Ancient Indian Education and Ethics – Its Relevance Today

We are here to critically understand the relevance of Ancient Indian education system in the modern time. Has the modern education ethos has helped to understand the Indian society. Do we want to become original thinkers again or remain in the present system which breeds mediocrity? India need to think carefully how much foreign system of education has helped her. Time has come to go back to high level of education which will produce thinkers.

Basis of Indian education has been learning and understanding. It became just memorizing after countless invasions. India was the most prosperous nation in the world in the ancient times. It believed in exploitation of the natural resources just that much which was needed. Excessive exploitation of natural resources was not done nor was it encouraged. In India people worship nature: plants, wind, fire, water, sun and so on. This proves the respect it gave to all the living plants and animals on the Earth. In Hindu religion it is said that over exploitation of the sea, should be avoided and that is known as “samudramanthan.” Giving education was considered as noble job, a solemn duty of the teacher and he should not expect remuneration from the students. A teacher used to be dedicated and did take teaching as a mission.

Academics also helped to reform the societies. We could recall the contribution made by the great economics teacher of Takshashila and Nalanda Universities; Chankaya who realized that for economic development in the region it was necessary to make an undivided nation: India. He helped Chandragupta to establish the Mauryan Empire which ruled the entire subcontinent and beyond. This empire in recent time gave the system that gave us the ethical standards which Indians value even now. The education standards were high and people came from far lands to study all streams of subjects here in India. Indians also worship goddess of education “Saraswati.” Even today it is celebrated with great fanfare.

Hindus do have a function where the child is introduced to learning and that is the culture of India. Indian society is based on education. People in education are given the highest position in society called Brahmins. In ancient times one had to work very hard to become a Brahmin. In those days it was not by birth. One had to take that profession then only he could become a Brahmin. The Brahmin could not take money to give education. Education in ancient India was free to all. The kingdom would fund education. India is a country which has low literacy but high education. People know about life, nature, plants, and its importance and so on.

Indian education system was based on the principle of total development; mind and emotions. Indian system paid great emphasis to development of ethical sole and therefore, introduced brahmacharya system. During this period a student is supposed to learn only. Indian system gave emphasis to learning through practice. It was indeed based on religious practices and religious acts. One must appreciate that religion in those days was just a way of life hence, no conflict with education. One had to follow a strict way of life which one has to still follow. Athavaveda an ancient book talks in detail the education part; the system and methods to be followed.

It however, had some defects. Education was restricted to those who deserve and was not available to all. Second it was Guru (teacher) centric i.e. for every thing one had to depend on the guru and his knowledge was considered perfect. Buddhism democratized the education by allowing all to study. This helped to spread education and institutionalise education by forming Universities. Buddhism did not deviate from Hindu system of imparting education but made it broad-based. Here again educators and students had to be religious people and had to follow a strict rules. Even here it was not fully devoid of old Guru System. Even Buddha said “Buddham saranam gachchami” (Come to Buddha to get enlightenment). Mind you, in ancient times the great saints did research on their own and developed body of knowledge which was in contrast to what Buddha said. However, he challenged the system of concentration of knowledge in few hand. This might have diluted the quality of knowledge but this improved the understanding of the people in general in India.

This also developed a bond among people of India which is keeping this country together. This is the secret of unity in diversity of India. A diverse country became one population having same principle of life that is achieving mokshya (eternal bliss).

Indians always paid great importance to education which would improve the ethical standard of the population. Resilience of ancient Indian education system was proved again and again. Since the early stages of foreign invasion India lost all its material wealth but not the Indian ethos and superiority of our (Arian) culture and believes. This was possible because of the foundation of Indian education system. Others talk about Ethics but Indians practice through education.

Aims of the Indian System as I think were:

1. The direct aim was to make all students fit to become useful members of the society so that they could follow the duties of all other Ashrams of life faithfully.
2. The aim was to make firm and good character through moral values.
3. The Indian education system made a distinction between mere scholarship and total education.
4. The aim of the system was development of total personality.
5. Next was inculcation of civic and social duties. India in ancient time was a society mainly governed by social laws which gave us our strength. It is the only society where the social system of conducting business was so strong and independent that we survived in spite of foreign invasion and rule.
6. Indian education promoted social efficiency and happiness. We all know in our ancient books there are examples of people helping the society.
7. Ancient education system taught preservation of national heritage and culture hence we still have a culture different from all other societies. This still remains our strength and some day we will be able to re-establish our national pride. This has given us the unbroken continuity since the ancient times. It is the strength of our ancient education that we survive as a nation.

Then the question is where did we go wrong? Our education system got encased in a shell for it had to be protected from foreign influence. This violent massacre of our culture by foreign invaders made us extremely introvert. The openness of our society was lost and formal education became the domain of few. This destroyed the ability of our academia to expand knowledge. The burning of our established centers of education made people scared. The mass lost the desire to learn because they did not value home-grown knowledge. People drifted from formal learning process and this gave way to all sorts of raw practices in our society. Indian society lost the basic ability to acquire and take advantage of knowledge. The body of knowledge became foreign which was a rare commodity only the rich could afford. The British rule took advantage of this void and introduced a system to suit needs of the Empire. The system did not encourage beyond copying. This practice is still prevalent in Indian education system. It discourages boys from having their own independent opinion on a subject.

We stopped learning and all our ancient texts were being considered as part of religion. We should re-design our education system incorporating the main ethos of our time- tested old system with new knowledge. We must reintroduce the concept of self-control which has been there in our society. This may make our people to appreciate need for ethical standards. Yes, let us go back to the relationship that existed between education and society defined by our age-old tested system. The quality of some of the books written 2500 years ago or beyond is so high that people of today can not write. That was the level of our original research why and when we lost that ability is a matter of concern even now. We must revive that and rebuild the education system in India as we want it; the total development. Copying of the west has not helped and it shall not help in future this has to be recognized once for all. We believe in the Ethical values of the society and that can not be compromised at any cost. Society has lost thousands of years and let us not loses further time in search of right education for India.

Fighting Obesity With a Healthy Balanced Diet

It has become common knowledge that obesity is a problem in North America. The newspapers, magazines, television commercials and internet banners all acknowledge the issue. It is not uncommon to see advertisements encouraging membership in diet programs where you can lose those extra pounds in a short time. Marketers have even responded by providing 90-100 calorie pre-packaged snacks ranging from almonds to cookies. Others are telling us to walk it off, and some are encouraging the latest fad diet. It seems that everywhere we look there is someone, somewhere trying to fix our personal weight problem.

Is obesity an issue?

Yes, in more ways than we can imagine. It is not simply a matter of having extra weight. Being overweight or obese triggers many health related situations.

Obese Canadians are 4 times more likely to have diabetes, 3.3 times more likely to have high blood pressure and 56% more likely to have heart disease than those that have healthy weights (1). Throughout North America there are reports relating obesity to heart disease, and diabetes. There are other symptoms that are often ignored by the media but are also troubling. I personally know a lady who experienced severe pain in her feet. The extra 60 pounds she had gained caused a problem with her arches, her feet became “flat” and normal daily activities became a burden. These types of poor health symptoms affect everyone in our communities. Government run health programs become more expensive to operate, families struggle with the emotional side of disease, un-wellness and even death.

Surely you have heard that the rate of overweight and obesity are on the rise. Currently 30.6% of Americans (US), 24.2% of Mexicans and 14.3% of Canadians are obese (2). Compare these rates to those of Japan and South Korea where obesity is only at 3.2% of the population (2). That should trigger two things in your mind. First of all, something that we are doing in North America is causing great negative effects on our optimal health. Second, if there are other nations in the world with lower rates of obesity, then obesity can be controlled in North America as well.

Is there any pattern to obesity in North America?

The acknowledgment of obesity, income levels, sense of failure and lack of physical activities are patterns associated with obesity. Sharon Brady, editor of The World is a Kitchen, believes that the first problem to obesity is that a large portion of individuals are simply not facing the fact that they are overweight whether it is through ignorance, denial or indifference (3). Obesity is also disproportionally found in lower income groups (4). This may be a consequence of buying low nutrient, highly processed foods because of the low dollar values. Another possible problem with weight gain and obesity is the sense of failure that comes with cheating or falling off fad diets. A lack of physical activity or even decreased activities levels associated with changes in lifestyle can also be problematic patterns.

How can we fix the problem of obesity?

Dealing with the way we think about food and our body weight is critical. Information on the mind-body connection is readily available. Understanding and addressing mental and emotional stress is of paramount importance when you want to lose weight (5).

Increasing physical activity is recommended and the Government of Canada has published guides for different age groups (6). Activity can come in many forms, even taking a family holiday can be a way to get moving again.

However, even with a good food mindset and increased physical activity, it will be hard to obtain and maintain a healthy weight without a clear understanding of healthy balanced meals and healthy eating. Regardless of your food choice preferences, vegan, vegetarian, raw or a more traditional meat diet, it is important to make sure you are eating properly. And believe it or not, that is a simple thing to do.

The things we need to consider are:

1. Water

2. Healthy Snacks

3. Protein

4. Dairy and Alternatives

5. Complex Carbohydrates

6. Healthy Fats

7. Fruits and Vegetables

Well, now after saying it is simple, I give you a list of seven things to remember. Trust me, before you know it, the list will become engrained in your thought pattern and you will be on your way to eating healthy balanced meals and optimal health which will result in a natural maintainable weight. Let me guide you through the list.

Water

There has been a lot of concern about plastic water bottles littering our disposal sites and being found floating in the ocean. I agree that it is a problem but the good thing is that it means people are becoming aware of the importance of water and they are drinking more of it.

60 to 70% of our body is water. It is important for normal body functions, like digesting the food we eat. We get water from the fluids we drink as well as the food we eat.

It is recommended that we drink 8 cups of water a day. Even more is required if you live in a dry or hot climate or are physically active. That seems like a lot of water, and it is if you try to drink it all at once. Try drinking a cup first thing in the morning before you even get into the shower. Have a glass or two before every meal and another midway in between meals and a glass in the evening too. Before you know it, you have reached 8 cups of water.

Many people have lost the ability to tell the difference between hunger and thirst. Unfortunately food often wins out and water is left aside. Next time you feel hungry have a glass of water first. Wait for a few minutes to see if the hunger goes away before you eat. If you feel thirsty, you body is already dehydrated. You may need to add more cups of water for your personal lifestyle.

Snacks

For many of us, the word snack triggers the thought of a high calorie, low nutrient food. A good way to think of a snack is like a mini-meal that gets us through to the next meal. It is the opportunity to pick a healthy food that you enjoy but may not part of your meal on that day. One of my all time favorites are apples. If I did not have an apple for breakfast and know I will not have one for lunch, having one for my morning snack, along with my cup of water makes a great healthy snack.

Snacking is critical for children. They get a large portion of their daily calories from snacking and it is important that they get healthy snacks.

Protein, Dairy and Alternatives

Protein comes in many forms and this is often where diet styles differ. No matter what you food style preference is having protein in your meals is important.

Proteins can be found in beans, eggs, meats, fish, milk, cheese, nuts and seeds, soy products including tofu. In North America, having large amounts of protein has become standard. I have seen some restaurants where the smallest steak available is 14 oz and where ordering fish means an entire fish. Having such large amounts of protein is not necessary for your body. Protein is important but it does not have to dominate the meal.

There is much debate over the presence of milk in our diets. Some individuals prefer soy milk and almond milk. The goal with drinking these products is to obtain calcium. Calcium is available through tablet form and naturally occurs in fruits, vegetables and nuts.

Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates are our comfort foods. When we consume them, serotonin is produced and leaves us with that “warm fuzzy feeling.” These foods are best for our bodies when they are closest to their natural state. You will recognize them as breads, crackers, pasta, rice and beans. To obtain the maximum health from your foods, decide on products that are made of whole grains rather than white enriched flours. If you like rice, add brown rice to your diet. It takes longer to cook but you will not be hungry half an hour after you finish your meal.

Healthy Fats

The first thing many people do when they attempt to reduce their weight is to remove all the fat from their diet. Eating a lot of fat is not healthy but the body does need small amounts of healthy fats to function normally. Healthy fats occur naturally in the healthy foods that we eat. Avocados, salmon and other fish, nuts and olive oil all contain fats that are healthy for our body.

Fruits and Vegetables

The number of fruits and vegetables that are available is absolutely amazing. They should make up the majority or your diet and when you can eat them raw, I encourage you to do so. When you make your meal, add lots of color by using a variety of fruits and vegetables. The more variety, the better chance of getting everything your body needs.

Fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals and enzymes that aid indigestion. They help keep our bodies healthy, protect us from disease, strengthen our bones and make our skin beautiful. Consider them for your snack.

What is Next?

Well, now you have an idea of the important aspects of creating a healthy balanced meal. Pick a food from each category and several from the fruits and vegetables. These will be the ingredients for your meal.

An example of a traditional style meal could be fish for your protein (but not an entire fish), some brown rice, and a large salad made of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, blueberries and sesame seeds. For a healthy snack after dinner, try a fruit salad made with three of your favorite fruits.

That is how simple making a healthy balanced meal can be when you have a little information.

What Difference will this make?

Eating healthy balanced meals will allow you to lose weight naturally. At first you will still have cravings for the heavily processed products that you ate in the past. Eventually you will replace those without even thinking about it. You weight will reduce naturally and you will be able to maintain a healthy weight.

There is no cheating with eating healthy balanced meals because you are making the decisions for you diet. If you have potato chips tonight just acknowledge how it makes your body feel. Next time try a nice fresh piece of pineapple with all its amazing health and healing benefits. Acknowledge how it feels. Learn to listen to your body.

Failure does not exist in a healthy balanced diet. Every time you eat a healthy balanced meal, you are moving ahead to a better healthier you.

Most importantly, you will be setting an example for your child, friends and everyone else that you come into contact with. Help make North America a healthy North America. Japan and South Korea are doing it, so can we, one meal at a time.

The Impact of Technology in the Classroom

How has the use of technology impacted teaching and learning in the PK-16 classroom?When is comes to behaviorism technology has made it even easier. It used to be just like Pavlov’s dog, when the student does something right they get praised verbally or with a good grade versus a treat or a scratch behind the ear. Shaping behavior is important and we need to ensure there is a baseline. Technology almost guarantees that specific learning will take place as the objectives are determined by the teacher. Teachers can set specific goals and the students will know what they need to do to get there. Benjamin Bloom first came up with the idea that the student will succeed in learning the task if they are given a specific time to do it. Technology allows for you to more easily chunk lessons into specific times. Students will perform better, especially when they succeed and get the praise of the teacher. Although the stimulus is provided by the teacher, it will do no good if the students do not receive it equally. (Snowman & Biehler, 2003)
Other ways computers assist is that they offer the ability for repetition and feedback to the student. Teachers can also incorporate the appropriate enforcer’s to the lesson whether it is text, video or audio. The student does the task right they can get a smiley face , text telling them they are “Correct” or audio saying “Good Job!”. (Parkay & Stanford 2004)Social Learning is learning occurs when students learn from each other whether it be through modeling, imitation or observing within the social context. How can you do that with technology? Normally the students work on their own computer, but you can have them do a group project. When students do a project together they will observe how other groups are proceeding and imitate them if it is working well. The teacher usually also models what they are requiring the students to accomplish. Even when working individually the students will assist each other as one knows more than another.There are cognitive factors in social learning as well as behaviorism. There is a clear line between learning by observation and student imitation. The cognitive process maintains that the attention of the student is the critical factor in the learning process. The expectations and consequences that are reinforced will bring about similar future behavior. (Ornstien & Lasley 2000)
Cognitive learning is learning that occurs when a learner process information. This is similar to behaviorism but the student has more input to accomplish how they reach the planned outcome. The teacher can model a project but the student may have other information that will aid them in accomplishing the outcome. An example would be how I instructed my students how to set up an Excel spreadsheet. I had them set up a basic spreadsheet showing how much their parents spent on them in a month. This was relevant to the students and caught their interest. They went beyond the initial project and had boarders, colors, etc. on their spreadsheets. The students who did this were praised aloud and the other students wanted to know what they did and how. This tied in the social learning as well as the behaviorism theory (Didn’t even realize it at the time).When is comes to designing and developing lessons to incorporate technology the constructionist have the nod. Seymour Papert of the MIT Media Lab stated,”Constructionism holds that children learn best when they are in the active role of the designer and constructor.” When the student is actively involved they have the buy-in to the success of the project or assignment. The students will be more apt to complete and learn more from it when they have some ownership. The students in turn will share their new found information when doing the assignment with the other students allowing for the constructionist learning. This form of teaching eliminates the grade and goes more with a go, no go process. Teachers assess the students by the completion of the assignment or lack of completion. This is better because of students being able to play a greater role in the process and assessing their own progress.We teach ourselves how to learn. This is the constructivism theory on how we learn. With technology this couldn’t be truer. Most students have a basic understanding of the computer. They can download songs, play games and set up Myspace web page. What they can not do is build a spreadsheet or power point presentation. The teacher will give them a basic understanding but the students will learn from trial and error and construct their own learning.History of the computer use in the classroom started off slow. Saloman and Globerson (1987) suggested that underachievement in schools is because of the lower expectations on the part of the teachers, parents, and society. That was because the teachers themselves really hadn’t been exposed to the marvels of what a computer and the associated software could do for them. The Commodore 64, Apple II along with the Macintosh began their strong emergence in the early 80′s. Software programmers had a vision about the computer and how it could be used in the classroom. They developed software that teachers could use along with their instruction. Apple began teaching the teachers and Macintosh soon followed suit. This was the beginning of incorporating the use of computers in the classroom. (Jonassen 2000)Using computers in the classroom allows for all the learning theories to come to fruition. A computer allows for the cognitive process to bloom and brings about the social learning as well. When a student is given an assignment or project on the computer they will strive to complete it. The different things they learn they will share with other students especially if they think it is the bomb, cool or whack. On the flip side it can inhibit learning if the student is completely computer illiterate as frustration sets in as they cannot proceed as well as others. The computer also allows the teacher to develop lessons for all the multiple intelligences.With the advances computers and programs are taking on a daily basis, it is allowing for more interaction in the classroom(s). It is even allowing students from different schools to interact. Technology also allows for time to be better utilized, the outcomes of the objectives to be more easily determined and goals easy to implement and automate.