Professor Yashpal was a man whose contributions to the field of education are noteworthy. The great playwright Shakepeare’s famous lines ‘His life was gentle; and the elements So mixed in him, that Nature might stand up,And say to all the world, THIS WAS A MAN!’ best describe him. Here is a piece that reminds us once again of the man and his concerns for a better world.
Ramanujam Meganathan is an Associate Professor, NCERT, New Delhi.
Here was a scientist who equally enthused children and the older generations. Here was a scientist who did rocket technology and was also concerned about how children learn rudimentary science and technology without excessive burden. Here was a scientist with social consciousness. Here was a scientist who worked conscientiously with the thinking that science is for people’s development and an important social instrument to fight against superstition, unfounded beliefs and human suffering, not to claim military might and intellectual acumen alone.
Professor Yahspal has been an inspiration for hundreds of young men and women who think of making use of science for development and an education which is congenial and joyful. In a world which understands education as an instrument for upward economic mobility only, Yashpal wanted children of this country to learn stress free mlieu and let learning be fun. His campaign against the rote learning and uninteresting classroom yielded fruits when people at the helm of affairs listened to likeminded thinkers and brought out the report titled, Learning Without Burden, the document remains a monumental work in the history of education not only in India, but for the whole of Asia. We know how our children are made to undergo the trauma in the name of schooling and examination.
Yashpal was committed to the social responsibility of scientists. He insisted that first and foremost the function of science and science teaching is to instill a scientific temperament and a rational outlook towards the various phenomena happening around and come to a conclusion based on evidence and experiments. He was courageous enough to examine when in 1990s a statue of Ganesh was rumored to have been drinking milk as it was poured to into the idol’s mouth. He proved that much contrary to popular belief the stone was only a kind of granite which absorbed milk. He stood against the grain to protect the scientific thinking and attitude.
A passionate educationist, Yashpal was involved deeply with the thinking of making education learner friendly and discovering ways and means of making the Indian educational system and teaching-learning in schools and universities understandable. He would say, “We need to have an understanding of understanding.” Learning for meaning, learning with understanding and learning without burden are his manifestos for an education that would help to enable children to become critical learners.
As the chairperson of the Steering Committee of the revision for curriculum framework in the year 2005 which culminated in the development of National Curriculum Framework – 2005, he provoked academics, teachers, researchers and NCERT faculty to generate ideas which ultimately brought out the National Curriculum Framework. NCF 2005 stands as a testimony of an ideal educational document for the diverse, multicultural and multilingual country with diverse characteristics of learners.
He was concerned that students’ voices should be heard while framing a curriculum. At his insistence, opinions and suggestions from students were invited and NCERT received thousands of letters and other forms of communication from students. Many of which sought for liberation of learning from testing.
He was outraged when a certain state opened many universities without any infrastructure. Most of them were opened with few rooms. He filed a PIL in the Supreme Court and got them closed. He believed in harmonious and equitable quality education. His dictum was ‘Every child can learn and All should learn with understanding.’ His interaction with children and curious minds during the programs like ‘Turning Point’ made a deep impact on children and teachers.
These are times when even scientists are erratic and unpredictable. The Scientist community is made to conform to ideas which are not evidence based. We have even witnessed scientists offering Thirupathi Balaji the replica of the satellite to be launched. We need not question the faith of scientists as individuals, but science as a force: an academic, social and political one could by no means go against the spirit and very objective of science and science teaching. Professor Yashpal regretted this deeply. Let’s keep up the spirit of science and education alive without associating it with the forces of either burden or boredom and use these as principles towards an egalitarian society.
The New Leam has no external source of funding. For retaining its uniqueness, its high quality, its distinctive philosophy we wish to reduce the degree of dependence on corporate funding. We believe that if individuals like you come forward and SUPPORT THIS ENDEAVOR can make the magazine self-reliant in a very innovative way.