Vidya Bharati is the largest educational institution in India dedicated to the cause of imparting value-based education from primary to senior secondary level. Managing 23,000 schools through 70 committees, and imparting education to 35 lakh students with the help of 1.35 lakh teachers is indeed not an easy task. The model that Vidya Bharati has evolved over the years for quality education has been appreciated globally. Now, it is in the process of expanding its wings in higher education and also at the global level. Organiser Chief News Coordinator Dr Pramod Kumar spoke to the Joint Organising Secretary of Vidya Bharati Shri Yatindra Kumar in New Delhi to know the future plans of the largest educational institution of Bharat. Excerpts:
What was the prime objective behind the start of Saraswati Shishu Mandir Yojna in 1952?
Five years after achieving political Independence, some karyakartas, while thinking about future education in the country, started the first school in 1952 at Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh. After serious thought, the school was named as Saraswati Shishu Mandir—where both the teachers and the students experience the feel of a temple. The prime objective was to prepare the young generation, which is knowledgeable, rooted in Indian cultural ethos, possess high moral character and human values. The Saraswati Shishu Mandir Yojna is basically based on the age-old Bharatiya values of life and philosophy. The idea behind the whole thinking was that the school should have the feel of a family, where the students, parents, teachers and management are interconnected. In the beginning, plans were formulated to expand the schools in Uttar Pradesh only. Then, they were expanded to Madhya Pradesh. A Samiti, Shishu Shiksha Prabandh Samiti, was first constituted in 1958 to look after this work. Till 1977, about 600 schools had been started in different states. Then the discussion began to give it a national shape. After the Emergency, a grand Shishu Sangam of students from classes 3 to 7 was held in New Delhi in 1978 in which we had initially planned to have 10,000 students, but actually, 16,000 students participated. It was the world’s largest camp of school students in that year.
How was Vidya Bharati Akhil Bharatiya Shiksha Sansthan started?
Vidya Bharati Akhil Bharatiya Shiksha Sansthan was formed in 1978. Gradually, various new dimensions were added to its work. In 1979, the first Chintan Baithak was held at Lalsagar (Jodhpur) where the action plan for expansion was chalked out and the boundaries for social development, education, geography were defined. Later, a research centre was planned which now functions in Lucknow. A research journal is also published. Then Sanskriti Bodh project was started. It is managed by a separate Samiti based in Kurukshetra. Last year, 22 lakh students appeared for the Sanskriti Bodh test all over the country. Apart from students, there are tests for teachers and parents too so that they know about the Bharatiya Sanskriti. The Second Chintan Baithak of Vidya Bharati was held at Palghat in 2005, where the objectives and targets, defined in 1989, were reviewed. The Third Chintan Baithak was held in Kurukshetra in 2008 for further planning.
The Education System rooted in Indian Ethos
Some committed and patriotic people, who considered education as an artifice to educate the young generation according to Indian values and culture started the first school in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, in 1952. They named that school as Saraswati Shishu Mandir—Temple of the Goddess Saraswati dedicated to the children. Thanks to their zeal, dedication and hard work that similar schools began to be established at other places also. The number of such schools increased rapidly in Uttar Pradesh. A state-level Shishu Shiksha Prabandh Samiti was formed in 1958 for their proper guidance and planned development. Good education and sound sanskars at the Saraswati Shishu Mandirs earned recognition, honour and popularity in the society. Shishu Mandirs started spreading in other states and within a few years, many schools were established. To manage the affairs in different regions, state-level committees were set-up. The formation of a national body came in 1978 and Vidya Bharati Akhil Bharatiya Shiksha Sansthan was established with its registered office at Lucknow and functional headquarters in New Delhi. All state-level committees were affiliated to the Vidya Bharati Akhil Bharatiya Shiksha Sansthan.
The prime objective of the Vidya Bharati is to develop a national system of education which would help build a generation of young men and women that is committed to Hindutva and infused with patriotic fervour; physically, vitally, mentally and spiritually fully developed; capable of successfully facing challenges of life; dedicated to the service of those of our brothers and sisters who dwell in villages, forests, caves and slums; and are deprived and destitute, so that they are liberated from the shackles of social evils and injustice and thus devoted, may contribute to building up a harmonious, prosperous, and culturally rich Nation.
How many schools, students, teachers and parents are associated with Vidya Bharati now?
Today, 70 Samitis running schools all over the country are affiliated to Vidya Bharati. There are schools in all the Prants except Mizoram. If we think at the district level, we have work in 624 districts. There are two parts of the schools—formal and informal. Schools from Shishu Vatika to 12th standard are formal schools, while the Ekal Vidyalayas and Sanskar Kendras are informal schools. The number of formal schools is 13,000, while the number of informal schools is 10,000. By and large, about 35 lakh students study in all these schools. The number of teachers is 1.35 lakh. About one crore parents are associated with us today.
What is the mechanism to keep in touch with the Alumni and to use their talent for the betterment of the society?
We have about 10 lakh alumni who are well-settled in their respective areas. They are our real capital, which should be used for the betterment of the nation. Alumni have two sections. One, the students who are still studying somewhere and the second are those who have settled in various fields. We are gradually creating a system from schools to the national level to reconnect to the alumni. Every school is collecting data about its alumni. Meetings, camps and conferences of the alumni have begun. We have also started a web portal to connect with them. It is managed from Kolkata. About 95 per cent of schools have been registered on this portal. About one lakh alumni have also registered themselves on the portal. We have online contact with them now. We are also listing them according to their areas of work like education, administration, commerce, business, industry, management, army, police, etc. After preparing this data we will think how they can be better utilised for those areas.
How many schools of Vidya Bharati are digitised today?
Work on it has just begun. About 10 per cent of schools have digital classrooms.
Whom do you think are some of the foundation stones in the journey of Vidya Bharati?
There are countless people. But the contribution of Nanaji Deshmukh who started the first school in 1952 cannot be ignored. Similarly, personalities like Shri Deendayal Upadhyaya who drafted its first constitution in 1952, Shri Bhaurao Deoras, Shri Hanuman Prasad Poddar and Shri Krishna Chand Gandhi are remembered with high reverence. In states, Shri Narayandas in Uttar Kshetra, Shri Jaidev Pathak in Rajasthan, Shri Roshanlal Saxena in Madhya Pradesh, Shri Acharyulu in Andhra Pradesh and Shri K. Bhaskar Rao in Kerala were the prominent foundation stones.
If you have to list five major achievements of Vidya Bharati right from the initial days, what are they?
The first achievement of Vidya Bharati is marvellous examination results. In all the State Education Boards, our students achieve a place in the merit every year. Once, the ‘BBC’ prepared a report on the achievements of Vidya Bharati schools in Odisha. Shri Digvijaya Singh, when he was CM of Madhya Pradesh, felicitated our students and teachers for their wonderful performance in exams. In CBSE also our students excel regularly. The second achievement is our values—morality, spirituality and the values of life which are the core of our education system. It is because of the values that many educational institutions are eager to join hands with us. Many institutions study our model and try to emulate it. The third achievement is our alumni who are leaders in various spheres of their life today. They are our cultural ambassadors all over the world. Fourth is the dedicated team of teachers. Ordinary people from society joined us as teachers and we transformed them into extraordinary persons through our working method. They impart education through their personal conduct and qualities. They are in the field of education considering it a pious work where they work for building responsible citizens. These teachers are today active in various spheres of life. Fifth achievement is that the students getting education in their respective mother tongues are successful and hold higher posts in different spheres of life. Vidya Bharati is also successful in abolishing untouchability and malpractices prevailing in over one lakh villages.
Privatisation of higher education has increased commercialisation of education. Do you have any plan to start private universities also in future to provide quality and affordable education to the deserving students?
Vidya Bharati is against the commercialisation of education. Education should be autonomous and managed by educationists. Since our prime objective is to impart sanskars through education, we have focused on education up to 12th standard which is the prime age of getting sanskars. Even then, about three years back we registered a body, Vidya Bharati Uchch Shiksha Sansthan. It is based in Noida. Hence, we are ready to enter the field of higher education in the country. We hope for a big stride in the field of higher education in the days to come.
A few years back, Vidya Bharati started engaging its teachers, students and parents into some constructive activities, particularly in the localities where the school is run. What is the progress on that front?
Yes, this experiment is gathering momentum. Since the beginning, we believe that school is the small form of society and it should emerge as centre of social awakening. It should not be like an isolated island. At the Palghat Chintan Baithak, we decided that every school in its vicinity should detect some social issues and use the manpower of students, teachers, parents and alumni to address those issues. Many schools have started inspiring work in this direction.
How many Ekal Vidyalayas are run in remote areas and how are they proving to be a medium of social change in those areas?
Under the informal education system, we have about 5000 Sanskar Kendras, which mostly function in deprived or underdeveloped slum areas of the cities. Also, about 5000 Ekal Vidyalayas are run mostly in the tribal, coastal and border areas. Some Ekal Vidyalayas are run in J&K and North Eastern states also. These are mainly in areas where the government agencies have not reached so far. We have designed a special curriculum for these schools. It particularly focuses on language and mathematics. For sanskar, stories, short stories, games, inspiring anecdotes from the life of great personalities are taught. These schools have generated great interest in education in those areas. Not only the students but also the parents are ready to teach their children. Secondly, the spirit of national awakening has been generated among those people, anti-national activities have effectively been curbed there. The people there have also come out from various types of superstitions. Many social evils have been arrested.
What was the input of Vidya Bharati for new Education Policy and how many of your suggestions have been incorporated in the draft policy?
We organised many conferences and discussions involving scholars and educationists to gather their input for the Education Policy. We mainly gathered 33 suggestions and submitted to Dr Kasturirangan Committee. Then we had three meetings with the Committee to exchange our idea of education and expectations from the future Education Policy. I feel about 80 per cent of our recommendations have been accepted by the Committee. Now after the release of the draft policy, we are studying it and are again discussing them with the scholars. We would again give our feedback to the government before August 31, 2019.
‘Panchmukhi Shiksha’ is the concept of total development of a child. It has following five components:
- Physical Education: The human body is the base of all developments. So this is the most important factor in physical education.
- Mental Education: To gain and to achieve the world wide knowledge is based on mental and academic development. So, we develop mental education.
- Moral Education: Moral education tells us about the values of life. So we teach values to the students.
- Spiritual Education: In Indian philosophy knowing God is very important. We learn about love, truthfulness, courtesy and to help the needy person.
- Vocational Education: Vocational education is necessary for the economic development of the country.
Panchpadi Teaching Method
‘Panchpadi’ teaching is highly attractive, impressive and fruitful methodology of learning. There are five steps in this system.
- Adhiti (Study): The teacher teaches about lessons/content to the student based on previous knowledge. In this process there is proper interaction between the students and teachers. The teacher regularly use Teaching and Learning Material
- Bodh (Comprehension): After teaching a lesson, the teacher tries to asses the comprehension. He asks questions and gets answers. If there is any query or difficulty, the teacher solves that.
- Abhyas (Exercise): It is a fact taht practice makes a man perfect. In this step, the teacher gives some questions to the students to solve. These questions are verbal and written both. We call them homework questions. Homework questions are very useful and attractive. The students solve them without any help.
- Prayog (Applications of the knowledge): After learning the lesson, the teacher performs several types of applications among the students and tries to assess the subject matter taught in the classroom. The teacher organises completions in groups and arranges discussion. The teacher asks the students to observe, compare, make a project and do more practices on the achieved knowledge.
- Prasar (Extension of knowledge): There are two components of it. One is self-study. About the taught lessons, the students get more and more knowledge, but it is not sufficient. The teacher asks them to know some more things about the lesson and he suggests the names of the books also. Second is Pravachan or to express the ideas before the classmates. The teacher asks them to tell about that in the class.
What is your overall opinion about the draft Education Policy?
By and large, the draft is good and presents an outline for the change in a larger context. In 1998 also, the Vidya Bharati had organised scholars’ meets to gather opinion about new education policy. A meeting was held in Delhi which was attended by about 350 scholars. At that time the majority opinion was that there is no need to formulate new education policy. If the government implements the recommendations of previous committees alone, a big change will be visible in the country’s education sector. A memorandum to that effect was presented to the then HRD Minister Dr Murli Manohar Joshi. Even today, we say the draft of the new Education Policy is good, but the major question is of its timely and effective implementation. If the system implements it with a strong will and the government also provides the desired budget for it, the nation will get inspiring results in the field of education. Also, there is a need to prepare the teachers to impart education accordingly. About one crore teachers have to do it. They should be mentally prepared for it. If this happens, the new education policy will show good results.
Sometimes there are reports that the teachers working in most of Vidya Bharati schools are underpaid. Comment.
No, it is wrong to say it. We do not use the word ‘salary’. Rather we use the word ‘honourarium’, as we believe that we cannot pay for the commitment and dedication with which the teachers work in our schools. We grant them respectable honourarium. Their contribution is priceless to us. Even then we have some high paying schools. Our schools in Delhi, Haryana and Punjab pay according to 7th Pay Commission. Some schools pay according to 6th and 5th Pay Commission. We also provide other facilities like EFP and ESI to all the teachers. Since all our schools are run from social contribution and receive no aid from the government, we pay based on the social contribution we receive. Since beginning our policy has been that whatever amount we receive as fees, 80 per cent of that will be paid to the teachers as honourarium. Remaining 20 per cent will be used for other activities of the school. The amount collected through fees is not used for the construction of the building. For it, we gather funds from society. The teachers joining our schools come with the spirit of dedication and commitment and not to earn money. That is why they feel satisfied.
What are the plans of Vidya Bharati for the next two-three years?
By the year 2024, our plan is to prepare at least one model school in every district which takes a lead in that area. That school should emerge as an ideal school imparting not only quality education but also ensuring sanskars, values and character, which are the core of our education system. Presently, we have work in 624 districts. In next three years we want to have schools in every district. Socially, also we want to have students from all segments of the society in our schools.
What about sports activities through Vidya Bharati?
Yes, Vidya Bharati students have excelled in sports also. When the sports activities began in 1988 from Gwalior with 250 children, we had focused on four types of sports. Now it is the mainstream activity in Vidya Bharati schools. Despite not having adequate sports infrastructure and facilities in schools, we have been able to discover and nurture sports talent all over the country. Sports activities are organised from schools to national level. School Games Federation of India (SGFI) recognised us in 2007. In the first year, 778 students participated in various sports activities and won 20 medals. In 2007, our rank was 33rd. In 2018, our students won 383 medals and our rank was 10th. SGFI has honoured Vidya Bharati for this achievement. They have started an award for discipline and cleanliness also. That too was first won by Vidya Bharati. Now Vidya Bharati students have started participating in international sports events also. Eight students from Vidya Bharati schools are now participating in international sports events. We are creating Vidya Bharati International Sports Academy in Kanpur so that we can develop international level sportspersons for the country. We have also decided to prepare good army officers.
There are reports that the Vidya Bharati is starting a military school in Uttar Pradesh. What is that project?
Yes, it is being started at Shikarpur in Bulandshahar District of Uttar Pradesh in the memory of former RSS Sarsanghachalak Shri Rajju Bhaiya. It is going to start shortly. The prime objective behind that project is to produce good military officers. We would impart regular education in the school. But the students will be imparted special coaching about the military so that they are selected in the army easily. This school will be affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE). Land for the school has been donated by a local retired military person.
Vidya Bharati has also started work in Nepal. What is the status of that work?
Yes, we started work in Nepal about a decade back. We work there through Pashupati Shiksha Samiti. We only provide them with guidance and allow them to follow our work method. The schools are managed by the local people only. Presently, about 30 schools are run under this collaboration. We have also received requests from various parts of the world to provide value-based education there. Discussion is going on within Vidya Bharati how such requests can be addressed and how we can help the organisations in foreign countries for value-based education.
Anything else you wish to mention about Vidya Bharati?
Words like Convent, Kindergartens are very popular in modern education. Instead of using such words, we use the word ‘Shishu Vatika’ and focus on five-dimensional growth of the children. Instead of following the Harvard education system, we have developed our own ‘panchmukhi’ and ‘panchpadi’ education system purely based on Indian needs and ethos. Two experiments have been conducted in Shishu Vatika. One is ‘Samarth Bharat’ where the focus is on pre-birth sanskars. The young couples are imparted training under this project on how to conceive and nurture a child with high values. This experiment has proved to be a big success. There is a plan to start about 100 such projects all over the country. Second, we say that Home is the School. We have designed a curriculum on how a child can be imparted education at home. We are of the opinion that the ‘school atmosphere should be at home and home atmosphere should be at school’. That is why training for parents has been started. This is how a new education method has been developed through Shishu Vatika.
Another major project of Vidya Bharati is ‘Samagra Vikas’ (holistic development) because we believe that exam-oriented method does not evaluate the real talent of the student. Rather, we need a method that focuses on the holistic development of a child. At the moment the entire education system is exam-oriented. The focus should be on education and not on the exam alone. We have developed a curriculum up to eighth standard for holistic development of the students. The method of evaluation that we have developed has produced inspiring results. Vidya Bharati is the organisation, which thinks and works in totality taking all stakeholders together—parents, students, teachers and management. That is why we regard the school as a family where all stay and work with a family spirit. We believe in cooperation and not exploitation. It is a contribution to nation-building through quality education.