Higher Education in India

Zakir Hussain Committee on Basic Education OR

Wardha Scheme of Education

Zakir Hussain Committee on Basic Education OR Wardha Scheme of Education

The Wardha scheme of Education, popularly known as ‘Basic education’ occupies a unique place in the field of elementary education in India. This scheme was the first attempt to develop an indigenous scheme of education in British India by Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation. As a nationalist leader he fully realised that the British system of education could not serve the socio-economic need of the country. At Round Table Conference in London (1931) he pointed out the ineffectiveness of the system of primary education in India and the alarming low percentage of literacy among Indian people. He held the policy of the British Government responsible for this painful situation in the field of mass education. Gandhiji said “I am convinced that the present system of education is not only wasteful but positively harmful.” It was in this context the concept of Basic Education emerged in the mind of Gandhiji. In this unit we will discuss the historical background, the Wardha scheme of education, its fundamental features, curriculum and merits and demerits of this system of education.

 Besides Dr. Zakir Hussain, the Committee consisted of nine members. Among those who served in the committee, Prof. K. G. Saigidain’s name is prominent. Other members included were Arya Nayakam, Vinova Bhave, Kaka Kalelkar, J.Kumarappa, Kishori Lal, Prof. K. T. Shah etc. As mentioned before the committee was appointed to prepare a detailed education plan and syllabus. It submitted its reports, one in December, 1937 and the other in April, 1938. This report has since become the fundamental document of the basic scheme and the scheme has come to be known as the Wardha Scheme of Education. It was approved by Mahatma Gandhi and was placed before the Indian National Congress at its Haripura session held in March,1938. The first report included the basic principles of the Wardha Scheme of education, its aims, teachers and their training, organisation of schools, administration, inspection and inclusion of craft centred education regarding handicrafts like spinning, weaving etc. The second report dealt with Agriculture, Metal work, Wood craft and other basic handicraft. An elaborate curriculum of all those subjects and ways and means to establish their correlation with other subjects was also suggested.

 In course of time more conferences were held, more committees were formed on this important subject. As a result more new features were added to this aspect of education which later on took the final shape. The conference of 1945 at Sebagram characterized Basic Education as “education for life”. The conference considered it as a radical and important revolution in social and economic structure of the Indian society, i.e., creating a new way of life.” Since then Basic education came to be known as ‘Nai Talim’. A conference of 25 education ministers and educational workers was called by B.G. Kher in 1946, that took some important resolutions which affected the quality of Basic Education in different provinces. Basic Education has finally emerged after a decade of experimentation and discussion.

The scheme of basic education formulates the following proposals—

  • Free, universal and compulsory education should be provided for all boys and girls between the ages of 7—14.
  • This education should be imparted in the mother-tongue of the child.
  • All education should centre round some basic craft chosen with due regard to the capacity of children and the needs of the locality. The committee suggested spinning and weaving, card-board and wood work, leatherwork, kitchen-gardening, agriculture and fishery as obviously suitable crafts.
  • The selected craft should be both taught and practised so that the children are able to produce articles which can be used and may be sold to meet part of the expenditure on the school.
  • This craft must not be taught mechanically but its social and scientific implications were to be studied side by side.
  • In this craft-centered education all the subjects to be taught were to be integrally related to the selected craft or the child’s physical and social environment.

Abbott – Wood Committee (1936-1937)

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Pankaja Singh

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