Swami Vivekananda’s Vision on Education:
Everyone would agree that ‘proper’ education in a ‘good’ educational institution is very necessary to get into a ‘bright’ career. Usual advice given to the students is that they must study the ‘portions ‘ of the prescribed syllabus well and pass the examinations with ‘good’ marks. There is, however, a growing awareness that education, to be called ‘proper’, must include something more than mere study of some subjects, memorizing the ‘portions’ in the text books and somehow passing or scoring high marks in the examinations.
Swami Vivekananda, the patriot-saint of India, laid a lot of importance on education. Traveling throughout India and seeing the conditions of the poor and downtrodden, and travelling through Europe and America and seeing the difference in conditions, he shed tears. He inquired into what made the difference between India and Europe or America and found that it was education. Swami Vivekananda saw that the real cause of India’s backwardness was the neglect and exploitation of the masses. In order to improve their economic condition it was necessary to teach them better methods of agriculture, village industries and hygienic way of life. But owing to centuries of exploitation and social tyranny, the poor people, especially those who belonged to the depressed communities, had lost their sense of worth, hope and initiative. He understood that ‘the only service to be done for our lower classes is to give them education, to develop their lost individualities…’
The problems of life are many. Everyone would be forced to meet challenging situations, individual or collective, and therefore necessarily needed the strength and wisdom to face such situations and take tough, but appropriate decisions. To enable that, the people, therefore, needed a message of strength that would infuse faith in themselves. Swami Vivekananda found this message in Vedanta. He pointed that education must give spiritual awareness leading to greater strength and self-confidence.
Swami Vivekananda firmly believed that education is something more than merely passing examinations and getting some employments. An education which helps one only to earn one’s livelihood is not a great value. He said: ‘What is education? Is it book-learning? No. Is it diverse knowledge? Not even that. The training by which the current and expression of will are brought under control and become fruitful is called education’. He further said: ‘To me the very essence of education is concentration of mind, not the collecting facts. If I had to do my education over again, and had any voice in the matter, I would not study facts at all. I would develop the power of concentration and detachment, and then with a perfect instrument I could collect facts at will.’
So education, if it has to be complete and worthwhile, must train the students in values of cultural and spiritual dimensions. It must train the mind and strengthened the willpower of the students. It must transmit the power and infuse inspiration from the lives of innumerable heroes, saints and sages to have ‘life-building, man-making, character-making assimilation of ideas’. He wanted that education which enabled one to stand on his own legs. He said, ‘We want that education by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased, the intellect is expanded, and by which one can stand on one’s own feet.’ Thus Swamiji saw that in order to serve the masses and uplift the society, it was necessary to spread both secular and spiritual education. By spiritual education, he meant expanding the consciousness of the soul, deepening the emotions of the heart that feels for others and unselfishly serves them, and harmonizing the energies and faculties within one’s personality to lead an integrated and meaningful life.
He, however, was aware of the danger of the current system of education and pointed its weaknesses. He said: ‘The education that you are getting now has some good points, but it has a tremendous disadvantage which is so great that the good things are all weighed down. In the first place it is not a man-making education, it is merely and entirely a negative education. A negative education or any training that is based on negation is worse than death. The child is taken to school, and the first thing he learns is that his father is a fool, the second thing that his grandfather is a lunatic, the third thing that all his teachers are hypocrites, the fourth that all the sacred books are lies!’
In the Indian system of education, certain moral and mental qualities were insisted upon as essential for studentship. Learning was a part of Indian culture. Learning was regarded as a process of discipline through which one served God and society. Knowledge was sacred and students were instructed to properly receive and apply it. Along with the qualities like desire to learn, regularity in studies, reflecting and understanding them, developing concentration and memory and developing judgement and discrimination, the students were expected to lead a disciplined life, show due respect to parents, teachers and other elders, and learn the art of living.
But Swami Vivekananda understood that such qualities of mind were possible only in a strong body, with ‘muscles of iron and nerves of steel’, as he put it. He wanted the students first to be physically strong and active. He said: ‘Be strong, my young friends, that is my advice to you. You will be nearer to heaven through football than through the study of the Gita. These are bold words, but I have to say them, for I love you. I know where the shoe pinches. I have gained a little experience. You will understand the Gita better with your biceps, your muscles, a little stronger.’ So he wanted education to promote strength and manliness – an education that equally developed the head, heart and hand of every student.
Educational institutions of the Ramakrishna Mission constantly strive to implement the educational vision of Swami Vivekananda. Therefore the educational training programmes are, as far as possible, structured to equip the students, not only academically, but also in having the awareness of our great cultural heritage and the necessity of leading a disciplined and value-oriented life. It strives to bring out an all-round development of the students by giving due importance to sports, yoga, personality development camps and service activities, apart from the regular studies.
The Sri Ramakrishna Mission Vidyalaya Polytechnic College too attempts, in its own humble way, to impart man-making and character building education and to inculcate in them self-reliance, self-control, selflessness with a holistic and well-integrated educational course programmes. It strives to train the ‘head’ through technical academic sessions, the ‘heart’ through prayers, education on values and service activities, and the ‘hand’ through physical education and community service.
It is gratifying to realize that many enlightened citizens in general, and parents in particular, are realizing the lop-sidedness of current educational system and the importance of discipline, value-oriented life and all-round development. It is their support and encouragement that sustains the programmes and activities of this college. To be sure, there would be greater understanding and response by many more enlightened people, in days to come, who would be enthusiastically joining in the efforts of this college, in serving the society in a better and appropriate way as visualised by Swami Vivekananda.