Chapter 15: Educational Principles of Shivarma Karantha

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Maheedas Balagaru

Reads: 197

Education is one field which has attracted the attention of everyone whether rich or poor, male or female learned or illiterate and has acquired importance irrespective of region religion and creed. But when a person devices a sequential series of activities to make learning relevant, meaningful and joyful or suggests some philosophical or psychological basis on which such activities can be built, he attracts the attention of the community. In modern India contribution to education of such personalities like R B Tagore, Aravind Ghosh, Mahatma Gandhi, Ramana Maharshi, Jiddu Krishnamurthy etc are critically reviewed evaluated and are included in the syllabi of Education Courses. There are many other personalities who have considerably contributed to the theory and practice of education in different states and are respected in the region. But a comprehensive evaluation of such theories in comparison to the theories of conventional educationists has not been attempted. But many of the present day practices can be traced back to the ideas and experiments of such personalities. Here is a presentation of the principles of a educationist of outstanding abilities who influenced the field of education in Karnataka namely Dr Shivarama Karantha, who is less known as an educationist but is a well known man of letters and a Gyanpeeth awardee in literature.

It is but natural that a high profile man of letters involves himself deeply in improving the quality of education in schools. Both the disciplines of education and literature are concerned with the transference of culture from one generation to the next; both the disciplines aim at bettering the society. Whereas the literature mirrors the society,  the educational process takes place in a miniature society namely the classroom.

Discussion on education in the works of literature is incidental and of an indirect nature. The ill effects of punishment in schools, the boredom in classrooms, and indifference of teachers to the feelings of pupils in educational institutions are popular themes litterateurs have treated in their works. But when a man of letters discusses educational problems scientifically and on the basis of experiments conducted by him, it comes to be respected as a theory of education. Shivarma Karantha is one of such scholars who propounded a theory of education out of his interest and concern.  He also took into account his own experiences as a student, as an onlooker later and also as a participant in educational events. He never claimed himself to be an expert in the field. Educational thoughts of Shivarama Karantha are included in his autobiographical works Smritipataladinda and Huchchumansina hattumukhagalu and a large number of articles published in different forums. Karantha himself came out of educational stream at the +2 stage unable to tolerate the ordeal of the system (sp 367), devised his own methods to teach and tried them in the schools of Udupi and Dakshina Kannada districts of Karnataka. A lucid description of these endeavours, the theory behind such practices and a critique of the present educational scenario can be found in the above works.

As mentioned above his thoughts are spread in different works written over a period of fifty years and if these are collected into a single volume they become a large treatise. The originality of his writings, their social concern, their scope, and narration authenticated by experience makes them valuable. Since the decisions arrived at are justified by activities he conducted they become relevant even for today.

Viewed from a different perspective his writings range from pre-independent India of 1930 to technologically developed modern India of 1995 (hmh 482). Reacting constructively to the happenings in the field of education, adding his own ideas, trying to improve the total atmosphere Karantha becomes an active player during the period. He is not an educationist in the conservative sense. He did not possess a degree in education nor did he work in any official capacity in the educational set up of the state. But he has worked with the mission of improving education to make it an instrument to better it in his own way.

In his childhood his education started at Aigala matha where the teacher was Aigalu (the term refers to a teacher) and the school was Matha (means  his revered place). Only a few people usually less than ten ,belonging to upper caste used to learn under him. They used to get religious education there and the method was rote learning. Neither the attitude nor the interests of pupils were cared for. Karantha has had no appreciation for this type of education. He says “so many of us are making our livings without education is ample evidence to show this type of education is useless to life”(sp237). And again, after his college life he wrote “the college curriculum was tasteless”(sp 367).

According to Karantha this state of affairs continued until the British established modern type of schools. English education promoted by British schools prepared the persons for a vocation though the vocations provided to us were of a menial nature. Any type of vocation was so very essential to the people of India in those days as the influence of industrial revolution crippled the traditional artisan occupations.  A shoe maker could not make his living with his occupation because industrially shoes could be produced at very cheaper rates. Thus the youth needed new type of professions and hence the relevance of new type of education.

The new British schools had certain advantages. The subjects taught in the schools had variety; this catered to the needs and interests of pupils; emphasis on the language changed from vernaculars to English and English occupied the centre-stage; education was extended to other sections of society. But the pedagogy, the monotonous way of teaching, the method of rote learning – all remained the same. Karantha was also a student in such schools and viewed the content and methodology in them with concern. All these experiences led Karantha to formulate his own principles and give trial to run them.

Karantha’s Educational Principles

Shivarama Karantha’s educational principles revolve around core of three elements: -Nurturing and creating interest

-Encouraging creativity, and

-Empowering children to think

Though Karantha dues not attempt a rigorous definition of these terms and concepts, they can be explained thus: whatever a child does on its own and enjoys doing it can be called its interest. All children have interests of their own and at the early stages of education these are to be identified and nurtured. At a later stage when the teaching of new subjects commences interests in such subjects is to be generated and sustained. Ultimately children are to be trained to dedicate their achievements to the society at large. Pedagogically these can be achieved by making the teaching process attractive eliminating discouraging elements in the learning atmosphere and providing the children a variety of activities in which they participate and learn for themselves.

Secondly “the world of child is imaginative; its actions are emotional; it always functions creatively” (skl 225). Hence imitation and memorization do not make a congenial atmosphere for it to learn.  The child wants to create new things on its own and the school has to provide independence, opportunity and encouragement to children to achieve their ends.

Thirdly ultimate aim of education is to enable the person to solve problems he/she encounters in his/her life. He says “if the knowledge filled in the head has no relation to his/her own future he/she is likely to remain immature. Hence activities in schools must be geared to make the children take decisions on the basis of the evidence of facts, experiments and,  frame theories. This quality is to be developed at an early age along with  knowledge” (skl 214-15).


Karntha’s Experiments

During his life time Karantha strived to practice his theory in two ways:

-He established a school in Balavana in Puttur Dakshina Kannada , Karnataka and tried to put his principles to practice.

-He organised Makkala koota (children fair) bringing children from different schools on common platform to cooperatively participate in different activities and bring out their talents.

Balavana meaning garden of children was a school housed in a small building amidst a spacious garden. The intention of the school was to make the children learn for themselves and joyfully but it also prepared the pupils for the then terminal examination of the primary school (i.e. 8th standard) in an unconventional manner thus enticing the parents to send their wards to his school. The academic sessions in the school were not rigid. The students were to learn by doing. For instance history lessons could be learnt by dramatization, geography by constructing relief maps using mud, pebbles, grass etc., and languages by reciting poems extempore and so on. But the school was not recognised by the government; teachers were not prepared to work at the salaries management could afford. Without these two, school could not attract students. Inevitably the school was closed down.

In children fairs that he organised in collaboration with the community, pupils could sing the song of their interest, could narrate the stories of their own or stories of others that impressed them, could dance to folk tunes and thereby try to demonstrate life styles of their village, draw pictures, build and play dramas, construct and recite proverbs, play antyakshari etc. These he thought would satisfy the principles of interest and creativity. He also believed schools would emulate such activities and make the educational process lively. Though this did not happen totally, schools in this part of the country do conduct some of these activities on occasions.

Karantha thought value education is not exclusively the area of schools (sp 211). Parents and society at large have to take the charge of making the pupils value oriented; attempts are to be made to make the society value conscious. According to him physical education is essential to inculcate discipline among pupils. He discourages compulsory drill, compulsory NCC etc. Discipline in life has to be learnt in an atmosphere of love and affection (skl 214).



As Dr Mahabaleswara Rao puts it “Shivarama Karanth is not an educationist in the formal sense”(hmh 490). i. e. He did not define and use technical words in the elucidation of educational principles. His theory emerges out of his experience and experiments and fittingly find place in his autobiographical notes. He was interested in and has discussed almost all dimensions of education. But his primary concern remained to be primary and secondary education. Dr Shivarama Karantha is no more but his principles are guiding the posterity.


[hmh = Huchchumanasina hattu muKhagalu, skl = Shivarama karanthara lekhanagalu, sp = Smriti pataladinda]



Submitted: February 10, 2017

© Copyright 2021 Maheedas Balagaru. All rights reserved.


  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Add Your Comments:

Facebook Comments

Other Content by Maheedas Balagaru