Role of Universities : Radhakrishnan Commission Report 1948-49

Today, on the birthday of our 2nd President, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, we celebrate Teachers’ Day. He chaired the “University Education Commission 1948-49“. The report was released in 1950 and gives a great insight into what our leaders envisioned about University education at the time of Independence. It is a phenomenal piece of work and can be a guiding light to institution builders to this day. Here are 27 excerpts from the Chapter II on “The Aims of University Education“.

  1. It is for the universities to create knowledge and train minds who would bring together the two, material resources and human energies. If our living standards are to be raised, a radical change of spirit is essential.
  2. He indeed must be blind who does not see that, mighty as are the political changes, far deeper are the fundamental questions which will be decided by what happens in the universities.
  3. If India is to confront the confusion of our time, she must turn for guidance, not to those who are lost in the mere exigencies of the passing hour, but to her men of letters, and men of science, to her poets and artists, to her discoverers and inventors. These intellectual pioneers of civilisation are to be found and trained in the universities, which are the sanctuaries of the inner life of the nation.
  4. We must give up the fatal obsession of the perfection of the past, that greatness is not to be attained in the present, that everything is already worked out and all that remains for the future ages of the world is pedantic imitation of the past. When we are hypnotised by our own past achievements,. when all our effort is to repeat a past success, we become fetish worshippers.
  5. The purpose of all education, it is admitted by thinkers of East and west, is to provide a coherent picture of the universe and an integrated way of life. We must obtain through it a sense of perspective, a synoptic vision , a samanvaya of the different items of knowledge.
  6. No amount of factual information would make ordinary men into educated or ‘virtuous’ men unless something is awakened in them, an innate ability to live the life of the soul – jnanam. Since education is both a training of minds and a training of souls, it should give both knowledge and wisdom.
  7. Our educational system must find its guiding principle in the aims of the social order for which it prepares, in the nature of the civilisation it hopes to build. Unless we know whither we are tending, we cannot decide what we should do and how we should do it. Societies like men need a clear purpose to keep them stable in a world of bewildering change.
  8. We must cultivate the art of human relationships, the ability to live and work together overcoming the dividing forces of the time. Social harmony can be achieved by wise leadership and proper administration. Under Justice we will consider how universities should train technical men of all types, social leaders and wise administrators. Under Liberty we shall refer to the liberating character of all education, the need for the autonomy of the universities and for freedom of thought and expression for the teachers. The meaning of equality of opportunity in education, the barriers to it, especially the economic, communal ratios and the need for the assistance of scheduled castes and backward communities will be considered in the section on Equality. The idea of Fraternity will be treated at two levels, the national and the international. Closer cooperation in colleges and universities between the teachers and the pupils, the development of the residential system, of corporate life and a knowledge of Indian culture and history will help to promote the former.
  9. From complete dependence on others the child has to grow into relative independence. The function of the teacher is to assist the growth by stimulation and guidance. The growth is advanced by the acquisition of knowledge and skills.
  10. The true educator should understand the psychological make-up, the svabhava of the pupil and adapt his teaching to the mind of the pupil. The difficulty is to discover the true inward being of each individual.
  11. There are three types of existence, which are inter related, the natural, the social and the spiritual. The content of teaching may be classified under three heads, our relation to things or nature; our relation to men or society, our relation to values or the world of spirit.
  12. However well-informed we may be in general knowledge, however technically efficient we may be in our special vocations, if we are not acquainted with the roots of our past, if we do not have an understanding of what is called the ‘wisdom of the ages’ our education falls short of its true ideals. It would indeed be very strange if we neglect Philosophy, art and literature at a time when civilisation is in danger, not from any poverty of material resources or the power to use them but from want of the knowledge and the spirit to use them rightly. Our present condition is in part due to the failure of our education to cope with moral and spiritual uncertainties.
  13. Any one who wishes to live intelligently in the modern world should have some knowledge of selected materials from the three fields of (1) Science and Technology (2)Social studies including History (3) Humanities including language and literature, fine arts, ethics, philosophy and religion.
  14. Human mind is a unity and all knowledge is interdependent. In a sense every study should excite and satisfy the different mental powers. It must give, the pupils intellectual vision, aesthetic enjoyment and practical power. While the conservation and advancement of learning is a dominant purpose of the universities, they should also aim at raising the personal quality of its members and make them seek the good life.
  15. True freedom is inward, a function of mind and spirit. This inner fearlessness is the affirmation of human individuality. The recognition that a human being is a free moral agent with the right and capacity to choose between truth and error, good and evil, is the essence of freedom.
  16. Education, according to the Indian tradition, is not merely a means to earning a living; nor is it only a nursery of thought or a school for citizenship. It is initiation into the life of spirit, a training of human souls in the pursuit of truth and the practice of virtue. It is a second birth, divitiyam janma
  17. No system of education could be directed to the weakening of the State that maintains it. But education is also an instrument for social change. It should not be its aim merely enable us to adjust ourselves to the social environment.
  18. Training for leadership in the professions and in public life is one of the central aims of university education, which it is difficult to realise.
  19. If it is the function of universities to train men and women for wise leadership, they must enable young men and women to read with insight the records of human experience as they are expressed in world’s literature, to know the nature and consequences of ethical values, to sense the meaning of the social forces operating in the world to-day and comprehend the complexities and intricacies of life in all its immensity.
  20. We are building a civilisation, not a factory or a workshop. The quality of a civilisation depends not on the material equipment or the political machinery but on the character of men. The major task of education is the improvement of character.
  21. In ancient times the teacher and the pupil shared a common life. They shared the same simple food and life and in the process was established a close relation between the teacher and the pupils. Education was regarded as a co-operative enterprise. The absence of this personal relationship is to no small extent responsible for the increasing indiscipline.
  22. University personnel must develop a greater sense of social responsibility for educational and national progress, a preference for quality over quantity. The teachers can do much to raise the tone of the universities. It is in educational institutions that we can train character, build personality, by the discipline of body, intelligence and will.
  23. If society is not to disintegrate into an aggregate of individual specialists, we should endow the youth with a central core of values, transmit to them a cultural heritage. It alone can serve as a cohesive force in a society which is getting splintered by over specialisation. It will confer a unity and consistency of aim on specialised vocational courses and make for a more abundant personal life and a freer social order.
  24. One of the serious complaints against the system of education which has prevailed in this country for over a century is that it neglected India’s past, that it did not provide the Indian students with a knowledge of their own culture. It has produced in some cases the feeling that we are without roots, in others, what is worse, that our roots bind us to a world very different from that which surrounds us.
  25. We must be critical and selective and use the past to illumine the present. We should not blindly give up the great values of our past nor should we cling to beliefs simply because they are ancient. We should accept so much of ancient thought as is sympathetic to us.
  26. No nation is healthy that parts company with its traditions. Social development is an organic process. The continuing influence of the past on the present cannot be ignored. Our art and literature, our law and history, belong to the main stream of our culture. Every Indian student should get to know the main outlines of the history of India, which is not a mere chronicle, of dates and defeats, of follies and failures.
  27. Universities must make provision for the study of the different aspects of international affairs, such as the nature and development of other civilisations and cultures. nationalism in its relation to internationalism, tensions leading to wars, structure and operation of the various world.
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