What did Gandhi say about education?

Homeschool is not something we should have to ask for or vote for the right to do.  It is the (to use Jefferson’s words) “inalienable right” of a family to choose to homeschool.  The greatest minds of the past two hundred years were often deeply suspicious of public schooling and what it represented, and often supported the schooling of a child in a home environment.  Among these were Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, and George Bernard Shaw.

In the first half of the 20th century, one man rose above the political and ideological warfare that racked the world, and insisted that we find ways to co-exist, to live in peace with each other.  His name was Mohandas K. Gandhi, but the world knows him as “Mahatma” Gandhi.  “Mahatma” means “Great Soul”.

Gandhi had definite ideas about education.  He was himself the result of a British education, and was a lawyer before he embarked on his crusade to free India from the British Empire.  What did he think of modern education, their model we customarily use in our schools today?  Not much:

The real difficulty is that people have no idea of what education truly is. We assess the value of education in the same manner as we assess the value of land or of shares in the stock-exchange market. We want to provide only such education as would enable the student to earn more. We hardly give any thought to the improvement of the character of the educated. The girls, we say, do not have to earn; so why should they be educated? As long as such ideas persist there is no hope of our ever knowing the true value of education.


Compare what Gandhi says about education with how it’s delivered today, particularly in school situations. Gandhi believed in self-control, or “home rule” in the macrocosmic and microcosmic sense.  He felt that each nation, indeed each village, should have control over their fate.  Where education was concerned, he felt the same rights should be extended to students.  He felt that a teacher should be learning constantly from his students.

A teacher who establishes rapport with the taught, becomes one with them, learns more from them than he teaches them. He who learns nothing from his disciples is, in my opinion, worthless. Whenever I talk with someone I learn from him. I take from him more than I give him. In this way, a true teacher regards himself as a student of his students. If you will teach your pupils with this attitude, you will benefit much from them.
He also believed that education had to deal with the moral and spiritual, not merely with the earthly or mundane.  The “whole person” was to receive an education.

Character cannot be built with mortar and stone. It cannot be built by hands other than your own.  An education which does not teach us to discriminate between good and bad, to assimilate the one and eschew the other, is a misnomer.

He had a low opinion of an education that was not thorough.

Literacy in itself is no education. Literacy is not the end of education nor even the beginning. By education I mean an all-round drawing out of the best in the child and man-body, mind and spirit.

But Gandhi despised the critique-based method of education prevalent in today’s public schools.

Experience gained in two schools under my control has taught me that punishment does not purify, if anything, it hardens children.

Conversely, he believed that a student’s curiosity was sacred.

Persistent questioning and healthy inquisitiveness are the first requisite for acquiring learning of any kind.

He felt that education should be of daily use.

Love requires that true education should be easily accessible to all and should be of use to every villager in this daily life. The emphasis laid on the principle of spending every minute of one’s life usefully is the best education for citizenship

Gandhi believed that the way modern education was structured, it essentially served one low purpose.

The schools and colleges are really a factory for turning out clerks for Government.

So, what would Mahatma Gandhi think of your right to homeschool.  I believe he would consider it a sacred right.  And I think so, too.  Consider what Gandhi says, and look at your Public Schools today.  Would Gandhi even consider what they do to be “education”?  It’s not likely.

Education is for the end user – the child.  It should empower the student to confront the world, and to make the world do as he sees fit.  It should develop a reservoir of facts and skills which the student has full control of and can evaluate, and make use of.  It should be student driven, and not reliant on national or state standards meant “for turning out clerks for Government”.  Homeschool is pretty much the only educational environment that can deliver such a result today.

What you’re doing as a homeschooler, homeschool parent or teacher, is courageous and valuable.  I believe that what M.K. Gandhi says above is true, and a correct assessment overall of education and what it should accomplish.  His view can help others to establish sane goals for education which will help us create a generation of sane, capable young adults.  And that’s a result the world is in dire need of today.

As you probably know, I am an advocate for homeschooling. It’s my belief that homeschooling potentially provides a student with a vastly superior education than schooling in any form. This is backed up by a lot of numbers and research. I’ve taught for public and private schools, at the University level, as a private instructor in thousands of workshops, and as a homeschool dad running a homeschool group. Homeschooling by far works best for most students- and most families.

But I understand that many parents do not believe they can effectively homeschool. They’ve been told that they “don’t have degrees,” and that they “aren’t qualified.” This is all nonsense, of course. You’re legally not required to have any kind of a degree to homeschool your kids anywhere in the U.S. A lot of people who have degrees and who call themselves “professional teachers” are simply awful, and even destructive at what they do. A lot of parents…hundreds that I know of…have homeschooled their kids right into universities and careers.

In a serious effort to make homeschooling easier to do, and more commonly successful in terms of education received, I’ve authored my own curriculum. It took some 15,000 hours to write, over more than a decade of work, and is intended to replace the need for schooling a student from age 5-Adult Continuing Education. The curriculum is called Steps (or “CTT”). It has been used by over 20,000 students worldwide over the past 10 years. Hundreds of “success stories” attest to how well CTT works.

CTT courses are written in a way that gradually allows the student to take over his own education. Each course itself largely does the teaching, relieving mom and dad of that duty unless they wish to use our daily lesson plans in various subjects as springboards for family discussion and discovery – as many families do, every day. The parent has the job of making certain the student is working and has what they need to study. (And you’ll need to find a good math program for homeschooling as we don’t provide one. There are many.)

Below are links to our site discussing each level of curriculum, and every subject at that level that we offer. (You can start any level at any time. We don’t have “semesters” that start at a certain time, and each course stands alone well.) You’ll find free videos describing how every subject and each level works. You’ll discover free samples of every course we offer. Our site offers many other services and surprises, including numerous free courses you can download and try out.

Starter is for ages 5-6, and for preliterate students of any age. It focuses on starting to develop literacy skills, while teaching about various subjects. Starter includes full two-year programs in Reading, History, Science, Creative Writing, and Living Your Life, courses that develop life and study skills for the youngest students. Every lesson plan at the Starter level works to develop literacy.

Elementary is for ages 7-8, and for students who are developing literacy. It includes two-year programs in Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing (which also teaches the parts of language at this level), and Living Your Life courses which develop life and study skills in preparation for more advanced studies to come.

Lower School (ages 9-10) offers two-year programs in Study Essentials, Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing, P.E. Electives, and in various arts such as Animation, Music Theory, and Acting. At this level, students must read fairly well, and studies are progressively turned over to the student.

Upper School (ages 11-High School, and Adult Continuing Education) provides programs in Study Essentials, Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing, Current Events, Literature Guides, P.E. Electives, and in arts such as Animation, Acting, Music Theory, and Music History.

For parents who wish to teach at home, but are intimidated at the thought, and for parents who just wish to improve the homeschool experience, we offer a ten course homeschool program for homeschool teachers, as well as several books about education and homeschooling today.

We want you and your children to win with homeschooling!

8 comments for “What did Gandhi say about education?

  1. September 16, 2011 at 6:02 am

    Hi Steven! You joined us on Twitter today and so have been taking a good look through your site and like very much what we read. We are a fledgling site in the UK, offering a community space for those interested in a natural, simple lifestyle. We have posted an article on Waldorf education and would be very happy indeed if you would accept our request to guest blog one or several of your fine articles on homeschooling. Naturally you could link back to your own website.
    Please let us know if you are at all interested?
    Many thanks,
    Rebecca and Carrie

    • Jemma
      January 22, 2012 at 1:42 pm

      Hi Rebecca and Carrie,

      What website do you have? I am in the UK too and would love to take a look at your thoughts.

      Thank you!



      Brilliant, as always!


  2. January 21, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    Hi Steven. I am also in L.A. Raised 4 kids here going to all different types of schools and now my 5th (step daughter) is being virtual schooled – very similar to homeschooled. I appreciate this article very much but I still have my misgivings. The educational situation for kids here in L.A. – specifically high school – is dire. She went to a big public school and it was a joke. She learned almost nothing and literally had to fight for her survival everyday. But now, with the virtual schooling, it is so much work for us and a lot of tutoring costs. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on that. Thanks, Cynthia

    • January 22, 2012 at 7:55 am

      Hi Cynthia, I believe that virtual schools often provide the same sort of curriculum, testing, and work expectations as any other school, public or private. These are often driven by national or state standards and standardized testing, all of which are, I personally strongly feel, very destructive. I’ve written many articles about homeschooling and how it can be done. The model you’re employing (virtual school) is only one homeschooling model, and it is perhaps the most expensive. I’m about to release a book I’ve authored called Not Alternative Education – Universal Private Education, in which I describe many homeschool models, many ways to do homeschooling (among other subjects). But for now, you’ll find my answers here in this blog. Keep reading!

  3. May 1, 2013 at 4:07 am

    Hi Steven,

    Gandhi not only supported but implemented that at his Ashrama and villages across India, there were many teachers including Madeleine Slade, and Maganlal gandhi that taught children at home. The mantra behind this was: To keep social values alive, global cost effectiveness and of course to generate the ability to spread the knowledge one learns.

    • May 1, 2013 at 8:18 am

      Hi, Anupam,

      Thanks for the additional info! I love much of what Gandhi had to say about education, obviously, and am always happy to hear more.

  4. May 10, 2013 at 3:17 am

    Sorry to be picky, but it’s a duty to keep children away from school, not a right to homeschool. It has to be stated that way round because otherwise it can be portrayed as parents imposing their selfishness on their children. It’s not a right to home educate at all.

    • May 10, 2013 at 6:37 am

      Hi Mark. Well, I’ll agree that it is a duty to keep kids from school, and well put! That said, you’re wrong, it IS a right, guaranteed in many places including the United Nations Universal Declaration of Universal Rights, Article 26, signed and agreed by the U.S. and nearly every member nation. Article 26 states that the parents shall have the power to determine how a child is educated and not the state. It IS a right, I used the word carefully – despite what Eric Holder claimed last month. When teachers and their shills “inform you” that it is not a right, not only are they lying, but you should get out your radar and follow the money to the source of the lie – generally teacher unions. Remember, teachers are paid by head count – the more students, the more $ the school makes. Why do you think classrooms are so unbelievably overcrowded? TEACHER UNIONS HATE HOMESCHOOLING, and work hard to promote the idea that it should be stopped. They lobby in Washington, and are effective. Witness the $550 BILLION plus annually spent on that most disastrous and failed of systems, public education. Nope, Mark, homeschooling is not just a duty, not merely a right (and it IS a right)…it is a necessity.

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