Swami Vivekananda’s thoughts on education

Education is the manifestation of perfection already in man.” This statement by Swami Vivekananda gives us the essence of his thoughts on education. It is only with proper education that such knowledge gets transformed into a means for all-round development.

By Biplabjoy Purkayastha, Programme Manager at Rashtram.

“Education is the manifestation of perfection already in man.” This statement by Swami Vivekananda gives us the essence of his thoughts on education. He takes up teaching in a broader context where he believes that there is something of knowledge present in every human being across all the possible intersectionalities. It is only with proper education that such knowledge gets transformed into a means for all-round development of human beings. 

Swamiji, on his ideas of education, gave equal weightage to both material and spiritual development. According to him, the curriculum should have the objective of all-round development of the body, mind, and soul. We need to have proper training of ourselves in all of these domains to make ourselves a complete individual capable of taking the country forward. According to him, we need “nerves of steel, muscles of iron and minds like a thunderbolt.” To him, youth should be ready to live for his motherland, continue to carry it forward through his ideals, and be strong enough to defend it through physical prowess. 

Swami Vivekananda’s ideas resonated during his lifetime and continue to do the same to date. In the domain of education in contemporary India, it is his idea of education for all-round development of an individual is what is taken as a broader objective. However, the realisation is yet far from what is desired. The life of a child in school remains way different from his life outside the school. The focus on experiential learning, the required emphasis on acquiring moral education to make a fully aware citizen is still non-existent in school curriculums. It gradually is making way for the development of a human-machine that is lacking in physical and moral rigour. 

The awareness about the Indian culture and civilizational roots in today’s education system is next to nothing and is heavily influenced by the blind imitation of the west. Swamiji never discarded the idea of incoming knowledge from foreign cultures but was very much vocal for aligning with our own first. He always strived to keep harmony between the traditional Indian values and the new values brought due to the developments in science and technology. In similar lines, our education system needs to have the component of our cultural sensitivity embedded in it. The curriculum should have topics from Gita, Upanishad, Puranas, etc., that can propel moral education among India’s future leaders and instil the age-old values of this land.

Swami Vivekananda’s journey has been inspirational in the context of Indian nationalism and its spiritual renaissance. His ideas encouraged a generation of nation builders that strengthened the foundations of a post-colonial independent India. To quote him, “Know your past … out of the past is built the future. Look back, therefore, as far as you can, drink deep of the eternal fountains that are behind, and after that, look forward, march forward and make India brighter, greater, much higher than she ever was”. On his birth anniversary, let us pledge to follow the ideals he stood for and make our countrymen fully trained in body, mind, and soul for the nation and the entire humanity.