Role of Academia in the Dissemination of Gandhian ideas and Values:
Reflections on Curriculum, Teaching, Research and Training
Siby K. Joseph
Gandhi approached life from a holistic and integrated way. His primary concern was to find out practical and viable solutions to the various problems confronted by humanity in different facets of life. In this process, he literally experimented and demonstrated the practicability of certain ideas and emphasised the significance of certain perennial values for the survival and sustenance of universe as a whole and humanity in particular. In fact, Gandhi anticipated some of the problems which we face in the political, economic, religious, social and other fields and placed before humanity a new way of life and the basic principles for organising life and society in a meaningful and organic manner. It is true that some of the problems which we face today were absent or dormant in Gandhi’s life time and drastic changes had taken place in almost every aspect of life. Therefore, it is appropriate to discuss the role of academia in the dissemination of Gandhian ideas and values in the present context or in the changed global scenario including the Indian one. The analysis of current problems confronted by humanity and the perennial significance of Gandhian ideas and values is definitely important but it is beyond the scope of the exercise. At present there is a global resurgence and recognition of Gandhian principles and ideas than any other time with people on a massive scale largely resorting to non-violent means to overcome the injustice perpetuated to them by over throwing the governments and dictatorial regimes.This scenario definitely gives an added fillip to the need for dissemination of Gandhian principles and values all over the globe.
Role of Academic Community
Academic community can play a very important and crucial role in the dissemination of Gandhian ideas and values because their life is closely linked with youth or younger generation, a potent force for social transformation. If youth energies are properly channelised, they can constitute the foundation of a countervailing force which can very well address the problems of the present acquisitive society based on cutthroat competition and profiteering. They can also address the issue of degeneration we see in the field ranging from politics to religion and even in civil society. Youth are thoroughly disillusioned with experience of dominating ideologies of the world whether it is liberal western democracy or Marxism of various hues found in the so called socialist countries. Youth find himself drifting in the ocean of materialistic world without direction and his thirst for finding meaning in life is not quenched. Otherwise there should not be any reason why he feels hollowness or emptiness in his inner life though his outer life appears to be very rich. In such a state of affairs, youth are looking for new ideas for tackling the problems confronted by the present day society. It gives space for propagation and dissemination of Gandhian ideas and values as a viable and creative alternative.
In view of the changes that have taken place between Gandhi’s time and ours, it is essential for academicians to examine both the structure and nature of those changes as well as to scrutinise the whole gamut of Gandhian ideas to relate their relevance and practicability to the changing modes of our times. This is so because every great thinker tries to grapple with the problems of his times as well as the perennial problems which confront humankind from ages to ages. This general principle is applicable to Gandhi also. Therefore, it is our duty to identify and revivify some of the Gandhian ideas which continue to be relevant to our times and likely to remain relevant for times to come.
Institutions Engaged in the Dissemination of Gandhian Studies
When we talk about the role of academia in the dissemination of Gandhian ideas and values in the present context it cannot be limited to academic institutions specialising on Gandhian or peace studies alone. But at the same time everyone will agree that academic institutions specialising on Gandhian/peace studies can play a significant role and act as catalysts or coordinating agencies in the whole process. Therefore, we have to look at the strengths and weaknesses of existing academic institutions engaged in the dissemination and propagation of Gandhian thought and action. Let us have a brief survey of important academic institutions engaged in dissemination of Gandhian thought/ peace studies in India. The regular University schools/departments offering course of studies on Gandhian/ Peace Studies are Panjab University, Chandigarh; T. M. Bhagalpur University, Bhagalpur; Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapith, Varanasi; RTM Nagpur University, Nagpur; Central University of Gujarat, Gandhinagar; Annamalai University, Annamalai Nagar (T.N); Karnatak University, Dharwad; Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai; Gandhigram Rural Institute, Gandhigram; Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam; A. N. Sinha Institute, Patna;Jain Visha Bharati University, Ladnun; Mahatma Gandhi Antrarashtriya Hindi Vishwavidayalaya, Wardha; Gujarat Vidyapith, Ahmedabad. In this list, there is only one university which is offering course of studies starting from the graduate level and the rest are offering post graduate diploma/degree, M. Phil. and Ph.D. programmes mainly regular and some through correspondence mode. In addition, we have open universities like Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi; Vardhaman Mahaveer Open University, Kota (Rajasthan);Yashwantrao Chavan Mahrashtra Open University, Nashik (MS) offering certificate, diploma and masters programmes in Gandhian thought through distance education. There are also a number of Gandhi Bhavans in the universities. Though some of the universities established centres for Gandhian studies long back, the recent mushrooming of such centres for Gandhian Studies in many universities and colleges were mainly due to financial assistance provided by the University Grants Commission under the XI plan scheme for promoting the contributions of epoch making social thinkers of India. But with the patronage of respective universities and colleges, some of these centres have come with certificate and diploma and even post graduate programmes and excelled the university departments in their performance. It may be mentioned that Kerala is perhaps the only state in India where Gandhian Studies has been introduced as subject at the Higher Secondary level for a long time. Outside the mainstream educational institutions there are also a few institutions engaged in the dissemination of Gandhian thought and values like the Institute of Gandhian Studies, Gandhi Research Foundation and others.
It remains as a fact that some of above mentioned academic institutions failed to achieve the goal of dissemination of Gandhian studies and even forced to close down their graduate and post graduate programmes due to various reasons. The financial support in abundance from Government bodies including UGC, national and international NGOs/donors in the name of Gandhi makes it obligatory for them to use it judiciously and commensurate with their established goals, objectives and programmes. If these institutions ignore their basic objectives and goals, it may result in maligning the name of Gandhi instead of disseminating his ideas and values. The basic question before us is that why these academic institutions failed to attract the younger generation? The main reason for this pathetic state of affairs was the method of teaching and the curriculum they followed. They failed to place before students the revolutionary character of Gandhi and contemporary significance of his ideas. They also failed to inculcate the basic Gandhian values and spirit which makes the younger generations feel proud and to undertake a self reliant and meaningful life. They ignore the simplicity and pro poor approach in their programmes and action and this situation keeps the students away from these institutions.
Curriculum, Teaching , Research and Training
The curriculum is an important factor when we talk about dissemination of Gandhian ideas and values. A cursory look at the curriculum of Gandhian Studies offered in these institutions reveals that many of them are fashioned in the traditional mould. Serious academic efforts have not been made to make the curriculum of Gandhian Studies more consonant with the present day context taking into consideration the drastic changes that have taken place globally and nationally in recent years. Thus, an attempt is made here to give certain clues to improve the curriculum and related academic issues in teaching, research and training. It is hoped that the application of these ideas will help in rejuvenating these institutions as effective instruments in creating new perspectives in the field and thereby contributing towards the dissemination of Gandhian ideas and values in a more effective manner.
Reorganising Curriculum of Gandhian Studies
Any curriculum of Gandhian Studies should start with the life and central philosophy of Gandhi comprising of both its secular and spiritual elements. Along with Gandhi’s approach to various aspects of life namely social, political, economic religious and so on, the present problems in the particular area have to be analysed. The following are some of the specific suggestions to reorient/ reorganize the existing curriculum.
- Studies on peace and non-violence should be an integral part of the curriculum of Gandhian Studies. Peace Studies these days has become studies of war and disarmament with emphasis on the analysis of violent conflicts. Here the emphasis should be given on culture of peace and non-violence. It should include the experience of non-violent action/resistance all over the globe with a view to learning from case studies of non-violent action. Ways and means by which civil intervention for peace can be carried out in different contexts and issues including war and terrorism and role of civil society actors as countervailing forces to predatory states and transnational corporations should be introduced. The role of women in conflict resolution should also be introduced.
- Along with the fundamental principles of Gandhian economics the characteristic features of new economic order should be analysed. Challenges such as food security, farmers control over seeds/agriculture implications of patent regime for developing countries, strategies for restoration of peoples control over lives etc. should become a part of the curriculum. The significance of Gandhian concept of Swadeshi as an alternative to globalisation should be explored. Decentralisation and rural development schemes like the NREGS should be focused.
- Environmental studies should be incorporated to the curriculum of Gandhian Studies. Issues such as ozone layer depletion, global warming, deforestation, climatic changes, water scarcity, depletion of non renewable energy etc. should be analysed.
- The significance of Gandhi’s concept of governance has to be analysed in the context of the failure of existing models of governance to fulfill the aspirations of people and to check the growing menace of corruption, alienation and exploitation.
- Gandhian approach to Inter-religious relations –Sarvadharma Samabhava can go a long way in combating religious fundamentalism. Therefore, the introduction of Gandhian approach to religion and Gandhi’s multicultural approach should have a place in the curriculum.
- Gandhi’s concept of basic education and the significance of social ideas of Gandhi should be included in the curriculum.
- The whole curriculum of Gandhian Studies should be an integrated one. Different sections in the curriculum dealing with various aspects of human life should not be taught as water tight compartments.
It is true that under ideal situations, Gandhi cannot be disseminated through mere class room teaching or through correspondence mode without having any touch of real life situations. Teacher has an important role to play in any academic programme, especially a course of studies on Gandhi. A comprehensive picture of life, philosophy and action of Gandhi is an essential qualification for a teacher engaged in the dissemination of his ideas and values. He should be an embodiment of ideal character and committed to values. Youth look at the lives and deeds of the persons who are delivering the message of Gandhi to them. The attempts to disseminate Gandhi through persons who are not committed to his ideals will provide only a distorted and refracted image of Gandhi and it may become counterproductive. This is true in the case of research also. An ideal teacher must play dual role of being a keen researcher and supervisor inspiring the students to undertake research in different areas of societal concerns. The following are some suggestions to strengthen teaching /research.
- Innovative and participatory teaching and learning methods should be followed taking advantage of recent strides made in the information technology.
- Refresher course should be organised for the faculty to update their information and familiarise with the new developments in the field.
- If we opt for distant learning as one of the means dissemination, then there should be enough contact classes and practical programmes.
- A proper methodology of teaching/research has to be evolved keeping in mind the unique nature of Gandhian thought.
- Research should primarily concentrate on contextualising Gandhi to current problems confronted by the humanity and efforts should be made to disseminate the findings at a wider level.
- The purpose of research in Gandhian Studies should not be merely to earn a degree or for the fulfillment of vested interest certain parties. On the contrary it should lead to fresh perspectives on the current problems and social concerns.
- Research should cover the various disciplines concerned with the problems and issues confronted by the humanity. An interdisciplinary or trans-disciplinary approach should be integrated in research related to Gandhian studies.
- Major findings of research in field should be integrated to strengthen teaching and its methodology.
Training should be an essential part of Gandhian Studies. An ideal training should instill Gandhian values in actual lives and livings of the students. This is altogether ignored in the present scheme. The following are some suggestions to strengthen the training in the field.
- Peace and non-violence constitute an essential part of Gandhian studies. Therefore, training should be given to the students in conflict resolution methods such as negotiation, reconciliation, mediation, facilitated problem solving, dialogue, non-violent intervention and solidarity action.
- Envirornment is a major concern today. Therefore, awareness regarding renewable sources of energy, water conservation and the appropriate life style must become an essential part of the training. The students should be introduced to the Gandhian approach to sustainable living and its importance in the present day context.
- Students should get an opportunity to experience the Gandhian way of life. Field visits should be organised to the Ashrams and institutions practising the Gandhian way of life.
- Students of Gandhian studies should be able to find work in the development sector. Teaching them essential skills related to project planning and organization management also can be helpful.
- Provision should be given in the curriculum for placement of students for 2-3 months in Gandhian and Constructive organisations to familiarise with its activities and its efficacy in building a non-violent social order.
- Prayer, voluntary manual labour such as agriculture, sanitation and other works related to the management of day to day life should have a place in the curriculum.
- Training should be given to students in spinning or any other appropriate craft which has potential of skill information as well as educational value.
- Harmonious development of body mind and spirit coupled with character building should be the emphasis of whole training.
The suggestions for reorienting the curriculum of Gandhian Studies and methodology of teaching/ training and research are mainly based on my experience in this field. These suggestions are only indicative and to show the direction in which we should move forward. It is high time to review the curriculum of Gandhian Studies and the methods of teaching/ training and research in universities and centres of Gandhian Studies. A committee consisting of experts in the field should sit together and review the whole scenario and suggestions should be given for the strengthening the existing institutions in Gandhian Studies to become effective vehicles in the dissemination of ideas and values of Gandhi.
There has been a growing interest in Gandhi’s philosophy all over the world and Gandhi is looked upon as the hope for the humankind. Therefore, the attempt should not be limited to handful of educational institutions specalising on Gandhian thought. Efforts should be made to reach the whole younger generation by introducing Gandhi through various programmes and actions. In this regard the following suggestions are given taking into consideration the experience in the field.
- Efforts should be made to introduce Gandhian thought as a subject in schools and colleges. At the Higher Secondary level we have the example of Kerala. In schools, it can be linked with moral education programme.
- Gandhian thought has been introduced as a subject in many social science disciplines by some of institutions. This can be extended at the national level.
- Start foundation courses, add on courses or dual degree on Gandhian thought should be introduced in colleges and universities. Some of the Centres for Gandhian studies have successfully implemented in their respective colleges and universities. In Delhi University under its new four year undergraduate programme a student has to study two papers on “Integrating Mind, Body and Heart The objective of this paper is “to instill principles of non-violence and truth in each student by creating awareness about Mahatma Gandhi’s practice of these beliefs in his life.” 
- Introducing short term courses on Gandhi targeting the students from different universities like the one offered by the Institute of Gandhian Studies, Wardha. Similar courses can be offered at the regional level targeting the students studying in colleges and universities within a state.
- Establishment of Gandhi study circles and study forums in colleges and universities through the students who attended these short term courses is an effective way of dissemination of Gandhian ideas and principles. We have very good examples of such Gandhi study circles in different parts of the country. The observance of Khadi day by some of these forums has attracted the whole academic community including the teachers.
- Production of new literature contextualising Gandhi to current issues instead of reprinting the old work will be more effective. Such literature can be uploaded in the website of respective institutions and can be made available free of cost via internet.  Small tracts about Gandhian experiments and personalities who serve as role models shall be produced to inspire the younger generation.
- Academic community and Gandhian activists should be closely linked to reach Gandhi to the masses and to involve students in constructive activities.
- Information on institutions working on Gandhian lines should be widely disseminated and award winning organizations (like the Jamnalal Bajaj award) should be linked to academic community to have practical knowledge of application of Gandhi’s ideas and vision.
- National Service Scheme (NSS) should be used as a medium for the dissemination of Gandhian ideas particularly on social service.
- Efforts should be made to regain status of Gandhian Studies as an independent discipline in the University Grants Commission’s National Eligibilty Test for Lectureship / Junior Research Fellowship. The test should be conducted separately for Gandhian and Peace Studies and it should be delinked from Buddhist and Jaina Studies.
As a follow up, a large gathering of all people involved in the dissemination of Gandhian Studies should be organised. In this meeting participation of various stakeholders like teachers, head of the academic institutions, activists, representatives of national level Gandhian organizations, government, media etc. should be ensured. At least there should be one representative from each state of India. Special efforts should be made to ensure participation of representatives from northeastern states and backward states of India. In such a meeting we can think about the formation of some forum like National level Campaign Committee for the dissemination of Gandhian ideas and values. This forum should be sponsored by Consortium of Gandhian institutions like Gamdhi Smarak Nidhi, Gujarat Vidyapith, Gandhi Peace Foundation, Gandhi Research Foundation, Institute of Gandhian Studies, various university departments and centres for Gandhian studies. This will ensure wider participation, national level coverage and collective leadership. This forum will make concerted efforts to get introduce Gandhian Studies in the CBSE,ICSE and State Board Curriculum and University Curriculum. Another meeting should be organised within a time frame of three or six months to reassess the situation and take stock of the achievements and to develop strategies to achieve the unfulfilled goals. This would become an annual affair so that the strategy and area covered could be reevaluated and appropriate action to be taken to carry the programme further.
In the process of disseminating Gandhi, the basic spirit and purpose of the exercise should not be lost. Gandhi was basically a man of action and evolved his ideas in the course of action. Therefore, when we talk of dissemination of Gandhian ideas and values the action part cannot be ignored. The philosophy and action should go hand in hand. The philosophy of Gandhi should be disseminated keeping in mind the picture of poorest of the poor or what Gandhi called daridranarayan.
Notes and References
. It is revised version of note prepared for the Colloquium on The Role of the Academia in the Dissemination of Gandhian ideas and values in the Present Context organised byy Gandhi Research Foundation ,Gandhi Teerth, Jain Hills, Jalgaon, Maharashtra 16th and 17th August, 2013.
. Some of the suggestions for strengthening the curriculum of Gandhian Studies included in the note was earlier presented in a National Seminar on Revitalizing Rural Institutes :Problems and Prognosis jointly organised by the National Council of Rural Institutes(NCRI)and Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi in March 2008.
 . For details see the site http://gvpwardha.in
. The publications of the Institute of Gandhian studies, Wardha are available in their website and it is widely shared in many sites. Recently Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi also started uploading the current issue of their journal Gandhi Marg in their new website.
. The ideas presented in the section of follow up was the result of my discussion with Ramchandra Pradhan, senior Gandhian Scholar and member of the teaching faculty of the Institute of Gandhian Studies, Wardha.
SIBY K. JOSEPH is Dean of Studies and Research, Institute of Gandhian Studies, Wardha. He has been a member of the teaching faculty of the Institute, since 1998. He served as a visiting faculty of the Summer University programmes of University of Terre-du-ciel, Bruallies, France (2006). He is also a visiting faculty of the international course on Gandhian non-violence organised by Peace Research Centre, Gujarat Vidyapith, Ahmedabad. He is closely connected with international Gandhian and peace organisations especially Gandhi International and the Communities of Ark founded by Lanza Del Vasto in France. He has published a number of articles in reputed journals and also edited books on Gandhian thought, Peace studies and Environment.