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Year : 2014  |  Volume : 33  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 143-145

Ayurvedic education: Where to go from here?

Director and CSO, AVP Research Foundation, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India

Date of Web Publication17-Nov-2014

Correspondence Address:
P Ram Manohar
Director and CSO, AVP Research Foundation, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0257-7941.144615

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How to cite this article:
Manohar P R. Ayurvedic education: Where to go from here?. Ancient Sci Life 2014;33:143-5

How to cite this URL:
Manohar P R. Ayurvedic education: Where to go from here?. Ancient Sci Life [serial online] 2014 [cited 2023 Mar 21];33:143-5. Available from: https://www.ancientscienceoflife.org/text.asp?2014/33/3/143/144615

Ayurvedic pedagogy has a long and winding history. In the course of its evolutionary development, the tradition of Ayurveda has nurtured several models of education, the foremost and most sanctified of which is the residential system, popularly known as the Gurukula system. [1] This system of teaching and learning is based on an intimate relationship between the teacher and the student, in the home of the teacher. The goal of education was not merely transfer of technical skills but also the molding of the personality of the individual. The total number of students in a Gurukula could be counted on one's fingers, and the selection process was extremely meticulous and stringent. At a time when human population was meager and life was simple, this system of teaching became the gold standard for transmission of the knowledge of Ayurveda, which has many subjective components. Subjective knowledge required intimacy of the teacher and student for effective transmission through nonverbal communication. The focus of the Gurukula system was quality oriented and based on intensive training. The idea was for the most eligible student to learn from the most competent teacher. This system of education could not create physicians in large numbers. On the other hand, the university system of teaching exemplified through the Universities of Takṣaśilā and Nālanda, [2] offered courses in a wide range of subjects taught by large number of competent teachers. Both the Gurukula and university systems were based on the idea of competence and picking up the best brains to transmit and preserve the knowledge. However, the family transmission system also became a predominant way of education in the field of Ayurveda. The motive to monopolize and protect trade secrets may have stimulated such a system of learning. The physician would transmit the knowledge only to his own progeny thereby creating a family tradition of Ayurveda. During the colonial period and at the eve of modernization of Ayurveda, we could witness the gradual breaking down of such family traditions and the emergence of modern institutions of Ayurveda.

In modern India, Ayurvedic education has reached prolific proportions in terms of the colleges and students pursuing the BAMS course. Against the 381 colleges for modern medicine, [3] there are nearly 250 Ayurveda colleges. [4] At least 25,000 graduates pass out of the Ayurveda colleges every year. The number of new Ayurveda colleges being established is also on the rise. And the need for regulating and setting standards for Ayurvedic education becomes a necessity as perhaps has never been before. For that matter, classical textbooks of Ayurveda like the Caraka Saṃhitā spell out the methods of education as well as the qualities of the teacher and student. [5] It also lays out the criteria for choosing specific textbooks for study. One chapter in this classic also lists the outcomes of successful learning and how to distinguish a quack from a trained physician by testing core competence and skills. [6]

Since the 1970s the Central Council of Indian Medicine (CCIM) has been functioning as an apex body to regulate education in the field of Ayurveda. [7] There are elaborate procedures to set up an Ayurveda College, which now requires preparatory paper work and investment on infrastructure. In the recent times, CCIM has emphasised the need for establishing minimum infrastructure to set up a college for teaching Ayurveda. This has certainly curbed the mushrooming of dubious Ayurveda teaching institutions in small rented buildings without even the basic facilities and teaching staff. The CCIM has also been instrumental in unifying and standardizing Ayurvedic education in modern India by defining the curriculum by developing a structured syllabus and establishing under graduate and post graduate teaching programs for Ayurveda. The teaching of Ayurveda is now established under the affiliation with recognized universities. In spite of these desirable developments, Ayurvedic education seems to have failed in its primary objective of nurturing the core skill sets that can transform the young aspirants into self-confident Ayurveda physicians.

It is quite obvious that some critical components of what can make Ayurvedic education effective is missing in the present curriculum of Ayurvedic education in the country. What seems to be conspicuously lacking is a well-developed education technology that clearly defines the learning outcomes and spells out the core skill sets that should be made the focus of the teaching programs. Instead, the focus is now on buildings, equipments and such other paraphernalia, which by themselves cannot serve the purpose of imparting quality education.

In order to develop the curriculum, there is a need to focus on educational research. The CCIM should consist of an academic as well as administrative council. The task of the academic council should be to set the standards for Ayurvedic education based on a systematic study of the ground realities. It may also be a good idea to separate the academic and the administrative councils. The function of the academic council for Ayurveda education could be similar to that of NCERT. A body like CCIM should then focus on implementing these standards.

Along with the development of an education technology for Ayurveda, there has to be a focus on teacher's training programs. The apex body for Ayurveda education should initiate programs to improve the teaching skills of the professors and lecturers. Without improving teacher performance, we cannot hope to improve the quality of education in Ayurveda.

The entire Ayurvedic curriculum is designed in a manner that mimics the MBBS course with a view to achieve equal status with modern medicine. Even the topics of study are terms translated from English to Sanskrit to create subjects that did not exist in Ayurveda. For example, anatomy is translated as Śarîraracanā and Physiology as Śarîrakriyā, whereas in Ayurveda these subjects form part of a systems approach to understanding the human being as an integration of body, mind and self. It covers disciplines like metaphysics, genetics, embryology, obstetrics, study of vital points, anatomy, pathology and forensic medicine. A study of Ayurvedic Śārîra [8] gives a holistic understanding of the human persona. It begins with the origin of life and childbirth rather than dissection of a dead body. There is a need to have a thorough revision of the syllabus and the network of topics that will be effective to convey the thought process of Ayurveda to the student and not end up as a cheap caricature of western medicine.

The concept of a uniform syllabus across the country does not seem to gel with the philosophy of Ayurveda which is based on the principle of local adaptation. According to Ayurveda, the health care approaches should be region specific and adapted to local conditions. [9] Therefore the teaching of Ayurveda should also focus on regional variation in practices and the syllabus should be adapted to the diversity of the geographic zones in which Ayurveda is taught.

There should be a greater focus on clinical training in Ayurveda. Making distinctions between clinical and nonclinical subjects does not make much sense in Ayurveda where the approach is clinical from the beginning of the studies itself. In ancient days, students used to get clinical exposure right from the time of their initiation into their Ayurveda study. The section of classical texts like Sūtrasthāna, which deals with fundamental principles cover many clinical topics. There is also a need to extend the clinical training after the completion of the course. We need to design effective residentship programs for young graduates of Ayurveda.

Ayurveda has projected itself as a knowledge system with a three-tier structure. It is a very practical science of clinical interventions that are called as Vyavahāra. These are the practices that bring the benefit of the knowledge to the public. However, each practice is based on a sound theory, which is known as Śāstra. The theory in turn is based on an experiential understanding of the principles which constitute the basis of science, which is known as Tattva. [10]

The teaching of Ayurveda thus proceeds in three stages. In the first stage, the students are trained in the practices. The focus here is to develop the skills needed to apply the science. In the second stage the focus is on understanding the science behind the practice. And in the third stage, the goal is to understand the principles behind the science. This approach should form the basis of the teaching in the graduate, post graduate and doctoral training in Ayurveda.

With Ayurveda beginning to emerge on the global scene, the time is ripe for introspection and radical reforms in the field of Ayurvedic education. We can expect positive changes if this reformation is driven by serious initiatives for educational research in Ayurveda.

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Hayhoe R, Li J. The idea of a normal university in the 21 st century. Front Educ China 2010;5:74-103.  Back to cited text no. 2
Dasgupta S. Reforms in medical education: optimizing quantity and quality. Indian J Public Health 2014;58:1-4.  Back to cited text no. 3
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Central council of Indian medicine. NewDelhi: Government of India. Available from: http://www.ccimindia.org/colleges-ayurveda.html. [Last accessed on 2014 Sep 10].  Back to cited text no. 4
Sharma RK, Dash B, editor. Caraka Samhita. Vol. 2. Varanasi: ChowkhambaKrishnadas Academy; 1997. p. 216-23.  Back to cited text no. 5
Sharma RK, Dash B, editor. Caraka Samhita. Vol. 1. Varanasi: Chowkhamba Krishnadas Academy; 1997. p. 587-9.  Back to cited text no. 6
Central council of Indian medicine. NewDelhi: Government of India. Available from: http://www.ccimindia.org/introduction.html. [Last accessed on 2014 Sep 10].  Back to cited text no. 7
Murthy S, editor. Aṣṭāṅga hṛdaya. Vol. 1. Varanasi: Chowkhamba Krishnadas Academy; 1994. p. 462.  Back to cited text no. 8
Murthy S, editor. Aṣṭāṅga saṅgraha. Vol. 1. Varanasi: Chowkhamba Orientalia; 1998. p. 420.  Back to cited text no. 9
Sharma PV, editor. Susrutasamhita. Vol. 1. Varanasi: Chowkhamba Visvabharati; 2010. p. 325.  Back to cited text no. 10

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