approach to civil unrest was duplicated by many contemporary leaders.


In order to break Dutch control of the spice trade, Britain established the British East India Company in the
1600s; over the next three-hundred years Britain assimilated and gained control over Indian infrastructure,
from its roads and economy to its deepest social structures ( For a century and a half,
India was ruled by the British East India Company, a trade group of merchants incorporated and given
monopoly privileges on all trade with the Indies. Beginning as emissaries of King James I in 1615, the
Company established massive trading posts in cities such as Madras, Calcutta and Bombay and was
gradually transformed from a trading venture to a ruling enterprise (Lal, 1997).
British expansion in India grew, and the native people were subjected to the whims of the British colonialism
that involved a strict system of monopolization to afford greater profits for the English. But around the turn of
the Nineteenth century the move towards Indian independence began to gather steam. The leader and
embodiment of this movement eventually came to be Mohandas Gandhi.

2000 NewFoundations

By 1920, Gandhi had become the prominent leader of the Indian National Congress, a thirty-five year old
group lobbying for independence. For the next few years, his non-violent protests and boycotts of British
policies and products involving thousands of people made enormous waves. The English authorities were
not quite sure how to deal with Gandhi, because the people of India revered him. For instance, in March
1930 Gandhi implemented his most famous incidents of satyagraha, or peaceful coercion, the Salt March.
Thousands hiked more than 200 miles with him to the sea where together they made salt - a product
monopolized by the British and deemed illegal to make or sell otherwise. Gandhi believed that such actions
were not intended to embarrass the wrongdoer (the British) but rather to convert their motives so that they
act from a new understanding (Nanda, B., 2010).
Gandhi preached passive resistance, believing that acts of violence against the British only provoked a
negative reaction whereas passive resistance provoked the British into doing something. To Gandhi, noncooperation was not a passive state, but an intensely active one that held the promise of the conquest of the
adversary by personal suffering. (Nanda, B., 2010)

Historically, India is a nation at the confluence of many religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, and
Islam. Today, while Hindu, Jain and Buddhism are considered the ancient religions, almost 80% of Indians
are Hindu, and 12% practice Islam (Aharon, D., 1998)
In India the word dharma is used to mean religion, but it should be noted that in Hinduism dharma has a
much wider connotation. The word dharma comes from the root dhre, which means to sustain. Dharma is
thus the greatest sustaining force or the binding force of the society. The goal of dharma is to create mental
and spiritual fellowship among all men and to regulate its relation with all living entities. Any religion, any
custom, any creed could be brought under its fold. Gandhi's dharmic concept of religion, therefore, brought
under its fold people belonging to different religions (Kamat, K., 1996).
Though born Jain, Gandhi practiced Hinduism, and used his faith as his staff; he relied greatly on the
teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, and credited the ancient text as being the source of his understanding of
dharmic philosophy. The Gita, or universal mother as Gandhi referred to it, is a Hindu poem involving the god
Krishna and a warrior disciple. It was the Krishna of the Bhagavad Gita that Gandhi saw as wisdom
personified, and the dialogue of Krishna that Gandhi used as an everyday guide to life. (Kamat, K., 1996).
Gandhi read the Bible while he was a law student in England, and the life of Christ and the Sermon on the
Mount went straight to his heart. Gandhi described Jesus as the
the greatest passive resister the world has ever seen" (Wofford, H., 1955), and the words of the Sermon
infused his thinking. The idea of returning love for hatred and good for evil, to turn the other cheek.
captivated him. In fact, years later Dr. Martin Luther King also cited the messages of the Sermon on the
Mount as a guiding resource (Lecture 25,
Raised by a devout mother in the Jain traditions of the region, Gandhi observed early the influences that
would play an important role in his adult life including vegetarianism, fasting for self purification, and mutual
tolerance between individuals of different creeds ( It

2000 NewFoundations

is believed that Jainism is one of the worlds oldest religions, predating Hinduism; the main tenets of Jainism
are five basic ethical principles, or vows: non-violence, truth, non-stealing, celibacy and non-possession
( .
Gandhi, in his later writings, described himself as a Hindu and stated "Hinduism entirely satisfies my soul,
and fills my whole being." (Harijan, 1937) Gandhi used his devout Hindu beliefs as a bridge to understanding
other religions and finding the universal constants that underlie most belief systems. For instance, Gandhi's
interest in Christianity was leavened with his Hindu perspective. "I regard Jesus as a great teacher of
humanity, but ... God cannot be the exclusive Father and I cannot ascribe exclusive divinity to Jesus"
(Harijan, 1937).

Gandhi was born in 1862 in Porbandar, a small town on the Western coast of India. His father, Karamchand
Gandhi, was the diwan (Prime Minister) of Porbandar state, a small princely state of British India. Married at
13, and educated as a lawyer in England, Gandhi quickly turned his legal experience and his colonial
education into an opportunity to be an agent for social transformation (Garse, Sharma, 2010). In London,
Gandhi joined the Vegetarian Society and became intrigued with religious thought and became fascinated
with studying Christian scripture (
Gandhi was called to the bar in June, 1891, and left London for India. He failed to establish a law practice in
India on his own because, in Gandhi's own words, he "hated public speaking and was not very good at court
appearances." (Ghosh, S. 2003) Gandhi was forced to close a business of drafting petitions for litigants when
he ran afoul of a British officer. In April, 1893, he accepted an offer for a post in the colony of Natal, South
Africa, then part of the British Empire (
In South Africa, Gandhi faced discrimination directed at Indians. This was a turning point in his life,
awakening him to social injustice and influencing his subsequent social activism. It was through witnessing
first-hand the racism, prejudice, and injustice against Indians in South Africa that Gandhi started to question
his peoples status within the British Empire and his own place in society
With his colonial education Gandhi had a unique perspective on the issues facing British dominion of Indian
society. Schooled in the British way and from their perspective, Gandhi understood the depth of oppression
that Indians would suffer if they could not eventually break free of British rule. Passive resistance, or ahisma,
was Gandhi's method of protest, and it was this radical and approach to opposing oppression that ultimately
paved the way for Indian independence (Garse, Sharma, 2010).
Under British dominion, formerly self-sufficient Indian villages came to rely on British goods and services and
the deeply ingrained social caste system became even more divisive. Educationally, village India remained
illiterate and ignored, as the British language and western attitudes were introduced to the educated Indian
elite (Garse, Sharma, 2010).
Gandhi's dissatisfaction with what he perceived as social injustice caused him to examine the flaws in the
social, educational, financial, and political systems at work in his world. The rigid caste system in India had,

2000 NewFoundations

for generations, vilified physical labor in favor of intellectual work; physical labor was relegated to the lower
caste only. Once British rule took over, education in India further moved from a moral/physical emphasis to
an intellectual one. Gandhi realized that, in order for substantive change to come to his people, cultivation of
the individual would have to be thorough and integrative, and that physical skills would have to be taught.
(Garse, Sharma, 2010).
His reputation as a true nationalist as well as an internationalist is very obvious. In the academic sense, he is
not considered a great scholar or an educational theorist. Gandhi has not expressed directly his views on
education or on the problems related to it, through any particular book. There is no special research article
available, which could have given us a glimpse of his ideas or suggestions on the education system
(, 2010).
Gandhi openly credited three people as sources of inspiration and guidance: Raychandbhai by his living
contact; Tolstoy by his book, "The Kingdom of God Is Within You"; and Ruskin by his "Unto This Last."
Besides these three personalities, the Bhagavad Gita and the Bible texts were life long resources for him.
(Garse, Sharma, 2010)
Shri Raychandbhai was a businessman whom Gandhi met on his return to India from London. Gandhi found
his new friend to be of great character and learning, and throughout his life the two men were mutual
confidants (Garse, Sharma, 2010).
Gandhi read Ruskin's Unto The Last, and said, "I could not get any sleep that night. I was determined to
change my life in accordance with the ideals of the book." He later translated the book and called it
Sarvodaya (the well-being of all). Ruskin's book influenced Gandhi's concept of soul-force as a substitute for
physical force and changed him as a person. It brought "an instantaneous and practical transformation" in his
life. From Ruskin, Gandhi learned that the good of the individual is contained in the good of all; that the
lawyer's work has the same value as the barber; that all have the same right of earning their livelihood; that
the life of labor as a tiller of soil or the craftsman, is the life worth living (Shuthka, N., 2002).
The most public figure with whom Gandhi established a rapport was the Russian novelist and thinker Leo
Tolstoy. Tolstoy, forty-one years Gandhi's senior, was well known for his novels Anna Karenina and War and
Peace. It was his spiritual writing, The Kingdom of God is Within You that Gandhi found inspirational. In the
preface to The Kingdom of God is Within You, Tolstoy specifically states that his intent is to examine the
notion of non-resistance to evil by force. (Tolstoy, L. 1893).
In 1909, Gandhi had read in a local newspaper Tolstoys Letter to a Hindu, a letter to Indian revolutionary
Tarak Nas published in the Free Hindustan. In the letter, Tolstoy counsels non-aggression, stating, "[When
Indians] seek liberation from subjection to the English one thing only is needful the law of love, which
brings the highest happiness to every individual as well as to all mankind." A response to this letter led
Gandhi to establish a correspondence with Tolstoy. (Tolstoy, L., 1893)
Gandhi and Tolstoy had much in common; in later years they both were considered prophets of their
respective time, society and culture. Tolstoys ideas about renouncing force as a means of opposition were

2000 NewFoundations

akin to Gandhi's own thoughts, although he did not share Tolstoy's intense dislike for organized government.
(Bhana, S., 1975) Tolstoy manifested independent thinking, profound morality and truthfulness, and his ideals
of 'resist not evil' and nonviolence struck deep chords with Gandhi. Gandhi began to mould his life according
to the ideas of Tolstoy. (Shuthka, N., 2002)
Gandhi wrestled with the conflicting yet similar messages of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Sikhism - all
of these religions had elements Gandhi understood as well as principles he could not accept. For instance,
Gandhi questioned the claim that Jesus was the only son of God. "If God could have sons, all of us [are] his
sons." (Gandhi, M.K., p. 136)
Such profound religious consideration on Gandhi's part resulted in his establishing two communities where
he attempted to put his religious, social and political philosophies to work. In 1904, he established the
Phoenix Settlement in the Natal province of South Africa based on Ruskins writings; in 1908, he established
the Tolstoy Farm just outside of the South African capital of Johannesburg. These family farms, or ashrams,
allowed Gandhi to experiment with the kind of communal living that he had seen in 1895 among Trappist
monks. (Bhana, S. 1975)
Tolstoy Farm consisted of men, women and children for long, short, and irregular intervals, who were Hindu,
Muslim, Christian or Parsee, white or Indian; who spoke Hindi, Tamil, and English. There were around 40
young men, 2 or 3 old men, 5 women, and 20 to 30 children. The ashram was a heterogeneous microcosm
in which his leadership would prepare him for his role in the political macrocosm of India. (Bhana, S., 1975).
As Gandhi explored and refined the practical application of his philosophy, his concept (and perhaps most
significant social contribution) of satyagraha was developed. Simply put, satyagraha is a method for resolving
conflict. Focusing on conflict resolution, Gandhi thought, would "...liquidate antagonisms, but not the
antagonists themselves." (Easwaran, E.,pg. 155). Satyagraha became the underpinning for many social
reformation movements, and was specifically cited by Dr. Martin Luther King in a 1959 speech:
"I am convinced that the method of non-violent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed
people in their struggle for freedom and human dignity." (

I: The Theory of Value

What knowledge and skills are worthwhile learning?
Gandhi put immense emphasis on moral and ethical knowledge. According to him, an educational system
that lacked these two could not be termed as good. The reason behind such a thought was that without
morality and ethics, no student, in a real sense, can be considered healthy in mental and physical terms.
Spiritual growth, described by Gandhi as an essential part of education, can only be attained through
learning morality and ethics. On the one hand where students should gain education under the strict regimen
of high morals, self-control, and right thinking, on the other, they should also be expected to provide service
to the society in general. (Kumar, R., 2008)
One component of spiritual training that Gandhi valued was physical work and vocational training; these
disciplines allow individuals to shed reliance on others and develop intellectually, spiritually, and physically.
2000 NewFoundations

(Garse, Sharma, 2010) Gandhi believed the universe was subject to unalterable laws that " govern
everything and every being that exists or lives." (Chattopadhaya, K., 1986) Human beings, then, needed to
cultivate the mind, body, and heart in a harmonious manner; only then, Gandhi believed, could change come
to the immoral political and social conditions that violated the spiritual dignity of individuals (Chattopadhaya,
K. 1986)
According to Gandhi, the skills that were worthwhile learning were handicrafts, literacy, and the acquisition of
knowledge. He was opposed to modern machinery, saying:
"Knowledge of the production processes involving crafts such as spinning, weaving, leatherwork, pottery,
metal work, basket making, and bookbinding have been the monopoly of specific caste groups in the lowest
stratum of the traditional social hierarchy." (Burke, 2000)
Gandhi felt that people were not workers but slaves if they worked with modern machinery, and instead
referred to it as contributing factor to the impoverishment of India. Gandhi maintained that, "if machinery
craze grows in our country, it will become an unhappy land." (Burke, 2000)
For instance, the manufacture of clothing was a critically important skill to many Indian villages; beginning
with the cultivation of the cotton crop, its harvesting, and ultimate weaving into fabric, such steps provided an
education that was both active and useful. Gandhi believed that such craft education satisfied a basic human
need and provided "purposeful, creative, and socially useful education." (Gandhi, M.K., 1947)
What are the goals of education?
In his own words, Gandhi felt that
"...under ideal conditions, true education can only be imparted by the parents...with a minimum of outside
help." (Gandhi, M.K. 1957)
Gandhi experimented with educational concepts during his time at the Tolstoy Farm ashram in South Africa.
Viewing the Tolstoy ashram as a "family" farm, Gandhi viewed himself as the "father" responsible for the
education of all children living there. His main goal as "paterfamilias" was to build a firm character in the
children, in the expectation that a sound foundation would allow them to further learn what they needed from
others (Gandhi, M.K., 1957)
Gandhi felt that the goals of education were to develop and prepare Indians for society. Given Gandhi's
values and his vision of what constituted a truly civilized and free India, it was not surprising that he
developed firm views on education. Gandhi believed that education not only moulds the new generation, but
also reflects a societys fundamental assumptions about itself and the individuals that compose it. (Burke,
Gandhi's experiences in South Africa not only changed his outlook on politics, but also helped him see the
role that education played in that struggle. He became so opposed to all aspects of English education that he
consistently referred to it as "rotten." (Burke, 2000)
In order to strengthen morality and ethics in students, Gandhi advocated the introduction of religious
education. He believed that this kind of education brought the values of forbearance, tolerance, and

2000 NewFoundations

reverence in ones character. In turn, these values are an indivisible part of ethics. Explaining the importance
and need of religious education, Gandhi wrote in "Young India" in December, 1923,
"a curriculum of religious instructions should include a study of the tenets of faith other than ones own. For
this purpose, the students should be trained to cultivate the habit of understanding and appreciating the
doctrine of various religions in the world in a spirit of reverence and broad-minded tolerance." (Kumar, R.,
While Gandhi's main contributions are often identified as political and spiritual, his philosophy for a basic
education was based upon the goal of freeing India from colonial domination. By empowering the individual
spiritually, physically, and intellectually, Gandhi felt that collective India would become stronger. By cultivating
an appreciation for physical labor, Gandhi hoped to free his people from a stigma of oppression and reliance
on outsiders for survival. With these tools, the people of India would be able to be morally resistant to foreign
domination, and be better prepared to self-govern and sustain their society (Gandhi, M.K., 1947)
II: Theory of Knowledge
What is knowledge?
"It is unwise to be too sure of ones one wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken
and the wisest might err." -- M.K. Gandhi
Gandhi was explicit in his writings and actions about what he believed to be "knowledge," and was even
credited with having identified "knowledge without character" as one of the seven human blunders that cause
violence in the world. More specifically, Gandhi stated, "...knowledge includes all training that is useful for the
service of mankind." (Gandhi, M.K. 2010)
Moral and ethical knowledge is the first point on which Gandhi's concept of value education is based. Gandhi
believed that any education that lacked these two elements could not be considered adequate. Gandhi
reasoned that without morality and without ethics, no student in a real sense could be considered healthy in
mental or physical terms. A person who is not a moralist and who does not differentiate between right or
wrong cannot rise to the essential level of a true student. (Kumar, R., 2008) For instance, knowledge was the
learning of crafts, subjects in school, and being self-sufficient. Gandhi felt it was important to learn a craft
such as weaving, without the influence of modern machinery. (Burke, 2000)
Gandhi proposed the introduction of productive handicrafts into the school system because what he really
wanted was for the schools to be as self-supporting as possible. There were two reasons for this: first, a poor
society such as India simply could not afford to provide education for all children unless the schools could
generate resources from within. Secondly, the more financially independent the schools were, the more
politically independent they could be. Gandhi wanted to avoid dependence on the state that he felt would
mean interference from the central government. (Burke, 2000) Above all else, Gandhi valued self-sufficiency
and autonomy. These were vital for his vision of an independent India made up of autonomous village
communities to survive.
How is knowledge different from belief?

2000 NewFoundations

It is difficult to separate belief from knowledge in studying Gandhi's philosophy, as the two concepts were
unquestionably intertwined. In Chapter XVIII of the Hind Swaraj (Gandhi, M.K., 1909), Gandhi definitively
stated his definition of education:
"The person who is properly educated whose body is the ready servant of his will; whose intellect is clear;
whose mind is stored with a knowledge of the fundamental truths of nature." (Gandhi, M.K., 1909)
Braided into Gandhi's view of education was the necessary spiritual foundation to ensure the success of
"A proper and all-around [education] can take place only when it proceeds with the spiritual faculties of the
child." (Gandhi, M. K., 2010)
Gandhi is described as a holistic, pragmatic, idealistic, and farsighted educational reformer. While his agenda
for education has all but been abandoned in India today, his spirit and ideals remain perennially relevant to
many cultures and societies dealing with social change. (Gandhi, M.K., 2010) In his autobiography, Gandhi
wrote that "truth" was the sovereign principle that governed his actions and by which he was eternally bound.
Thus, "truth" was his prime belief, the underpinning of all precepts Gandhi wrote, spoke, and acted on. "The
truth is not only truthfulness in word," Gandhi wrote, "but truthfulness in thought also."(Burke, 2000)
What is a mistake? A lie?
Gandhi's lifelong quest for the truth was the lens through which he made his observations on mistakes and
lies. In a conversation with his grandson, Arun Gandhi described what he believed were seven "blunders," or
mistakes, mankind commits that cause violence in the world: Wealth without work; Pleasure without
conscience; Knowledge without character; Commerce without morality; Science without humanity; Worship
without sacrifice; and Politics without principles. Arun later added an eighth mistake: Rights without
These mistakes, as abbreviated by Gandhi, have been used and reused in contemporary culture and
literature. In fact, the best seller Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey is based on
Gandhi's seven principles with a contemporary twist. Covey lists Gandhi as one of his personal heroes
(Covey, S., 2010) and lists as one of his own mission statements Gandhi's comment, "I shall conquer untruth
by truth."
III: Theory of Knowledge
What is a human being?
"You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean
does not become dirty." - Mahatma Gandhi
Gandhi saw humanity as an indivisible, organic whole, tied together by the expectation that every man is
responsible to and for others and to be deeply concerned about how others lived (Parekh, B., 2010) Gandhi
had a clear understanding of the interdependence of human beings and the ways in which the behaviors of
oppression and domination were maintained (Parekh, B., 2010)

2000 NewFoundations

With this view of the human "whole," Gandhi made the argument that every human action simultaneously
affects the welfare of both the collective society and the individual. This implied, Gandhi felt, that no man
could injure another without inflicting it on himself as well. "To slight a single human being," Gandhi said, "is
to harm not only that human but with him the whole world" (Parekh, B., 2010)
How does it differ from other species?
Gandhi gave much thought to the idealized human being. In his reflections on the main Hindu spiritual text,
the Bhagavad-Gita, Gandhi recognized the qualities by which the "perfected man" could be identified
(Gandhi, 1988) In "The Message of the Gita," Gandhi wrote, "All embodied life is in reality an incarnation of
God," and went on to explore the philosophical implications of mankinds ability to embody God-like qualities
(Gandhi, 1988)
Gandhi went on to further explore the eternal struggles faced by mankind as living beings. In his
autobiography, Gandhi stated that while man in his primal state knows no self-restraint, civilized man is
different because he is capable of self-restraint (Iyer, R., 2010, Gandhi, 1962)
Gandhi wanted to impress upon his countrymen the value of their ancient culture. For example, one of
Gandhi's most subtle yet powerful acts was to begin the liberation of the lower castes. Once called "those
who cannot be touched," Gandhi began to call this outcast group Harijans, or Children of God. His message
to his own people, and to the British imperialists as well, was that "when you weaken others, you weaken
yourselves, and weaken the entire nation" (Eswaran, E., 1997)
This perspective also formed Gandhi's criticism of the subjugation of individuals and societies. Gandhi
argued that social domination rested on simple misunderstandings of human nature, and that every human
being owed to others his full share of collective responsibilities (Parekh, B., 2010)
What are the limits of human potential?
Gandhi's thoughts surpassed his time and culture, echoing on to inspire new generations of social activists
around the world. In the 1960s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said of Gandhi, "If humanity is to progress, Gandhi
is inescapable. He lived, thought, and acted, inspired by the vision of humanity evolving toward a world of
peace and harmony. We may ignore him at our own risk" (www.Gandhi' At the turn of this century
a more contemporary voice, HH The Dalai Lama, similarly embraced Gandhian philosophies. "He made
every effort to encourage the full development of the positive aspects of the human potential it is my prayer
that, as we enter this new century, nonviolence and dialogue will increasingly come to govern all human
relations" (www.Gandhi'
While many thought that only Indias freedom was the main goal of Gandhi's life work, the larger view shows
that his philosophy and his actions were rooted in Gandhi's belief in the unity of human life. Gandhi's view of
humanity as "the synthetic whole" meant that it could not be made divisible into spheres like social, religious,
political, moral or ethical nor classified in levels like individual or collective, local or international. Instead
Gandhi viewed society through the principle of dharma, a contiguous whole bound by the sustaining force of
the society. (Kumar, R., 2007)
IV: Theory of Learning
2000 NewFoundations

What is learning?
"Persistent questioning and healthy inquisitiveness are the first for acquiring learning of any kind." - Gandhi
Gandhi felt that learning included the acquisition of information and training that is useful for the service of
mankind; specifically, the core of Gandhi's educational proposals was the introduction of productive
handicrafts in the school curriculum. The idea was not simply to introduce handicrafts as a compulsory
school subject but to make the learning of a craft the centerpiece of the entire teaching program. Gandhi's
proposal intended to stand the education system on its head. The social philosophy and the curriculum of
what he called "basic education" thus favored the child belonging to the lowest stratum of society, thus
implying a transformation of social perception. (Burke, 2000)
How are skills and knowledge acquired?
Gandhi's concept of basic education was concerned with learning that was generated within everyday life,
such as schools based on productive work for the benefit of all. It was also an education focused on the
individual but reliant on cooperation between individuals. (Burke, 2000)
According to Gandhi, the skills that were worthwhile learning would enable a poor society such as India to
become first financially independent, then politically independent. Above all else, Gandhi valued selfsufficiency and autonomy; these were vital to his vision of an independent India made up of autonomous
village communities.
Gandhi wanted to free the Indian teacher from interference from outside, particularly from government or
state bureaucracy. Under colonial rule the teacher had a prescribed job to do that was based on what the
authorities wanted the children to learn. Gandhi, instead, saw basic education as the embodiment of his
perception of an ideal society consisting of small, self-reliant communities with his ideal citizen being an
industrious, self-respecting and generous individual living in a small, cooperative community. (Burke, 2000)
V: Theory of Transmission
Who is to teach?
The right to autonomy that Gandhi's educational plan assigns to the teacher in the context of schools daily
curriculum is consistent with the libertarian principles he shared with Leo Tolstoy. Gandhi wanted to free the
Indian teacher from the slavery of the bureaucracy. The schoolteachers job had come to be defined under
colonial rule as one transmitting and elucidating the forms and content of knowledge selected by
bureaucratic authorities for inclusion in the prescribed textbooks. Gandhi wrote,
..."if textbooks are treated as a vehicle for education, the living word of the teacher
has very little value. A teacher who teaches from textbooks does not impart originality to his pupils." (Kumar,
K., 1999)
Gandhi's basic education plan implied the end of the teachers subservience to the prescribed textbook, and
the curriculum. More important, however, was the freedom and authority that the basic education plans gave
to the teacher in matters concerning the curriculum. It was a libertarian plan inasmuch as it denied the State
the power to decide precisely what the teacher must do in the classroom. In accordance with his wider

2000 NewFoundations

philosophy of social life and politics, this aspect of Gandhi's educational plan implied a dramatic reduction of
the States sphere of authority. (Gutek, G., 1997, p. 363)
By what methods? What will the curriculum be?
In expressing his educational philosophy, Gandhi defined education as the "all-round drawing out of the best
in child and man- body, mind and spirit." Gandhi in India of My Dreams, expressed his vision of the new
"I hold that the true education of the intellect can only come through a proper exercise and training of the
bodily organs, e.g. hands, feet, ears, nose, etc. In other words, an intelligent use of the bodily organs in a
child provides the best and the quickest way of developing his intellect. But unless the development of the
mind and body goes hand in hand with a corresponding awakening of the soul, the former alone would prove
to be a poor lop-sided affair. By spiritual training I mean education of the heart. A proper and all-round
development of the mind, therefore, can take place only when it proceeds with the education of the
physical and spiritual faculties of the child. They constitute an indivisible whole. (Gutek, 1997, p. 363)
For Gandhi, an education that integrated and harmonized the human faculties should be craft centered.
Gandhi said he would "begin the childs education by teaching it a useful craft and enabling it to produce from
the moment it begins its training." Accordingly, in Gandhi's plan for basic education, primary schooling was
compulsory for all children between the ages of seven and fourteen and conducted in the childs own
language. The craft used in the particular school was to be one of the major occupations found in India and
all the instruction was to be correlated to the particular craft. Further, Gandhi believed that the sale of the
items produced in the schools would make education productive and self-supporting. (Gutek, 1997, p. 364)
Gandhi's philosophy of basic education was also an element in his design for a new India. Like other social
reformers, Gandhi saw education as a method of social reconstruction that would improve both individuals
and their society. By involving the child as a participant in an interacting educational and productive group,
basic education would counteract the ingrained Indian attitude that relegated physical labor to lower castes
and also the modern tendency to antisocial individualism. (Gutek, 1997, p. 364)
Basic education, according to Gandhi, would inculcate a spirit of cooperation, unity, and group responsibility.
Gandhi conceived of the school as a miniature society where children as social participants had rights and
responsibilities. Gandhi saw basic education as providing a common educational foundation that would
reduce the gap between urban and rural India. He said, "Craft education will provide a healthy and moral
basis of relationship between the city and the village and thus go a long way towards eradicating some of the
worst evils of the present social insecurity and poisoned relationship between the classes". (Gutek, 1997, p.
VI: Theory of Society
What is society?
Gandhi was direct in his rejection of Western or "modern" civilization, and extended his rejection to
encompass those elements that are commonly considered "social progress." (Burke, 2000) Specifically,
Gandhi took issue with which could be summed up in two axioms embraced by Western culture: "might is
2000 NewFoundations

right" and "survival of the fittest." (Heredia, R., 1999) Instead, Gandhi felt that being civilized meant humans
acting in a way that led to duty, a concept in contrast to his understanding of Western values. As set forth by
Gandhi, this position opened up a series of "ethical issues" between the colonizer and the colonized, the
dominant and the dominated, the oppressor and the oppressed.
Gandhi was gifted in imbuing spirituality into understanding the mechanics of social operation. For instance,
in his book Hind Swaraj, Gandhi defines civilization in the context of a disease, and states, "The true test [of
civilization] lies in the fact that people living in it make bodily [comforts] the object of life." In the same text,
Gandhi rails against his perception of European "civilization," going so far as to call it "satanic." (Gandhi,
What institutions are involved in the educational process?
Gandhi felt that a Western education was a "false education," one that did not comport with his belief that
being "civilized" is enabling one to do their duty. (Gandhi, 1909)Gandhi claimed that he had freed himself of
the ill effects of his own "false education" and in so doing illustrated its "rottenness."
In Hind Swaraj, Gandhi makes the argument that Indians receiving an English education has "enslaved a
nation." Gandhi illustrates this point in a simple yet powerful irony - though the concept of "swaraj" is to
establish home rule in India, it was largely disseminated and discussed in English. (Gandhi, 1909)
Gandhi goes on to specifically identify segments of education that he felt defeated his vision of home rule,
and spoke strongly on the corruption of Indian education. For instance, he called religious educators
"hypocritical and selfish." Language was also problematic; those Indians whose education was English "have
enslaved India; the curse of the nation will rest not upon the English but upon us." (Gandhi, 1909)

VII. Theory of Opportunity

Who is to be educated? Who is to be schooled?
There will have to be rigid and iron discipline before we achieve anything great and enduring, and that
discipline will not come by mere academic argument and appeal to reason and logic. Discipline is learnt in
the school of adversity - M. K. Gandhi
It is important to note the distinction between education and schooling. While Gandhi wanted his Tolstoy
Farm ashram experiments to be models of education, he ventured into curriculum models in more formal
schooling arrangements. For example, Gandhi said that education at Tolstoy Farm should concern itself with
the "culture of the heart or the building of the character." However, he was more specific about schooling,
stating that the Tolstoy programs taught "manual and mental training," such as gardening, farming, and the
like. (Bhana, S., 1975)
Gandhi's social philosophy and ideas on a basic education favored the child belonging to the lowest stratum
of society. In so doing, Gandhi was able to promote a social transformation by altering the symbolic meaning
of education and thereby changing the established structure of opportunities for education.

2000 NewFoundations

Tolstoy Farm allowed Gandhi the chance to experiment with implementation of his ideas on education and
schooling. Called a "heterogeneous microcosm," the Farm worked on the basic premise Gandhi believed that
"it should be an essential of read education that a child should learn to conquer hate by love, untruth by truth,
and violence by self-sacrifice." Gandhi's goals in education of young minds were similar to his insistence on
what adults should strive for in their lives. (Bhana, S., 1975)

VIII. Theory of Consensus

Why do people disagree? How is consensus achieved? Whose opinion takes precedence?
In 1906, Gandhi decided to find a new term for his method of engaging in conflict. He invited readers of his
journal, Indian Opinion, to offer suggestions, and he offered a book prize for the winning entry. The one that
most intrigued him came from his own cousin, Maganlal, which Gandhi refined into the term, Satyagraha.
What Gandhi found appealing about the winning phrase was its focus on truth. He reasoned that no one
possesses a complete view of it. The very existence of a conflict indicates a deep difference over what is
right. The first task of a conflict, then, is to try to see the conflict from both sides of an issue. This requires an
effort to understand an opponents position as well as ones own.
The ability to cast an empathetic eye was central to Gandhi's view of conflict. It made it possible to imagine a
solution that both sides could accept, at least in part- though he also recognized that sometimes the other
side had very little worth respecting. In his campaign for the British to quit India for instance, he regarded the
only righteous place for the British to be was Britain. Yet at the same time, he openly appreciated the many
positive things that British rule had brought to the Indian subcontinent, from roads to administrative offices.
(Gangal, A, Abstract pg.6)
Gandhi believed that all power resided in the people and that it should also originate from the people. The
dynamo of power in a country like India should be the village. The village was to be a knot in a system of
oceanic circles in which the remotest circle derived its strength from the center, i.e., the individual. This would
mean that sovereignty was not to remain concentrated at any one level. It was to be diffused among units
rising horizontally, till they reached the national level. In terms of political science, the residuary power
remained in the village and the center was there to co-ordinate the work. Gandhi believed in Thoreaus
saying, "that government is the best which governs the least". (Pandikattu, K. 2000 pg.24)
Since the majority rule violated the moral integrity of the minority and since unanimity was often impossible,
all decisions in a non-violent society should be based on consensus, arrived at by rational discussion in
which each strove to look at the subject in question from the standpoint of others.

2000 NewFoundations

1. Parekh, Bhiku. Gandhi's Legacy. Pushpanjali: Essays on Gandhian Themes. Excerpted March 2010 from
2. M. K. Gandhi, The Message of the Gita. Appendix, The Bhagavad-Gita, A New Translation, S. Mitchell,
3. Iyer, Rhagavan. Gandhi's View of Man and History. Manas Report, 1962. Vol. XV, No. 33. Excerpted
March 2010 from
4. E. Eswaran, E. Gandhi, The Man: The Story of his Transformation.1997
5. Gandhi'serve Foundation. Others On Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi Research and Media Service. Excerpted
March 2010 from http://www.Gandhi'
6. Kumar, Ravindra. Remembering Gandhi on the 60th Anniversary of Indias Independence. October 9, 2007.
Excerpted March 2010 from
7. Gutek, Gerald. Historical and Philosophical Foundation of Education: A Biographical Introduction. 2nd Ed.
8. Garse, P. and Sharma, S. Ghandis Views on Youth as an Agent for Social Transformation. Mumbai
University. Excerpted from Gandhi, M.K. Excerpted from Mahatma Gandhi. One Spot Information,
9. Gandhi, M.K. India of My Dreams. 1947. Excerpted February 2010 from The Encyclopedia of Informal
10. OLPC Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. (n.d.). Retrieved from the OLPC Wiki
11. Burke, Barry (November 4, 2009). Mahatma Gandhi on education Retrieved from
12. Gandhi, M.K. An Autobiography: The Story of my Experiments with Truth. 1957. pp333-335.
13. Chattopadhaya, K. 1986. Quoted from "Inner Recesses, Outer spaces" Excerpted February 2010 from
14. Gandhi, M.K. Basic Education (Baniyadi Shiksha) from The Selected Works of Gandhi, UJG. Excerpted
Feb 2010 from
15. Paragajue, M. The Relevance of Mahatma Gandhi's Educational Philosophy
16. Covey, S. The Community, Empowering Your Greatness, March 2000. Excerpted February 2010 from
17.Ghosh, Shubha. (2003). Gandhi & The Life of the Law. Volume 53 November 4, 2003
18. OLPC (n.d). Retrieved from the OLPC Wiki.
19. Zuideiveen, J. (2001. Colonial India, Gandhi and Eventual Independence
2000 NewFoundations

20.Trueman, C. (2000).

21. Kumar, Ravindra Dr. (2008). Gandhian View on Morality and Ethics. Retrieved April 3, 2008, from
22. Burke, Barry (2000). Gandhi on Education: Excellent Collection of Quotes from the National Council for
Teacher Education Mahatma Gandhi, Retrieved November 4,2009, from
23. Harijan (1937). Hinduism & History of Gandhi. Retrieved April 1, 2010, from
24. Love of India. Retrieved on April 19, 2010
25. Ghosh, Shubha (2003). Gandhi & The Life of the Law [Electronic version] Volume 53 Number 4
26. OLPC (n.d.) Retrieved from the OLPC Wiki
27. Zuiderveen, Josh (2001) Colonial India, Gandhi and Eventual Independence Retrieved April 19 ,2010
28. Trueman, Chris (2000) Mahatma Gandhi Retrieved April 4, 2010 from
29. Tolstoy, L (1893). The Kingdom of God is within you. Retrieved from
30. Bhana,S (1975). Tolstoy Farm.
31. Gandhi (1909). Swarajpeeth.
32. Heredia (1999)

2000 NewFoundations