Moral and Vernacular Instructions in Schools and Colleges.*
[* This is a summary of the lecture delivered at Pachaiyappa's Hall, Madras, on Saturday the 29th April 1911, on the occasion of the Annual Meeting of the Tamilian Archaeological Society.]
The question of Moral and Vernacular instructions in Schools and Colleges is first becoming one of the raging problems of the day and it was to be regretted that some recent writers are trying to introduce politics into the matter. The question is also being discussed whether our school-going children are so very wanting in moral education. I for one think that it is not satisfactory as it should be; and at any rate, after the practical abolition of the Vernaculars and Sanskrit in the colleges, the future of our young men is one to cause us great anxiety. They were studying at least a few chapters of the Sacred Kural, a book unparalleled in the literature of the world as Dr. G. U. Pope said, but no more have our young men any chance of learning the name of this book or of its great author. People who propose remedies for the existing state of things suggest the compilation and introduction of all sorts of moral text-books but none of these books would really be satisfactory. Besides, moral instruction to be useful must begin from the very beginning. I for one, apt to think that in the old system of Vernacular education we have every guarantee of a sound moral education. We have for instance in Tamil a graduated series of text books beginning with Atticudi and ending with the Sacred Kural which are adapted for the instruction of human beings in all stages of youth and adolescence; as soon as children have begun to spell their words, Atticudi is handed to them and we have short aphoristic sentences of 2 or 3 words and each consisting of 2 or 3 letters, which are committed to memory and are easily remembered. And here I must notice the new system of teaching by training the eye and hand of the young. The old system consisted in making the young commit certain aphorisms to memory. And I would appeal to the learned Chairman who is an expert as to which of the two systems is good. There may be some use in the modern system but so far as the purpose for which they are intended the old system was good. We cannot demonstrate moral truths to little children and tell them about the why and wherefore of things. The first faculty to be exercised is the faculty of memory. They must remember the facts and inferences which they receive through the different senses and it will be time enough when they need to exercise their sense of difference and sense of similarity. These moral aphorisms early stored indelibly in the minds of the young slowly work up their minds as they develop from time to time and the full force and meaning is gathered just at the nick of time. These moral aphorisms contain an amount of stored up wisdom the more and more you think on them, the greater is the light that dawns on one's vision. I have lectured to learned audience for an hour or two on each of our grand old mother Auvai's aphorisms like கண்டொன்று சொல்லேல், & c., and even then there may be hidden meanings which I have not been able to grasp. And there I would point out that our scheme of moral instruction is not a narrow one but embraces all the activities of the human mind. Our Purushartams are not one but four, Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha - அறம், பொருள், இன்பம், வீடு. It embraces subjects affecting the home, subjects dealing with man as a bread-winner, man as one of the body-politic, the man who seeks pleasure in the world and the man who seeks to retire from the slings and arrows of the world. These moral text books contain truths which are useful whether one is a father or a husband or a son, whether one is a merchant or a politician, whether one is a mere pleasure seeker or a godly person. Our Sacred Kural as everyone knows contains Muppal அறம், பொருள் and இன்பம் and does not omit வீட்டின்பால். It is in fact, an all comprehensive scheme of educating man as a whole and no one need say at it as though that one side of man would be given greater prominence than the other sides. And here I would put in a word for the old pial school system. And the moment this is mentioned, Prof. Rengacharya is reminded of the pinching of the ears and His Excellency Sir Arthur Lawley, the most popular of our Governors, of the ill ventilated school rooms. But we speak of the revival of the old pial school system we need not necessarily retain all its objectionable features. Our old systems was cheap and effective and the poorest hamlet could afford one. But if you want to have good buildings and well-paid teachers, no one would object. But it is to the redeeming features of the old system that I wish to refer. In the first place that in the old teacher we had an efficient man. He was a Scholar and Pandit and was wedded to his profession all through life. And he imparted sound moral instruction by means of the texts we possess. As against this, what do we have? Can the modern day elementary school teachers compare in any way with the old set? They are failures in life and most ill-equipped for the task of handling the fate of young lives. And what sort of text books have been substituted in their place. A series of readers in which, one is taught that horses neigh (குதிரைகனைக்கின்றது) and jackals howl (நரி ஊளையிடுகின்றது) and in which are comprised stories of Alibaba and the forty robbers, and learned papers on கரிவாய்வு etc. And at the end are appended a few pages, only a few in which, a few aphorisms and verses picked from here and there are given. And in examining a girl school at Secunderabad I found that the children had forgotten the verses learned in lower forms. They took no lasting hold in their minds.
My suggestions would be:
1. Get teachers of the old type of Pandits for all the elementary schools and upwards.
2. Make the education a purely vernacular one up to a certain stage.
3. Introduce the old text books* in full in all the different forms.
4. Re-introduce vernacular into the college classes.
[* This is a list of நீதிநூற்கள் – The Moral text books.]
1. Atticudi (ஆத்திசூடி) 108 lines.
2. Konraivendan (கொன்றைவேந்தன்) 91 lines.
3. Vetriverkai (வெற்றிவேற்கை) 131 lines.
4. Mudumolikkanchi (முதுமொழிக்காஞ்சி) 100 lines.
5. Ulakaniti (உலகநீதி பாட்டு) 13 verses.
6. Mudurai verses (மூதிரை பாட்டு) 30 verses.
7. Nalvali (நல்வழி) 40 verses.
8. Nanneri (நன்னெறி) 40 verses.
(இன்னா நாற்பது) 40 verses.
10. Iniyavainarpdau (இனியவை நாற்பது) 40 verses.
11. Nitivenba ( நீதிவெண்பா) 100 verses.
12. Nitinerivilakkam ( நீதிநெறி விளக்கம்) 102 verses.
13. Tirikadugam (திரிகடுகம்) 100 verses.
14. Nanmanikkadigai ( நான்மணிக்கடிகை) 101 verses.
15. Chirupanchamulam ( சிறுபஞ்சமூலம்) 104 verses.
16. Eladi (ஏலாகி) 76 verses.
17. Aranerichcharam (அறநெறிச்சாரம்) 124 verses.
18. Acharakkovai (ஆசாரக்கோவை) 100 verses.
19. Palamoli (பழமொழி) 400 verses.
20. Naladiyar (நாலடியார்) 400 verses.
21. Tirukkural (திருக்குறள்) குறளடி 1330
J. M. Nallaswami Pillai, B.A., B.L.