Literally “New Education,” one of the eighteen projects in Gandhi’s constructive program. The Gandhian approach to basic education is a holistic one, where all aspects of the individual—intellectual, physical, social, and spiritual—are cultivated in a curriculum that integrates learning with hands on work that prepares young people for their life in the world, rather than containing them and separating them from the “real” world and surrounding community.
Nai Talim is conceived as a “craft-based” education in which practical skill serves as the center and foundation of an individual’s spiritual, cultural, and social development and in which skills such as literacy and mathematics are learned in context with and in service to their craft. In this approach to schooling, academic subjects are taught in an interdisciplinary way and never separated from their practical application in the world. The craft-centered approach instills the dignity of labor, the value of self-sufficiency (swadeshi), and strengthens local culture.
Not surprisingly, a nonviolent approach to socialization is integral to Nai Talim, stressing personal responsibility and inculcating self-discipline rather than reliance on external authority, with the teacher role-modeling the values and qualities that the students are meant to learn to embody themselves.
Gandhi also believed that an essential part of education was the “reverent study of all religions,” with the insight that ahimsa (nonviolence) is the basic truth contained in all of them.
It should be stressed that Gandhi’s model for education was meant to be adapted appropriately for each location and cultural context, and that the specific example of his educational philosophy he created was necessarily geared towards his own particular place and time; for example, Nai Talim in Gandhi’s conception only included free and compulsary education up to age 14.