Westernized Education vs Indigenous Gurukul Education (Banasthali University)

This blogpost is a result of two recent instances I was exposed to.

Recently came across this LinkedIn post where the author adjudged westernized education to be ‘chaotic’ and ‘devoid of thinking out of the box’. If you go through the comments section, you would realize that most of them agree to the author’s thoughts. Isn’t it contradictory that most of us were trained as per westernized education methods, but today feel the need for indigenous Gurukul education?

Secondly, I was part of interview panel at my organization where we were interviewing fresh MBA graduates from one of the management colleges in Bangalore. We interviewed close to 25 candidates and hardly could identify 5 candidates who matched our expectations. No, not from technical point of view, but more from aptitude, presence of mind, decision making, logical reasoning aspects. It was a shocker for all four of us panelists that how could MBA graduates be lacking such basic skills even after being trained by Westernized Education, which is often considered to be superior than Gurukul education.

Well, my interpretation or rather take away from both instances was, increasingly people are feeling the heat of ‘westernized education’ and finding ways to inculcate essence of Gurukul education. The smallest step in that direction would be increasing importance of physical activities and practical training. In addition to these  Gurukul education also ensured youth were sensitized about one’s responsibility towards family, institution and society around. The worry that most of the professionals have these days is commercialization about education, which mostly results into delivery of sub-standard education and hence a large number of unemployable youth with fancy degrees adorning their name. This worry gets piled up into a huge heap and a burden on the society. It also affects the inner self of the candidates themselves.

Amidst all these corporatized educational institutions, there still exists a university which believes in the all-round development of youth. Its none other than Banasthali (Vanasthali) University, situated at around 60 kms from Jaipur. This all-women university was established in 1935 by Pandit Hiralal Shastri, the first chief minister of Rajasthan.

The university believes and has been offering ‘Panchmukhi Shiksha’. It simply translates into Five Fold Education – Moral, Intellectual, Practical, Aesthetical and Physical,  The sprawling university campus, comprehensive education, sports, personal development facilities, well-educated and well-motivated faculty members, disciplined student community ensure an envious Gurukul environment.

I had the privilege of conducting few interactive workshops with first year MBA participants, thanks to the opportunity that Prof. Harsh Purohit and Prof. Ankur Joshi. The MBA division of university is known as WISDOM – Women’s Institute for Studies in Development Oriented Management. This division has been successfully functional for last 20 years and has produced quality management professionals. The most prestigious contribution of the university has been Avani Chaturvedi, one of the first three women fighter pilots in the country. Our interactions always revolved around the increasing focus on Westernized education and the depleting Gurukul culture in the educational institutions. Its heart wrenching to know that even some of the premier educational institutions in the country have started to consider education as a high profit-making business, and thereby compromising on the basic premise of knowledge delivery.

In my two visits to Banasthali University and the interaction with their faculty members, students, I understood that it is one of the universities in India, that has successfully maintained the Gurukul culture. Its just not just the culture that fascinated me, but also the curriculum model. Banasthali University follows ‘Panchmukhi Shiksha’ – Five-fold education model. As per this model, students are trained on various aspects of life like – Moral, Intellectual, Practical, Aesthetical and Physical. The students at this university are exposed to every essential aspect of life and are prepared to face the World in the best manner and lead a meaningful life. The meaningfulness is not just with respect to oneself, but also to the society at large.

The academic coursework for management students at Banasthali University included some unique courses like Indian Ethos and Human Quality Development, Indigenous Management Systems. These distinctive courses ensured students extracted the management lessons from the Indian epics like Gita, Ramayana and Mahabharata. It might sound insane that how could management lessons be derived from the age old epic stories. Let’s not forget that these days even Western Universities are focusing on learning from Mahabharata!

The need of the hour is of inclusive learning, which we (parents, students, policy makers, teachers) have missed to focus in the heed to learn from western education. Prof. Subhash Sharma, one of the key founding members of WISDOM at Banasthali University has very aptly emphasized the need of inclusive learning through his widely circulated book ‘Management in New Age: Western Windows Eastern Doors’. With the help of metaphors like doors and windows Prof. Subhash has beautifully explained that Indian traditional (Gurukul) education has always been inclusive in nature as we welcome our guests through doors, while the western education has been objective in nature, like we peep out of our windows to see outside. The learning needs to be a comprehensive mix of what we could learn from others and what we could learn from our basic roots.

I strongly believe Banasthali University has been oriented towards this mission in a dedicated manner. I hope more and more institutes in this country start focusing on inclusive and subjective learning rather than just westernized objective learning.

PS: This piece is in no way an endorsement for the University, but a realistic feeling expressed by me.

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