Bal Gangadhar Tilak: Speech on National Education

Source: “Bal Gangadhar Tilak His Writings and Speeches” — Ganesh & Co, Madras, 1919

I shall speak here this evening on national education. We are not accustomed to this term; hence it needs a little explanation. To be able to read and write alone is no education. These are simply the means of its attainment. That which gives us knowledge of the experiences of our ancestors is called education. It may, however, be through books or through anything else. Every business needs education and every man has thus to give it to his children. There is no business indeed which does not require education. Our industries have been taken away by other people, but we do not know it. A potter knows how to shape a pot of China-clay but does not know what this clay is made of; hence his industry is lost. Similarly is the necessity of religious education. How can a person be proud of his religion if he is ignorant of it? The want of religious education is one of the causes that have brought the missionary influence all over our country. We did not think of it until very lately, whether we get the right sort of education or not. The tradesmen who are present here this evening send their sons very reluctantly to school and some of them do not send at all because they do not get their education which they need. Besides their sons educated in the present-day system turn out fashionable. They wish to become clerks. They feel ashamed to sit on the gaddi where their forefathers earned the whole of their estate. The reason of this is that the education which they receive is one-sided.

The Government wanted Engineers, Doctors and clerks. It therefore started such schools which could supply its need. The students therefore who came out of these schools at first were bent upon services. It was the state of things sometime back that after passing three or four classes in school one could easily get on in life, but it has now become absolutely difficult, even to live from hand to mouth. We have therefore become conscious. It has become now almost clear that it is not the fault on our part that even after getting so much education we remain unable to satisfy our bare necessities; but the fault goes direct to the education that we receive. Naturally therefore the question as to how to reform the present system of education stood before us. If the Educational Department had been under our control we could have effected in it any necessary changes immediately. At first we asked the Government to transfer it to our control — the selection of the text-books for schools, for example. We feel now the necessity of such education which will prepare us to be good citizens. His Excellency the Governor of Bombay also admits the necessity of reforms in the present system of education. But he says that the Government is short of funds. I do not think this excuse reasonable; it may be true or otherwise. It is, however, true that the Government cannot think of this matter. The Government cannot give us religious education; and it is well that they are not doing it; because they are not our co-religionists. We are not given such education as may inspire patriotic sentiments amongst us. In America the Proclamation of Independence is taught in V or VI classes; In this way they train their children in politics. Some eighty ninety years ago the industries of Germany declined on account of the rivalry between England and that country. But the German Government at once started scientific and mechanical education in that country. In this way Germany became so powerful in commerce that she has now become an object of dread to other countries. Properly speaking these things ought to be done by the Government itself. We pay taxes to the Government only that it may look after our welfare. But the Government wants to keep us lame. There is conflict between the commercial interests of England and India. The Government therefore cannot do anything in this matter.

There being no convenient schools in the villages, our villagers cannot train their children. We must therefore begin this work. There has been a good deal of discussion over this matter. And in the end we have come to the conclusion that for proper education national schools must be started on all sides. There are some of our private schools but owing to the fear of losing the grant-in-aid, the necessary education cannot be given there. We must start our own schools for this education. We must begin our work selflessly. Such efforts are being made all over the country. The Gurukul of Hardwar stands on this footing. Berar and Madras have also begun to move in this direction. Our Maharashtra is a little backward, A few efforts are being made here also; but they need encouragement from you. Money is greatly needed for this work. I am sure, if you realize the necessity and importance of this subject, you would encourage the organizers generously. So far I have told you about the subject, now I turn to tell you what we shall do in these schools of national education.

Of the many things that we will do there, religious education will first and foremost engage our attention. Secular education only is not enough to build up character. Religious education is necessary because the study of high principles keeps us away from evil pursuits. Religion reveals to us the form of the Almighty. Says our religion that a man by virtue of his action can become even a god. When we can become gods even by virtue of our action, why may we not become wise and active by means of our action like the Europeans? Some say that religion begets quarrel. But I ask “Where is it written in religion to pick up quarrel?” If there be any religion in the world which advocates toleration of other religious beliefs and instructs one to stick to one’s own religion, it is the religion of the Hindus alone. Hinduism to the Hindus, Islamism to the Musalmaans will be taught in these schools. And it will also be taught there to forgive and forget the differences of other religions. 
 The second thing that we will do will be to lighten the load of the study of the foreign languages. In spite of a long stay in India no European can speak for a couple of hours fluent Marathi, while our graduates are required as A rule to obtain proficiency in the English language. One who speaks and writes good English is said, in these days, to have been educated. But a mere knowledge of the language is no true education. Such a compulsion for the study of foreign languages does not exist anywhere except in India, We spend twenty or twenty-fire years for the education which we can easily obtain in seven or eight years if we get it through the medium of our vernaculars. We cannot help learning English; but there is no reason why its- study should be made compulsory. Under the Mahomedan rule we were required to learn Persian but we were not, compelled to study it. To save unnecessary waste of time we have proposed to give education through our own vernaculars.

Industrial education will be the third factor. In no school this education is given. It will be given in these schools. It is an important thing. During the whole of this century we have not known how a match is prepared. In Sholapur matches are manufactured from straw and straw is found abundantly in our country. If therefore this Industry is taken into our hands the importation of matches will largely decrease in India. It is the same with the sugar industry. We can procure here as good sugarcane as is found in Mauritius. It is seen by scientific experiments that the sugarcane found in the suburbs of Poona can produce as much sugar as is found in the sugarcane of Mauritius. Six crores of rupees are drained out every year from this country only for sugar. Why should this be? Well, can we not get here sugarcane? Or the machinery necessary for its manufacture? The reason is that we do not get here the education in this industry. It is not so in Germany. The Department of Industry investigates there as to which industry is decaying, and if perchance there be any, in a decaying state, substantial support at once comes forth from the Government for reviving it. The British Government, too, does the same thing in England. But our Government does not do it here. It may be a mistake or the Government may be doing it knowingly, but it is clear that we must not sit silent if the Government is not doing it. We are intending to start a large mechanical and scientific laboratory for this purpose. Sugar produces Rab and from Rab is extracted liquor, but the Government does not permit us this extraction; hence we cannot get here cheap sugar. Mauritius imports to this country twenty thousand tons of sugar every year. All this is due to the policy of the Government, but we do not know it. The Government will be obliged to change it if we put pressure upon it. We have come to learn these things not earlier than twenty-five years after leaving the college. Our young men should know them in their prime of life.

Education in politics will be the fourth factor. We are not taught this subject in the Government schools. The student must understand that the Queen’s Proclamation is the foundation of our rights. The Government is trying to shut our young men from these things. What has been proved by our revered Grand Old man — Dadabhoy Naoroji, after a ceaseless exertion for over fifty years, should be understood by our students in their youth. Every year some thirty or forty crores of rupees are drained out of India without any return. We have, therefore, fallen to a wretched state of poverty. These things, if understood in the prime of life, can make such a lasting impression over the hearts of our young men, as it would be impossible in an advanced age. Therefore this education should be given in school. Educated men of the type of Prof Vijapurkar, have come forth to devote their lives in the cause of this education. The educationists are helping with their learning and experience, and it now remains with the well-to-do to help them with money. It is a matter of common benefit, if the future generation comes out good, able to earn their bread and be true citizens. We should have been glad if the Government had done it. If the Government cannot do it, we must do. The Government will not interfere with us and if at all it does so, we should not mind it. As the dawn of the Sun cannot be stopped so it is with this. Our poverty has not yet reached its zenith. In America such work is done by a single man. But if no one man can venture to do it here, let us do it unitedly, for we are thirty crores of people. A sum of five lacs of rupees goes out every year for liquor alone from Sholapur. Can you not therefore help us in this work? The will is wanted. Let the Government be displeased — we hope the Government will never deter us — we must do our duty. If the Government prohibits us from marriages, do we obey it? The same is the case with education. As men do not give up building houses for fear that rats would dig holes, so we should not give up our work for fear of Government displeasure. If perchance any difficulty arises, our young men are to face it. To fear difficulties is to lose manliness. Difficulties do us immense good. They inspire in us courage and prepare us to bear them manly. A nation cannot progress if it meets no difficulties in the way. We do not get this sort of education for want of self-Government. We should not therefore await the coming of these rights, but we must get up and begin the work.

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