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Gurukul system Vs Anglophonic education: Which learning system is better for children?

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By Gaurav Sharma

Education is not about flooding the brain with mass volumes of data. It is not about maximising the economic prospects of an individual, or providing the means to be at the top of the food chain of success.

It is about acquiring a skill set which is to be constantly reinvigorated and reworked. This skill set, apart from providing social and economic well-being and intellectual fulfillment, should usher in a creative revolution in the psyche of the individual.

It is about taking the student beyond the familiar chartered territory into the unknown. Something that emancipates a learner from the shackles of the mind.

But, does our modern education system actually offer such knowledge?

Working towards economic prosperity within certain social structures is the thrust of the present education system. This can be quite clearly seen in the reflection of the society around us.

One of the most developed nations, boasting of the best education systems in the world such as Harvard, MIT among others, is a host to regular bouts of school shootings, binge alcoholism and umpteen suicides.

The pressure created by the Anglophonic education system to get better grades for better pay is pushing more and more students to take refuge of intoxicants and immediate sense pleasures. This leads them further below the mind, instead of taking them beyond it.

So, if our present education system has such massive pitfalls, isn’t it time we evaluate it more broadly and find out the crucial missing link of the puzzle?

When we make a comparative analysis of the traditional Gurukul system with the present system, we can easily find some answers to this pertinent question.

While some people might claim that the Gurukul system was biased as only the sons of Brahmins and the kings were permitted in such schools, the reality was that any worthy student–possessing the required determination, desire and willingness could join the Gurukul.

The shishyas or students, lived together as equals, irrespective of social standing.

Under the guidance of the Guru, the children led a simple life bereft of immoral habits. Moreover, what really set the Gurukul students apart from the present lot of students entering the workforce was their knowledge of Yoga, meditation and Sanskrit language.

The spiritual disciplines that they strictly followed in the Gurukul, provided them with the mastery of body and mind. Also, by serving the Guru in performing menial jobs inculcated humility deep in their hearts.

This was not to say that they were limited in their knowledge. A wide array of knowledge in the Scriptures, Philosophy, Literature, Medicine, Astrology, History, Warfare was imparted to students

The Vedic knowledge that was taught in the Gurukul made the pupils at ease with their own mind and body. The profound spiritual knowledge made them more peaceful, loving and respectful of other living entities.

The real goal of life that of Mukti or liberation from the fourfold cycle of birth, old age, disease and death assumed paramount importance, and artha or wealth was meant to be used for the welfare of the society.

And, it was ensured that this purpose of life was taught with single-pointedness during the fragile formative years of the child, through the Gurukul system.

Next Story

Most Expensive Medicine Treats Rare Inherited Disease for $2M

The medicine, sold by the Swiss drugmaker Novartis, is a gene therapy that treats an inherited condition called spinal muscular atrophy

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FILE - The logo of Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis. VOA

U.S. regulators have approved the most expensive medicine ever, for a rare disorder that destroys a baby’s muscle control and kills nearly all of those with the most common type of the disease within a couple of years.

The treatment is priced at $2.125 million. Out-of-pocket costs for patients will vary based on insurance coverage. The medicine, sold by the Swiss drugmaker Novartis, is a gene therapy that treats an inherited condition called spinal muscular atrophy. The treatment targets a defective gene that weakens a child’s muscles so dramatically that they become unable to move, and eventually unable to swallow or breathe. It strikes about 400 babies born in the U.S. each year.

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved the treatment, called Zolgensma, for all children under age 2 who are confirmed by a genetic test to have any of the three types of the disease. The therapy is a one-time infusion that takes about an hour.

Novartis said it will let insurers make payments over five years, at $425,000 per year, and will give partial rebates if the treatment doesn’t work.

The one other medicine for the disease approved in the U.S. is a drug called Spinraza. Instead of a one-time treatment, it must be given every four months. Biogen, Spinraza’s maker, charges a list price of $750,000 for the first year and then $350,000 per year after that.

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FILE – This Oct. 14, 2015, photo shows the Food and Drug Administration campus in Silver Spring, Md. VOA

‘Dramatically transforms’ lives

The independent nonprofit group Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, which rates the value of expensive new medicines, calculated that the price of the new gene therapy is justifiable at a cost of $1.2 million to $2.1 million because it “dramatically transforms the lives of families affected by this devastating disease.”

ICER’s president, Dr. Steven D. Pearson, called the treatment’s price “a positive outcome for patients and the entire health system.” The defective gene that causes spinal muscular atrophy prevents the body from making enough of a protein that allows nerves that control movement to work normally. The nerves die off without the protein.

In the most common type, which is also the most severe, at least 90% of patients die by age 2, and any still alive need a ventilator to breathe. Children with less-severe types become disabled more slowly and can live for up to a couple decades.

Zolgensma works by supplying a healthy copy of the faulty gene, which allows nerve cells to then start producing the needed protein. That halts deterioration of the nerve cells and allows the baby to develop more normally.

In patient testing, babies with the most severe form of the disease who got Zolgensma within 6 months of birth had limited muscle problems. Those who got the treatment earliest did best. Babies given Zolgensma after six months stopped losing muscle control, but the medicine can’t reverse damage already done.

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The medicine, sold by the Swiss drugmaker Novartis, is a gene therapy that treats an inherited condition called spinal muscular atrophy. Pixabay

Success story

Evelyn Villarreal was one of the first children treated, at eight weeks. Her family, from Centreville, Va., had lost their first child to spinal muscular atrophy at 15 months. Two years later when Evelyn was born a test showed she also had the disease, so the family enrolled her in the gene therapy study at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

Evelyn is now 4½ years old and showing no muscle problems other than minor trouble standing up, said her mother, Elena Villarreal. She has been feeding herself for a long time, she draws and speaks well, and will be starting kindergarten in the fall. “She’s very active and goes to the playground a lot,” said Elena Villarreal. “She’s walking and even jumping.”

ALSO READ: WHO Chief Emphasizes the Importance of Universal Health Coverage

It is too early to know how long the benefit of the treatment lasts, but doctors’ hopes are rising that they could last a lifetime, according to Dr. Jerry Mendell, a neurologist at Nationwide Children’s. Mendell led one of the early patient studies and is Evelyn’s doctor. “It’s beginning to look that way,” he said, because a few children treated who are now 4 or 5 still have no symptoms.

Early diagnosis is crucial, so Novartis has been working with states to get genetic testing for newborns required at birth. It expects most states will have that requirement by next year. The FDA said side effects included vomiting and potential liver damage, so patients must be monitored for the first few months after treatment. (VOA)