Dialogue April-June, 2011, Volume 12 No. 4
Education in Human Values
Ever since the New Age spirituality bug has bitten the Western intellectual, he has also woken up to the criticality of human values to the educational system. In India, we have always been aware of two kinds of vidya: Para Vidya and Apara Vidya. So we have only to recall the wisdom of the Upanishads to grasp the essence of spirituality.
Why is the Ministry of Human Resource development, Government of India so reluctant to launch a full-fledged programme for introduction of human values in the school system? The reasons for this are more political than pedagogic.
After we achieved independence in 1947, we have been talking of “secularism”. Now secularism could have been defined as “maintaining an equal respect for all religions” or “maintaining an equal distance from all religions.” Teaching about religions could have been interpreted as explaining the basic concepts of all religions. Successive Governments have relinquished these simple and rational options. They have instead opted for “creating an equal ignorance about all religions.”
Interestingly, the programme of education in human values (EHV) was challenged in the courts. It went all the way to the Supreme Court of India. In a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court held that the programme did not constitute an infringement of the concept of secularism as enshrined in the Constitution. It also made a gratuitous suggestion that the main teachings of religions should be taught to all the students.
Similarly, when the suggestion was mooted, Parliament appointed an all-party delegation to tour all educational institutions purporting to impart education in human values in their schools. The Committee headed by Shri S.B. Chavan zeroed in on the Puttaparthy model of EHV as being the best of all the models. It took Truth, Righteous Conduct, Love, Non-violence and Peace as the five basic, universal or fundamental values, which constituted the essence of spirituality.
Bhagwan Shri Sathya Sai Baba has clearly taught us that these five fundamental values constitute the very essence of spirituality. He claims that He is God. When someone looks quizzically at him, he hastens to add, “So are you. The only difference is that I know it and you do not.”
The Sai Philosophy
Now the Sai philosophy is nothing else but the Upanishadic lore. It is so universally acceptable that it is referred to as “The Perennial Philosophy”. It is based on certain scientific principles, which can be gradually transmitted to the whole wide world.
But Sai Baba does not believe in a narrow, sectarian view of religion. He says he has not come to found a new cult or creed, nor does he wish to convert the whole of humanity to his point of view. He would like a Muslim to be a better Muslim, a Christian to be a better Christian, a Sikh to be a better Sikh and so on. He would not dream of converting anyone to Hinduism.
While he would not like people to give up the religion in which they were born, he would also not like them to die in that faith. What he means is that every human being should try to become as eclectic as he possibly can. This approach will lead to better understanding of each other.
Mahatma Buddha said more than 2500 years ago that none of his disciples should believe in a proposition merely because Buddha said so, or because this had been the traditional faith in that society, or because the elders felt it to be so. It is only if the proposition appears to be sensible, cogent and logical and is tested on the altar of their own experience that it should be accepted.
History of Education in Human Values in India
Education in Human Values (EHV) was formally inaugurated by Bhagwan Sri Sathya Sai Baba in the early eighties. It was first implemented in the schools run by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. The experience has been documented. Shri P.P.Srivastava was the Commissioner at that time. Surveys of the students showed that the concentration levels improved significantly and so did the academic performance. This was attributed mainly to meditation.
In 1984, Prof. Shyam Sunder was President of the H.P. State Sri Sathya Sai Sewa Organization. I was Secretary, Education, H.P.Government. He persuaded me that implementation of the EHV was critical for improving both the academic performance and the character of the students.
We held a Conference of all the 60 officers of the Education Department, the Directors, the Joint, Deputy and Assistant Directors the 12 District Education officers and the District Primary Education Officers. Shyam Sunder was able to get the National Faculty of the Sathya Sai Organization to Shimla.
The Conference lasted for five days. The basic features of EHV were explained. The faculty also explained the importance of imparting values through meditation , pranayama , stories, community singing, curricular and co-curricular activities, slogans and so on. What came out strongly was that values could not be imparted through direct lecturing. They had to be gradually assimilated.
The Education Minister Shri Sagar Chand Nayyar inaugurated the Conference. The Keynote Address in the valedictory session was delivered by Shri Virbhadra Singh, Chief Minister. They announced the acceptance of the broad features of the Programme and stated their resolve to implement the programme in all the Primary schools of the State with immediate effect.
We introduced the programme straightaway. A training programme for the teaching and supervisory staff was initiated, so that they could get cracking for immediate impact.
National Conference at Puttaparthy
The next milestone in the implementation of the EHV Programme came in June 1985, when ten thousand teachers from all the States of India congregated at Prasanthi Nilayam. Puttaparthy, District Ananthapur. Shyam Sunder persuaded fifty teachers to attend the Conference at their own cost and I was able to depute another fifty teachers at Government expense.
The Conference was inaugurated by Shri K.C.Pant, Union HRD Minister, who was accompanied by his wife. Bhagwan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, Shi K.C.Pant and I addressed the Conference. The Conference was a huge success.
While Himachal Pradesh was the first State to introduce the EHV programme, the programme spread gradually to other states. It also spread to many other countries of the world.
Initiatives of the Central Government
In 1998, I was posted as Principal Adviser (Education) in the Planning commission. In 1999, I became the Secretary, HRD in the Government of India.Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi was the Minister. We were both convinced about the necessity of launching the EHV at all levels of the educational system.
We set up the National Coordination Committee for Implementation of EHV with me as Chairman and all heads of organizations concerned with implementation as members. As a result of the deliberations, the following steps were initiated:-
NCERT: A National Resource Centre for EHV at the School Level was established in the NCERT. Dr. J.S. Rajput was then the Director. A new Journal called Education in Human Values was published by the NCERT. We brought out a Directory of 1500 institutions involved in the work relating to EHV. Several conferences were held. Research projects were taken up.
NIEPA: It was decided that the National Institute for Educational Planning and Administration would be involved in implementation and planning of EHV at the university and college levels. Two conferences of Vice Chancellors were held. It was seriously debated whether a six-month qualifying paper in life coping skills should be made compulsory for all courses at the under graduate level.
UGC: The University Grants Commission was tasked with the responsibility of financing the training programmes for faculty and students of universities and colleges in human rights and human values.
IIT Delhi: The Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi got the National Resource Centre for EHV in the Engineering sector. This Centre was managed by Prof. P.L.Dhar and Prof. R.R.Gaur. It has held hundreds of training programmes in EHV and enunciated “secular” interpretation of human values that is totally independent of religions. In recent times, it has been able to persuade the Technical Universities of Punjab and U.P. to launch the programme in hundreds of affiliated technical colleges.
NCTE: The National Council for Technical Education was tasked with the duty of modifying the teacher training programmes in the country. Prof. A.N.Maheshwari and Prof. Siddiqui played an important role in this process.
CBSE: The Central Board of Secondary Education revised the textbooks and also innovated the system of Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation of students. This was done under the leadership of Shri Ashok Ganguly and Dr. Balasubramanian.
IIM Lucknow: The Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow got the privilege of hosting the Centre for Leadership and Consciousness. Dr. Pritam Singh was the Director. A National Conference on Blending the Best of East and West in Management Education was held at Calcutta. A Committee on revision of the curriculum of management institutions was also set up in the All India Council for Technical Education.
National Institute of Open Schooling: This institute flourished under the guidance of Prof. N.K.Ambasht and prepared specially designed material for teaching human values through the distance education mode.
The Ministry of HRD recognized all India organizations ,namely, the Sri Sathya Sai Organisation, the Ramakrishna Mission, the Brahmakumaris, the Bahai World faith etc. as Regional Resource Centres for training of principals, faculty and students in EHV.
Accordingly, all these organizations exerted their utmost to implement the Scheme for Strengthening of Human Values in the Schools. After my retirement from Government in 2001, I joined the Sri Sathya Sai International Centre, New Delhi , Between 2004 and 2010, the Sri Sathya Sai International Centre for Human Values held more than 50 orientation programmes, each spread over five working days. We were able to cover all the nineteen Sainik Schools, the 120 Army Public Schools, all the 500 odd Navodaya vidyalayas and half of the more than a thousand Kendriya Vidyalayas. In all, we reached out to more than 1000 Heads of Institutions and through them to more than 8 lakh schoolchildren.
National Convention on Value Education: Towards 2009, it began to dawn on many of us that there had been a certain slackening of interest in EHV. Accordingly, the time was felt to be opportune to review the progress made by the concept and the scheme. A National Convention was held in December 2009 at the Sri Sathya Sai International Centre at New Delhi. More than 350 delegates attended. Papers were presented by organizations owing allegiance to Sri Aurobindo, J.Krishnamurti, Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Sathya Sai Baba, Bahaullah, Dayanand Saraswati, Dr. Hedgewar, and organizations connected with the Christian, Islamic, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain traditions.
The Convention was lucky to have the personal presence of Shri Ashok Thakur, Additional Secretary, HRD who also read out the speech of Smt. Vibha Puri Das, Secretary HRD. The Principal Adviser (Education), Planning Commission also participated. He warned that unless care was taken, the scheme might disappear from the 12th Plan document.
The Convention called for a paradigm shift in the thinking on EHV, so as to place it at the centre of the educational system.
It came to our notice recently that the Department of Higher Education has transferred the scheme to NCERT, which the latter is reluctant to handle. The Ministry has passed on the scheme without providing a corresponding budget provision. The NCERT has been advised that as they are in the habit of surrendering huge sums of money at the end of the financial year, they may use part of the surrendered money for implementation of the Scheme for Strengthening of Human Values in the School System.
Swami Shantatmanand of the Ramakrishna Mission is also sounding desperate as he talks to me on the phone. We all have the uncanny feeling that far from EHV moving to the centre stage of the educational system, education in India will increasingly be an affair totally dominated by commercial considerations and EHV may just fall between two stools and disappear from the Twelfth Plan Document.
Swamiji and I have jointly requested for a brief meeting with the Minister. So far, we have had no luck. Watch this space !