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Exploring the Domain of Holistic Education | Article by Dayananda Pathak

 Exploring the Domain of Holistic Education


        The idea of holistic education is seen to be incarcerated within the prison cell of anachronism. Nobody talks about it or dares talking about it for fear of the stigma of being outdated. Nobody even feels the necessity of wasting time and energy on the chimerical thoughts revolving around holistic education. Nobody is concerned with the idea of exhuming the bone remains of what was once described as holistic education. It is already under heavy pressure from the idea of education for employment and skill formation. Education is expected to make an individual self-reliant, and stand on his own legs. In order to stand erect with confidence one will have to have strong legs. It is education that is expected to make a man self-reliant and confident about his or her creative and professional potentials. Education cannot wash its hands off the student`s employability according to one`s competence and capability. UNESCO`s four principles of education adumbrated as ‘Treasures within’ focused on four areas - learn to know, learn to do, learn to be, and learn to live together.UNESCO has thereby expressed its concern over the xcruciating reality that education, we are receiving today, has made us self-centered and unmindful of the woes of others. We would have consoled ourselves if we would have been able to eke out our own livelihood with the education provided to us by the state. In reality, it is the other way round. Education, in most cases has isolated us from the community. Besides, it has not made us employable in the changed context of globalization. Life has changed very fast, but our curriculum and the course contents have not changed at par with the global mobility. After getting the degree from the university, one finds himself as misfit. Coupling between education and employability has also been unfastened. Youthful resources, that cover more than 65% of the total population of India, have gone either unutilized or underutilized. Under the situation, youthful human resources have been lured by anarchy and extremism. On that point, we happen to talk about holistic education that is urgently needed for a better world order. Now, are we ready to get back to the lost empire? The new education policy, 2020 has addressed those desirable priorities.

Holistic approach to education was a reality during the ancient time, especially during the Vedic time in the Indian context. Even the great western philosophers put special focus on the over-all development of all the latest and acquired potentials of the young minds. As a child grows young, he is bound to stand on his own legs, economically, emotionally and otherwise, suited to every situations. Self-defense was also a component of one`s education, and he or she was bound to nurture those qualities which were essential and integral for the individual citizen as well as for the people at large. That an individual is not only an individual, but he is also a citizen, laden with responsibility, was also stressed in the ancient educational curriculum. Greek philosophers like Plato talked about mathematics, philosophy, history, gymnastics, along with music, and finets for their inclusion for the students. The great philosophers even talked about a special educational package for the future rulers of the city states.

        The course curriculum and people`s attitude to education largely changed during the medieval time across the world. Social thought patterns and attitude to education changed owing to historical compulsions, emerging through political and economic changes. Colonial culture in different forms, spread like anything across the world. India was no exception. New politico- economic compulsions necessitated new educational preparedness for survival and general uplift. Colonial exploitation and patronage continued. Every colonial regime, like the one in India, was opposed to protests from nationalist forces, and equally to the interests groups with nationalist agenda. During that period pandering to colonial interests was also a part of general education, morphed within the course curriculum. Education policies were also modulated to the tune of the colonial interests.

Today, the context has changed, and changed abysmally. We are talking about knowledge society. We are talking in terms of global community founded on advance science and technology. We have brought in market economy in every sphere of our life. Even the holistic framework of education, divorced from marketability, is seen to have lost its relevance. We are harping on market economy and professionalism, and career-oriented education, routed through internet connectivity. Educational philosophy has also diversified in different modes – regular,open, online and so forth. We have thereby elevated the quantitative scenario of education system without concern for the humanizing ingredients that tend to pave the way for holistic education. Despite such massive changes and innovations all around, we are where we were, although our improvement in terms of statistical figures have made us complacent., and we feel, we have landed in a different corner of the paradise. All the improvements brought in by the present system make us apprehensive.


We have the feeling that we are educated without being human. Attempt has been made to professionalize the system with stress on two priorities – degree and money. Human aspect of education is seldom prioritized. It has been commoditized, a university product for sale. A situation has been created wherein the moneyed man can buy a degree for his wards. Under the situation, the human aspect of education is seen brushed aside. What we call holistic education, has become nobody`s concern despite everyone`s disenchantment with what we do have. Stress on advance science and technology, and also on professionalization of education to suit specific social needs, does not close the door against holistic approach to education. But due to the prevailing situations,holistic approach is somehow kept in cold storage in order to meet the exigencies of time. The New Education Policy has fortunately given stress on creativity and criticality.Growing unemployment, economic and social exploitations have destroyed the entire fabric of holistic education. People`s first priority has been to safeguard his stomach that decides their moral and ethical values. Under the situation of growing unemployment, and under being crushed by exploitation by different interest groups in different guises either through established machinery or through its franchisees, no people, however sensible and good-meaning, can ever think of holistic, although none can question its desirability for a better world with especial stress on national uplift.

We know it for certain that it is amongst the ‘educated lot’ we do have the abundance of corrupt people. Uneducated and the illiterate people commit wrong unknowingly, while the educated one commit wrongs knowingly with cold blooded planning. Our society is threatened more by our so-called educated people, and less by the illiterate mass. This also speaks for the indispensability of holistic education. If this idea of education fails to ensure fulfillment of the learner`s basic needs, the same will have no impact on his or her mind. To remedy the ills of the society, holistic education with application-oriented curriculum, with thrust on science and advance technology, cannot be substituted by any other form of education. The world is now infected with extremism in every level – from familial to social, from social to political, from national to international. The same is carried forward in the name of religion, nationalism, regionalism, communalism, language, ethno- nationalism, caste, creed and so forth. In such a society, holistic education is the way to our collective salvation. It sounds musical, but the same does not match the quagmires of socio-political situation we are wallowing in. Nevertheless, we can hope for the best without closing our eyes to the realities around us.

        Our concept of the better world is also changing very fast. We cannot deny the relativity of the ‘better world’. Similarly, we must not forget the relativity of our focus – holistic education. Now, we feel, we are in the throes of a transition from traditional pedagogic mode to the digital one.

          All these desirable issues are being addressed in the New Education Policy 2020. Now, its implementation aspect needs to be taken care of, and success of the same will substantially depend on our collective efforts. Every stakeholder must perform its share of responsibilities.


Dayananda Pathak

[The author was in Assam Civil Service. Subsequently, he was the Principal of S.D.College, Hajo, and a Principal of Pragjyotish College, Guwahati. Finally, he was the Professor of English, University of Science and Technology, Meghalaya: and a Professor of Sankardeva Studies at M.S.Sankardeva University.]


Illustration: Manbini das

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