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Why It Is Important To Go Back To Ancient Teaching Methods For a Child’s Development

(Representative image)

(Representative image)

Transversal competencies promote the development of problem-solving abilities in various situations through complex and fast decision making

Development of transversal competencies in children had been a priority since ages. For many voices over the centuries offered its importance, which were subdued to a large extent by the colonial hegemony and in the later years this inertia prevailed and the ‘learning in the schools’ got distorted by aligning it to ‘marks obtained’.

The importance of transversal competencies has been stated by the great 19th century educationist and social reformer Shri Ishwar Chandra Bandyopadhyay or Vidyasagar as he is popularly known, who designed the Bangla premier ‘Bornoporichoy’ or Varna-parichay (literally ‘the introduction to alphabets’). The genius of this two-part work is that it also has developmental psychology cleverly woven in its design and creation, reflecting the Kolhberg’s theory of Moral Development, instituting gradual development of morality amongst students, step by step. The first part (Pratham Bhaag) introduced students of first grade, to alphabets, letters, metrical words, and rudimentary sentences. In the second (Dwitiya Bhaag) the students are exposed to moral stories such as Rakhal the ‘bad-boy’ and Gopal the ‘good boy’, mirroring the ‘Good Boy-Nice girl’ orientation stage, predating Laurence Kolhberg by almost a century. This pen picture of a ‘Good being’ created, served as a model for the children to resolve their initial ‘Ethical Dilemmas’ of ‘what is good’ and ‘what isn’t’. For the students of the second grade, he designed the ‘Kathamala’ (Neck-strings of tales), based on Aesop’s animal stories with moral lessons. The grade-three students are introduced to ‘Charitavali’ (Characters) to learn about the biographies of some luminaries. Vidyasagar suggested to read “Bodhodaya” (Enlightenment), for the fourth grade which consists the narratives of natural objects and occurrence of normal events. Finally, for the fifth-grade, he prescribed “Akkhyan-manjari” (Unobliterable-Bud) containing seventy-eight true narratives, anecdotes and episodes from the existences and travel experiences of various regions.

Shri Aurobindo, the Indian nationalist, philosopher, yogi, guru, and poet emphasised that the teacher’s first and primary responsibility is to develop in the child the method of use of six senses, which minister to the five natural senses and the sixth evolved through ‘gyan’ or knowledge. He felt that through harmonious education, intellectual faculties such as thinking, reasoning, imagination, memory, discrimination, decision-making power must be built, thereby the inner power of the child can blossom, and mental development can take place. Aurobindo believed that thereafter the development of logical power of the child must inevitably happen as an extension of the child’s mental powers. Then comes the child’s development of morality through the show of extreme love, sympathy, and consideration for all living beings. Subsequently, the evolvement of the levels of conscience such as Chitta-Manas, (Intelligence and Knowledge) happens. It shapes remembrance, awakening and intellect, which contributes to the all-round enhancement of the child.

Girja Shanker Bhagwanji Badeka (Giju-Bhai), the earliest proponent and the pioneer in Early Childhood Education in the country gave prominence to the child rather than curriculum and professed that the education is for the child and not the child for education. He believed in the child’s right to freedom and the opportunity to learn is maximised in an environment of love and compassion. His 223 children’s books and many more for the teachers are virtual treasure trove. He, at training centre in Bhavnagar (Dakshinamoorti) and later by Tarabai Modak at Dadar Bombay developed an indigenous educational system, imbibing the basic Gandhian philosophy and integrating it with the educational principles and scientific pedagogy of Madame Montessori. The supremacy of the child is the main feature of child-centred education that builds the qualities like integrity, moral ascendancy, discipline, diligence, and resilience among children.

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In ancient India, spiritual and intellectual enlightenment was the main objectives of education. Dharma (Righteousness) always preceded Artha (Wealth) and Kama (Physical Comfort or Desire), on the way to Moksha (Spiritual Liberty) as espoused in the Vedas. Also, references of values and ethics are many in the Dohas (Couplets in Matrika Metres) and Chaupais (Quatrains) of Kabir and Rahim.

For an integral expansion of human personality, Tagore believed that spiritual education is more important than bookish knowledge. Gandhi advocated education to foster forbearance, tolerance, and reverence in one’s character which in turn nurture value and ethics. The modern educational system planned and prescribed in independent India also championed the importance in the curricula but sadly perhaps not practiced the same with required vigour. Understanding of the old is vital if one is planning to ring in the new. The world of education is in a flux and needs continual evolvement and renewal of strategies. It has been acutely realised by the educationist and thinkers that the Global Citizens of tomorrow, who are students today, will need to master certain competencies of which the transversal competencies are a must.

Transversal competencies promote the development of problem-solving abilities in various situations through complex and fast decision making, drawing strength from cognitive and non-cognitive psychological reservoir. This ability to negotiate successfully through real life challenges is directly proportional to the proficiency of acquiring these transversal skills. As the term suggests these are not limited in number but a vast array of skills and sub-skills, competencies, and proficiencies, that are linked intricately, and readily comes to fore whenever the demand arises to perform seamlessly.

Transversal competencies cannot be tabulated in any finite fashion as they will dynamically evolve with newer challenges. As stated earlier, training in these dimensions of anthropological endeavours and for specific human dynamics, promoting transversal competencies, have been prescribed and practiced in the past. What is required now is to refocus the limelight on these competencies by embedding them in all dimensions of educational engineering. This approach will encourage evolving of competencies that promotes sense of onus, autonomy, proactiveness, compliance, resilience, etc and also the ability to choose the appropriate competency or combination of them to deal with the challenge at hand. Cross disciplinary skills promoting critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, resilience, digital literacy and resolving ethical dilemma will sanction the child, ‘to travel within for being future ready’.

Prof Indrani Bhaduri, Head, National Achievement Survey Cell, NCERT, and Dr Sreyoshi Bhaduri, Global People Research & Analytics, McGraw Hill, New York, NY

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first published:June 29, 2021, 11:49 IST