Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1888-1975)
“The true teachers are those who help us think for ourselves.”
Radhakrishnan said it all in just one sentence! He knew the role of teachers and their mission to encourage and challenge young minds to think for themselves. Radhakrishnan believed that teachers have a huge responsibility, especially in a fast-developing age resulting in escalating worries, anxieties, and pressures. He perceived teachers as the “chosen” ones to restore balance and find the mechanism to normalize such a chaotic life.
Radhakrishnan is one of the great Indian philosophers, teachers, and statesmen. He is also one of the most renowned educators of the 20th century who is responsible for presenting western philosophy to the Indian society. No wonder he is considered a bridge-builder between India and the West. Radhakrishnan used Indian and Western philosophical contexts in his work and writings to draw conclusions and become a wiser man. His contribution to education is one of a kind as it unites and applies different philosophies, creating a more humane education that is not solely based on the training of the intellect but also the fine-tuning of the heart and discipline of the spirit. He used every chance he had to emphasize the need for moral education and self-discipline. According to Radhakrishnan, the goal of education is to create balanced student growth through knowledge and wisdom. He believed that educators should train students’ intellect and wisdom by studying literature, philosophy, and religion. Radhakrishnan thought that the integrity of character is crucial in every aspect of life, and education is the key to building character. Therefore, he was confident that education won’t be whole if it doesn’t introduce the values of love, truth, and goodness in every student’s heart.
He had a long and fulfilling career, and his published works had an enormous influence on education and the West’s understanding of the East. He received many awards and recognitions, but probably the highest honor comes from celebrating his birthday, September 5th, as Teachers’ Day all across his homeland, India.
Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was born on September 5, 1888, in Tiruttani, India, and died on April 16, 1975, in Madras, India.
Radhakrishnan went to Elizabeth Rodman Voorhees College in Vellore from 1900 to 1904, where he was introduced, among other things, to the importance of education and healthcare for everyone, and social uplift. In 1904, he attended Madras Christian College, and just two years later started his MA degree. A year later Radhakrishnan accepted a temporary teaching position at Presidency College in Madras, where he had the opportunity to give lectures on different topics in psychology and European philosophy. During this time, he wrote a lot and his work was published in Indian and European journals. In the following years, he worked as a philosophy professor at Mysore and Calcutta Universities. From 1936 to 1952 he was a professor of Eastern religions at the University of Oxford, England (1936–52). Radhakrishnan was also a vice chancellor of Benares Hindu University and a chancellor of the University of Delhi. He led the Indian delegation to UNESCO and even became the chairman of UNESCO’s executive board. His career as a statesman started with his ambassador’s post in the Soviet Union and continued with the position of vice president and president of India.
He was successful in every segment of his life including policy, but he will always be remembered and praised by educators for his profound viewpoints on education and teaching.
“The end-product of education should be a free creative man, who can battle against historical circumstances and adversities of nature.”
Radhakrishnan perceived education as a means for social, economic, and cultural change. He believed that education goes even beyond knowledge and skill into helping us live with others and socialize. His educational philosophy is based on the values of love, humanity, mutual help, and cooperation. According to Radhakrishnan’s educational theory, students should acquire information in-and-outside school, and not limit themselves to mere facts and statistics memorization. He thought students should explore, ask questions, be creative, and come to their own conclusions. As an idealist, his education was based on both intellectual and idealistic values. Therefore, he recommended yoga, geography, general science, mathematics, political science, morality and ethics, literature, poetry, painting, and philosophy to his students. Radhakrishnan combined the intellectual, ideal, spiritual, social, and humane aspects of education and believed that:
- Students should be able to believe in the purpose of life;
- Teachers should encourage wisdom to awaken students’ natural ability to live a soulful life;
- Teachers need to prepare students to embrace the democratic process, and find their place in society;
- Teachers have to promote self-improvement as a skill that can be learned by the students;
- Teachers include activities to help students get in touch with their cultural heritage;
- To be civilized, both teachers and students must never forget the poor and suffering. They should always have high regard and respect for men, and women alike, and have confidence in human brotherhood regardless of race, color, nation, or religion.
- Teachers should fulfill their professional obligations believing in a better tomorrow;
- Teachers’ goal besides teaching should be fighting against spiritual hollowness, intellectual shallowness, arrogance, greed, envy, and egoism. They should not let pressure replace persuasion, and frustration take over sensitive minds;
- Teachers have to be visionaries and choose proper teaching methods that will make their teaching meaningful, purposeful, and praiseworthy;
- A “real” teacher should believe in self-introspection and have a fresh enthusiasm for pursuing truth and knowledge. Such a teacher can pass on to students a huge moral and intellectual know-how and strengthen their character.
Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan’s ideas inspired educators and enriched their educational perspective, making them realize that books and facts are just a small piece of the limitless teaching process.
Radhakrishnan’s ideas and beliefs has had a huge impact on education and teaching. He thought education to be a combination of knowledge, values, and ideas used to build students’ character and prepare them for the challenges of life. According to Radhakrishnan for a successful education, every teacher should know the following:
- There is a difference between the domain of scientific facts and the domain of values;
- Education has meaning only if it builds wisdom and humanity in the hearts and minds of students;
- Education enlightens students, and chases away ignorance;
- Teachers’ responsibility is to create a nurturing learning environment using warm, kind-hearted, open, enthusiastic, and gentle approaches;
- Teachers encourage leadership by offering students the opportunity to accept leadership roles;
- There has to be mutual respect between teachers and students to provide a supportive and cooperative classroom environment;
- Every teacher should value students’ ideas and beliefs;
- Teachers need to encourage students to feel free to express their thoughts and feelings and learn to respect and listen to others.
- Teachers should not be intimidated by new teaching strategies, on the contrary, they should feel privileged to have the opportunity to learn new techniques and apply them in practice;
- Teachers have to concentrate on shared decision-making and cooperation as well as on community building;
- To be complete education must be humane and include training of the intellect and shaping of the heart and spirit;
- Education is a powerful tool that solves many issues;
- Quality education assimilates information and knowledge to become wisdom;
- Schools’ curriculum should have life-centered education;
- Every curriculum has to include history, geography, language and literature, grammar, science, mathematics philosophy, religion, physical development (yoga, games, sports, gymnastics, etc.), and co-curricular activities;
- Co-curricular activities’ aim should be the proper utilization of leisure time;
- Every teacher should implement different teaching methods like learning by doing, discussion, meditation, textbook method, and much more;
- The quality of education depends on teachers;
- True teachers are respected and adored everywhere;
- Teachers have a crucial role in shaping students’ minds and hearts;
- Self-control builds students’ character and integrity and leads to self-realization;
- Students should be taught to approach the problem with courage, self-control, and a sense of balance;
- Teachers have to be prepared to shape students’ character by practicing virtue and goodness;
- Change of personality is more important than acquiring academic knowledge;
- The aim of education is not just getting hold of information;
- It’s important to acquire technical skills, but the development of mind, opinion of reason, and the spirit of democracy are the ones creating future responsible citizens;
- Tempering with quality of education will result in lowering educational standards;
- Education should be broad and deep.
Radhakrishnan educational beliefs and concepts are unique. His ideas about the role of teachers and teaching methodology are timeless and applicable in every modern educational setting. According to Radhakrishnan, the teachers’ profession is significant and noble but also carries a great responsibility in shaping young minds. His ideology crossed borders and connected East and West, once again proving the importance of bonding, cooperation, and humanity. He dedicated his life and career as a teacher and writer, trying to live a legacy that will reach every progressive mind and kind heart. Educators worldwide are forever thankful to Radhakrishnan for giving education a more humane perspective.