Three Valuable Lessons We Can Learn From Ancient Indian Education System
Malcolm X, an African-American leader once said-
“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”
There is no denying that a country’s future can be predicted by looking at its education system.
The children of today are not only citizens of tomorrow but the builders of the country in the future.
Every great leader and culture understood this.
That’s why even if you go back 5000 years back, you would find the importance of education even in those times.
Sometimes I wonder if education is the passport to the future, why don’t nations put their best effort into the improvement of education?
You would not see nations spending a major chunk of their money on the betterment of education, rather they spend money on either making or buying advanced weapons.
Today countries take pride in having nuclear bombs.
But one must address the problem of getting rid of nuclear waste.
On the other hand, with the advancement of the digital age, the current education system is losing its relevance.
If all you can learn by going to a school or college is just some lectures in a closed classroom, some lecture notes, and an examination to get a degree then what’s the point of schools or colleges.
When you can do all these things at the comfort of your home.
20 years back when people didn’t have internet access, school/colleges were indispensable.
But not today.
When you can learn Physics, Math, History from the best teachers in the world, why would you learn these subjects from the boring teachers of your school/college?
As we are moving forward in time, the gap between offline and online education is decreasing.
The pandemic just accelerated the whole process.
But the most burning question you can have is
Are schools/colleges becoming irrelevant today?
Yes and no both.
It depends on what you wish to achieve from education in school, college, or university.
If you want to master a subject or learn a skill then college/university is not indispensable today.
However, if you want to develop all round skills like communication, building confidence, time management, productivity, critical thinking free of cost then college or university still worth it.
Through an online course, you can not learn public speaking, for that you need to talk in front of people.
To build confidence, you need to go among people.
Educational institutes still provide a great social atmosphere of like-minded people to learn various skills.
But even then if you ask people why do they want to go to a university?
They would say to learn a subject or get a degree.
They would not say to learn public speaking, critical thinking, or productivity.
Who knows maybe in the next two decades, colleges might become completely irrelevant and people could perhaps learn any skill without ever going to school or college.
But one thing is constant irrespective of the style of education.
And that is the purpose of education.
Swami Vivekananda has described it best when he said-
“Education is not the amount of information that we put into your brain and runs riot there, undigested, all your life. We must have life-building, man-making, character-making assimilation of ideas. If you have assimilated five ideas and made them your life and character, you have more education than any man who has got by heart a whole library…”
No matter how you get your education, whether it is online, offline, or any other line, the success or failure of your education can be decided by the above lines of Swami Vivekananda.
When we can’t see the future clearly, we must look back to the past to find solace.
Ancient India is well-known for imparting true knowledge and wisdom to people through its unique education system.
We would discuss the three ideas from the ancient Indian education style that perhaps could make our idea of education more clear.
1. Value-based education
Have you observed how old people give you extra respect because you are well-educated?
Not only old people, if you visit a village, you would also observe that most villagers would see you in a different light.
Why do they give you that extra respect?
It’s not just because you have got certain degrees but because they assume you have a strong moral character, you have a better idea about right and wrong.
In a nutshell, you have better values than them.
That’s the most important lesson to be learned from ancient Indian education.
People in those times wanted to get educated because they wanted to have better values in life.
Unfortunately, we are witnessing a time when educated people are perhaps more unethical than illiterate ones.
If the motto of today’s education is ‘get some degrees, and be unethical to get ahead in life’, then we are moving towards an apocalypse.
It’s high time we learn from our ancestors what’s the purpose of education actually is.
2. Sacrifice as a means of education
In earlier times there was something called ‘gurukul’ which used to be an ashram of teachers (gurus).
Pupils who wished to get educated had to leave the comfort of their homes and stay in those gurukuls for years.
During that period, the gurus and their shishyas lived together
helping each other in day-to-day life.
The main objective was to have complete learning, leading a disciplined life, and realizing one’s inner potential.
Whether a son of a king or peasant, the rule was the same for everyone.
Leave your home, if you want to get educated.
I believe, the system was made with a specific purpose.
In today’s time, when education is accessible to everyone, we don’t really value what it means and what it takes to truly get educated.
Every great achievement requires some sort of sacrifice.
If you want to improve your health, you need to sacrifice some foods. If you want to become a better reader, you need to sacrifice your time on social media.
But did you feel a sense of sacrifice when you were studying in school or college?
I am sure, not much.
There is a saying that
“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”
A student must live a modest lifestyle during his education.
A sense of sacrifice is essential in getting true education.
3. Holistic Education
In earlier times getting educated didn’t just mean learning a particular subject or branch but learning all the formal and informal ways to live a harmonious life.
The concept of holistic education is somewhat lost today.
For most people, a well-educated person means a person with higher degrees and exotic certificates not a person with a well-rounded personality.
The ancient education system of India focused on the holistic development of the students, both inner and outer self, thus preparing them for life.
The holistic education helped in understanding the concept of a balanced life.
This ideology of balance should be taught to people from a young age so that they make informed decisions about work, food, exercise, and the way they wish to live their life.
Artificial intelligence is already replacing humans in routine jobs.
Machines can learn faster than us in most of the outer subjects, but humans are better in certain things than machines.
Thus it is extremely important that we develop ourselves holistically not in just one dimension.
Education should be both spiritualistic and materialistic.
Undoubtedly, we all are proud of our glorious education system in ancient India.
But times have changed, we are witnessing a different time, a bit different education system.
It is naive to think about copy-pasting the old styles of getting educated.
We can still learn and take away some key lessons from ancient India’s education system.
No matter what time we live in or what medium we use to get educated, the bigger purpose of education always remains constant.
In the next few years, we would see the revolution of artificial intelligence.
The job for which you are working hard might become obsolete in the next 10–15 years.
If you are trying to compete with a machine for a job, you will inevitably lose.
But machines do not have values, humans have.
To secure a job in the future, you need to focus on value-based learning that can give you a holistic education.
So next time when you meet a person, don’t just see his degrees and academic credentials but also his character and values.
In the end, I would like to remind you about a quote that Aristotle long back said-
“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”