Education in Ancient and Modern India

周 康
Nelson Mandela

Educating  citizens in the true sense; paves the way for a country’s bright future. It is the only path towards the development of a nation.The system of Education in India has passed through colossal changes over the ages. The constant infiltration of different invaders have left a lasting imprint on the education system in India.

The mind once enlightened cannot again become dark.

Thomas Paine

The ancient education system in India primarily comprised of the Gurukul system. This system continued for a few thousand years before being replaced by the British ones. The term ‘Gurukul’ means ‘house of the guru’. In the Gurukul System, children would be sent to live with their Guru, till they completed their education. Learning was mostly auditory and based on memorisation which was done orally. Students usually learnt Vedas, Epics, literatures, archery as well as yoga and meditation. The student or ‘Shishya’ would help out in the maintenance of the  Ashram or Gurukul in return for their education. Princes as well as ordinary boys had to do every kind of work form ploughing  to cleaning during their schooling period. At the end of their education, they would repay their Guru by giving ‘Gurudakshina’, which was not necessarily monetary.*

Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.”

The modern education system was introduced by Lord Macauley in 1835. It is majorly a day schooling system, imparted in educational institutions. The infrastructural facilities and quality of education vary according to the financial and administrational capacities of the institution. Books  are provided as per age of the learner, and overall development of the child is looked into. Residential schools are also based on the same structure but students learn the skill of adjustment better than day-schooled students as they stay away from parents. Now- a- days many parents have their wards home schooled for various reasons.

Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants.”

John W. Gardner

The modern schooling system has four levels – lower primary; upper primary; high; higher secondary. This is followed by college education in various streams. The modern system of education was introduced by the British and is mainly focussed on practicality, monetary gains and rote-learning. Students learn a vast range of subjects from languages, science, Mathematics, computers to whatever skills a child may prefer to learn. Although this system has contributed immensely towards national development, it leaves little space for moral and intellectual advancement. 

The ancient education system allowed open debate and had a moralistic approach towards life. The former aspect is a preliminary to a better society, while the latter contributes to the making of better individuals committed towards global development.  In spite of the spiritual and moral aspects, the ancient education system was not equal in its approach. There was rampant discrimination on the lines of Gender and Caste which has left an ugly imprint on the society.

What sculpture is to a block of marble education is to the human soul.

Joseph Addison.

Educational institutions are the building platforms for nations. Therefore, taking the essence of best educational practices and using them to teach students would ensure healthy and sustainable development of the society, the nations – and the world at large.

Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.


The story of Ekalavya

*The greatest of all shisyas – ‘Ekalavya’ learnt the art of archery by watching his self proclaimed guru- Dronacharya in the great epic ‘Mahabharata’. As Ekalavya belonged to a low caste, Dronacharya the guru of the royal princes, refused to train him. He thereafter; made a statue of Dronacharya and imagined that he was being trained by Dronacharya himself. When Dronacharya found out that he was a better archer than his best disciple Arjuna. He demanded Ekalavya’s right thumb as Gurudakshina to make Arjuna the greatest of all archers. Ekalavya cut off his thumb and offered it to him without a word. Surprisingly, during the ‘Battle of Mahabharata’ it was Eklavya who stood by Dronacharya and fought for him. In absence of his thumb he had learnt to use his feet to shoot arrows with amazing expertise. Eklavya is hailed as the greatest of all disciples who possessed an indomitable spirit and fought against all odds to emerge as a true winner in the battle called life.

The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you


5 thoughts on “Education in Ancient and Modern India

    1. Sure. 😊I have studied about Nalanda and visited the site. Nalanda makes us proud as it was a world famous University during its time. The destruction of priceless manuscripts was a terrible loss for the world at large.


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