Savitribai and India?s Conversation on Education

Suzana Andrade International Education Researcher Columbia University, New York, Thom Wolf International President and Professor of Global Studies, University Institute, New DelhiYou owe her. But do you know her? Savitribai Phule, the Mother of modern Indian education. If you are an Indian woman who reads, you owe her. If you are an educated Indian woman, you owe her. If you are an Indian school girl reading this chapter in English, you owe her. If you are an educated international desi woman, you owe her.

India calls Savitribai Phule (1831-1897) ?the Mother of modern education? for India. Scholars call Jan Comenius (1592-1670) ?the Father of modern education? for the world. The United Nations educational Comenius Award (for outstanding research and innovation in education) and the European Union‘s COMENIUS (lifelong education programme for schools) are named after him.1 So then, consider this.

1 For the Mahatma Phule Chair, Pune University (Savitribai), UN, and EU (Comenius) websites respectively, see http://www.unipune.ernet.in/chairs/mahatmaphule/index.html , 2

Question: what do the poor Maharashtrian Indian woman of the 1800s and the persecuted Moravian Czech man of the 1600s have in common? Answer: they are both persons who loved children and held in common a most uncommon outlook that produced culturally uncommon outcomes, outcomes that changed our world of global education.

These two persons, separated by centuries and cultures, are worldview colleagues.2 Thus, across calendar and continents—1600s/1800s and Europe/India—Comenius and Savitribai, working educationally from a most uncommon worldview outlook, are today globally celebrated for their most uncommon intellectual and instructional outcomes.

In an article posted on the United Nations educational website, Jean Piaget, the Swiss philosopher and psychologist noted for his studies of the intellectual and cognitive development in children, says of Comenius:

How are we to account for the fact that a theologian… of the 17th century should have concerned himself with education to the point of creating a ?Great Didactic‘? There were indeed many educational institutions in which certain special methods had been developed; and these had been described…But there was a long way to go before building up a whole philosophy of education and centring a still broader system around it.

Thinkers and philosophers, from Montaigne and Rabelais to Descartes and Leibniz, had likewise made profound remarks about education, but only as corollaries to their main ideas.

Not only was Comenius the first to conceive a full-scale science of education but, let it be repeated, he made it the very core of a „pansophy? which…was to constitute a general philosophic system.

How can we explain so original and unusual a statement…in the middle of the seventeenth century?

3 Read here


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