Commonwealth assocation for education, administration and management

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ISSN NO 2322-0147

November 2013



Excellence International Journal of Education and Research (Multi- subject journal)
Instructional Aids and Techniques in India: From pictographs to e-learning


Instructional Aids and Techniques in India:

From pictographs to e-learning


Dr Jameela T

Ex Research Scholar

Department of Education

Aligarh Muslim University

Aligarh 202002 Uttar Pradesh


The history of use of instructional aides and techniques in Indian classroom can be traced back to the time when early tribal authorities systemized bodies of knowledge, and early cultures invented pictographs or sign writing to record and transmit information. The ancient 'gurukul' system of education, middle age maktabs, masjids, Khanqash or other institutions of education have used their own instructional aides. Instead of taking hold of the perished system of Indian education, the British administers began to root out the existing Indian village education system. So along with the development of modern schooling system as initiated by missionaries, the gradual use of modern teaching aids also started to develop in Indian classrooms. The development of audiovisual aids, which was again replaced along with further development of technological devices such as multimedia like e-learning and E-learning portals. This study is an historical study of previously existed technologies used in the learning teaching process. They are helpful to give information about educational and instructional technology that existed in the past. With the help of them we can also develop about new aids and techniques which emphasis on applying and developing the most current tools for quicker learning and easy teaching purposes.


Instructional aides deals with the tools used by teachers to help classroom instruction. Techniques of instruction is a commonly thought of in terms of gadgets, instruments, machines and devices which are the combination of the multifaceted and integrated processes of the people, processes, ideas, equipment and organization. These aids and techniques emphasis on applying the most current tools for quicker learning and the use of a variety of then known audio-visual aids for teaching purposes. Despite the uncertainty about the origin and use of instructional aids and techniques in the classroom, the historical study of previously existed technologies, early organizations, gender, events and devices are helpful to give information about educational and instructional technology that existed in the past. No doubt, they have contributed to the present technological revolution. Technology use in the classroom today is the result of such information which is essential to examine the organizations and their viewpoints. By analyzing current trends and advances only one will be prepared for the future, i.e. in using educational technology in today’s and future classrooms.

Prehistoric Indian teaching methods and techniques

The history of prehistoric aids and techniques of instruction can be traced back to the time when early tribal authorities systemized bodies of knowledge, and early cultures invented pictographs or sign writing to record and transmit information. Archaeological evidences such as ancient tools, cave paintings, other prehistoric arts, and human remains provide us direct evidence to understand the role played by technology in their lives. The prehistoric technology was specifically tied to control, survival, hunting, and food preparation and thus to enable easy cope up with the environment. The elder one transferred their knowledge to the younger one and suitable changes were made in it according to the requirements of time, cultural, tradition, and brought further innovations in it. They also caused for further innovation and changes in all aspects of human life.

According to the earliest surviving records of Indus culture, Indus-Saravat__ cultural tradition is in Br_ahm__ script. At the end of the Painted Gray Ware (PGW) phase, the uses of the Northern Black Polished Ware (NBP) pottery were reported. This is also marked as the period of second urbanization. To the Late Harappa’s, the PGW phase was partially contemporary. Carvings on seals, small pieces of soft stone, and copper tablets were the main surviving records of the writing of the Harappa’s. Most texts were very brief. The average length was 5 signs. The longest excavated text was on a three-sided `amulet', was 26 signs long. There are still arguments and debates over the Indus script of the Bronze Age, whether the script is true writing at all or instead some kind of proto-writing or non-linguistic sign system, with the additional provisos that the script is still not deciphered. Based on a number of excavated surveying instruments and measuring rods and that the use of large scale constructional plans, Joseph E. Schwartzberg (2008) proposes that the Bronze Age Indus Valley Civilization (c. 2500–1900 BCE) may have known "cartographic activity". Indian’s were aware about cosmological drawings and cartographic material with some regularity since the period.’ Though not numerous, a number of map-like graffiti appear among the thousands of Stone Age Indian cave paintings; and at least one complex Mesolithic diagram is believed to be a representation of the cosmos. Susan Gole (1990) had commented on the cartographic traditions among early Indians and their ability to conceptualize in a cartographic manner.

Ancient Indian teaching methods and techniques

In ancient 'gurukul' system of education, which was a hallowed one in Hinduism  JainismBuddhism and Sikhism, was closely related to religion. Sikshyas lived in ashrams together as equals, irrespective of their social standing, by helping guru in his day-to-day life. Strict monastic guidelines were prescribed by the guru. this oral method of study is called shruti, where knowledge spread verbally through the word of mouth from the teacher to the disciple. It consisted in listening to the teacher, reflection on what has been listened to and its constant revision and discussion through the steps of sravana, manana and nididhyasana. This instruction emphasized learning and stressed individualized instruction which was devised to suit the needs and abilities of the pupil. With the fervent wish of the guru that his disciple would better him, it was against rote learning or blindly following the guru. The goal of such a system also emphasized the fulfillment of some societal needs such as the maintenance of the oral tradition of the Veda and stressed teaching of social science for the promotion of social efficiency and welfare. For preservation of intact the accent and pronunciation of words, it adopted the method of memorization of text. It was done by using the technique of different pathas or sequences that was aimed to recheck any deviations.

In the initial stage, education was treated as an important method of gaining moksha or enlightenment and there for it was open to all. But later on due to the superiority complex began to arise in society, the impartment of education gradually became on the basis of caste and related duties. So members of each caste began to concentrate on the specific task and technique that one has to perform as a member of that specific caste. With the further progress of educational system along with the discovery of scripts, written records gradually replaced the verbal transmission of thought and such a system was gradually declined. And education became more conscious or self-reflecting, with specialized occupations.

Institutional organization was one of the chief characteristic of Buddhist education system. Verbal education was the prevalent one in this system. Which was aimed for the development of wisdom through listening: i.e., rote book study or academic learning arises from the oral teachings, written texts and digital files. It was not due to the non development of writing arts, but due to lack of writing materials. Besides, to improve the power of discussion and establishing ones on cult, the discussion or shastrartha method was also there. That was also for encouraging prominence of logic and was also aimed to satisfy the critics and opposing groups. India has had flourishing tradition of scientific research and technological development dating back to over 2,600 years, at Taxila and Nalanda, the earliest universities in the world, though most of the knowledge lost during the medieval period. It organized conferences for clearing doubts, reading of commentaries and for dialectical debate. Bodhisattva attaches great importance to the knowledge and wisdom of consciousness arising from meditation which is penetrating insight into the direct comprehension of the truths.The provisions for imparting worldly, religious and practical knowledge were through Buddha’s methods of expedience, ways of answering question and methods for developing three kinds of wisdom. Learning through tours, isolated spiritual mediation in forests and caves, and the assembly of learned people for maintaining the moral standard were another highlighted methods practiced during that period. Through its practices like memorization, hearing the doctrine, and gaining personal experience, it helped pupil to understand the intention manifested through the images and gave them the practical teaching of living together with social harmony.

In the Gupta period, Buddhist systems of education admitted students for ten years. Learning began with the oral method. Later it was shifted to the reading of literary texts. The monasteries had libraries. Important manuscripts were copied and stored. . The subjects taught included Vedanta, philosophy, study of the Puranas, epics, grammar, logic, astronomy, philosophy, medicine etc. Sanskrit, the court language was the medium of instruction. In the earlier phase, Jains used Sanskrit literature like ‘Adipurana’ and ‘Yashatilaka’ for educational purposes. But later they changed the medium to Prakrit and other regional languages like Tamil, Kannada and so on. Books called “granthas”. written on palm leaves that were tied together in the Jain and Buddhist libraries .The ‘mathas’ supported by Brahmins were institutions parallel to Jain and Buddhist monasteries. The ‘mathas’ functioned like ashramas for educational purposes adopted methods entering national discourse. A form of inquiry and debate intended to stimulate critical thinking and illuminate ideas. It has been the intent of many educators, to find specific interesting ways to encourage students to use their intelligence and to help them to learn.

Though native Indian cartographic traditions before the Hellenistic period remain rudimentary, the description about India in various foreign records after the Hellenistic period, gives us more detailed ideas about the size, location, and other cartographical information during Classical Antiquity. Early forms of cartography in India included legendary paintings, maps of locations described in Indian epic poetry like the Ramayana, charts used for the purposes of navigation and early maps like the Udayagiri wall sculpture, made under the Gupta empire were some example to show the cartographical ability of Indians during this period.

In ancient India, generally hard and soft types of writing materials were available .the hard material like stone, metal, shells and bricks, earthenware and terracotta were used for writing. This writing may be engraving, embossing, painting and scratching. Nearchos (4th centaury BC), an admiral of Alexander's fleet, was the first to mention that a well-beaten smooth and non-porous cotton cloth was used by ancient Indians to as writing material. Al-Biruni, the great Arabian medieval scholar describes about the writing materials used in India during his visit. He writes that a soft material such as wooden board with a piece of chalk (pandu-lekha) for writing was a method used for teaching. The inner bark of bhurja (Betula spp.) tree was the most popular material for writing manuscripts, especially in northern-western India. Where as palm-leaves or tada or tala or tali were widely used in southern India which was made by binding these leaves together based on a cord on which they are arranged. Though Leather was predominant in western Asia and Europe in early and medieval times, it was rarely used as writing material in India. According to him paper was first manufactured in China and through Chinese prisoners the technology went to Samarkand and thereupon it was diffused to various places. It eventually reached in India and they exported to other countries.

Middle age Indian teaching methods and techniques

The maktabs, masjids, Khanqash (sufi centers) and private residents of the learned men were the institutions of education. And all they existed in harmony. As in all other Islamic lands, a child’s education began with the learning of Quran with a local teacher who specialized in the art of recitation of Quran. Besides, the education of the general population also included prose, poetry and some elementary Arabic, which were at least essential to perform religious function. This stage was followed by an intensive study of the Arabic language and fiqh which were sufficient for those who want to engage in teaching, preaching etc. to be studied. Next stage is the stage of advanced books of each science. It can be seen that rational science and Kalam or dialectics were not given much attention in the curriculum. The fourth period was focusing on the contributions provided by Shahwali Allah of Delhi who focused on ‘Hadith’ and Nizam Al Din Shilvi of Lucknow who concentrated on rational sciences. Calligraphy was an important element of instruction. Scarcity of printed books quite often created issues. Therefore, before the coming of press, due to lack of printed books wooden books (taktis) were used. Later with the development of professional groups of copyists or scribes in each locality there was easy availability of books. Besides, most of the general educated people could be able to write fast. The madrasa, a special room set apart in a masjid for teaching purposes, was the important agency of imparting secondary education. The basis of instruction in the madrasas were memorizing by students while uttering collective in a loud voice, discussing and writing out the lessons. It functioned as a college of higher education with the eminent lectures of learned scholars of different subjects, supplemented by discussion classes.

The medieval Hindu system of education elementary education was imparted through pathashalas, which were organized in verandah of some houses or under some trees. Instruction on arithmetic: particularly the knowledge of weights and measures, instruction on R’s and their application, some parts of literature, moral and religious mythologies, sacred love of Hindus and salutation to goddess of learning were taught and practiced. Among the four stages of instruction followed in the elementary stage, in the first stage writing letters of the alphabet in sand was taught. It was followed by the writing on palm leaves by teacher and which were traced over by students with red pen and charcoal ink, they can be rubbed easily. The next stage is associated with excessive practice writing and pronouncing compound components. Use of words for forming sentences, difference between written and colloquial languages, rules of arithmetic and multiplication tables etc were the features of this stage. Use of paper for writing purposes was taught in the fourth stage.

Maps from Ain-e-Akbari, Mughal documents, the seamless globe  invented in Kashmir by Ali Kashmiri Ibn Luqman and twenty other such globes, the atlas compiled by scholar Sadiq Isfahani of Jaunpur, the largest known Indian map depicting the former Rajput capital at Amber, Indian maps reproduced by European scholar Francesco I ,  the cartographic charts made by the Dravidian people of India as described in the early volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica , and maps of Indian origin discovered from Tibet and so on were few powerful examples to show the middle age Indian cartographic knowledge back ground and detailing India's history and traditions during the middle ages.

Middle age Indians were familiar with the paper system. The handmade glazed paper was a remarkable product of medieval India. Through the conquest of Sind by Arabs early in the eighth century AD, the famous Khurasani paper was first imported to India and it imported for several centuries. It was also during the Middle Ages, the first paper industry in India was established in Kashmir by Sultan Zainul Abedin (Shahi Khan).

Modern methods and techniques

Instead of taking hold of the perished system of Indian education, the British administers began to root out the existing Indian village education system by denying recognition to them and scratched its soil from the root by demanding for paraphernalia, building, and so forth. They were concerned about to the establishment of a factory system of education with its centrally controlled curricula/ text books/school hours/holidays, etc. came with their rule. The demand for the medium of English, deprived people the knowledge of their own language and literature and were compelled to cram the rules of grammar of a foreign language. Though the Christian missionaries and a large number of enlightened Indian demanded for the spread of modern education in India, British administrators were interested only in those developmental activities that did not lead to a conflict with their colonial interest. Since the only aim of their education was to turn out men competent to serve the civilian administration, until the outbreak of the World War I, the role of science education, scientific and technological research in economic growth and social transformation was rather limited.

The missionary and boarding schools established by Christian missionaries in colonial India marked the beginning of modern schooling in India. They become the models to be imitated in the case of syllabus, calendar, in terms of tutoring, subject, syllabus, governance and so on. Though, minor changes have made in them, according to the requirement of the situation. The educational technology followed in those schools were coupled with the use of aids such as blackboard, pictures, graphs, charts, maps, symbols, models, printed materials, flashcards, samples and concrete materials. Further advancement in technology and their reflection in human society also reflected in the classroom, The development of audiovisual aids such as audio tapes, videos, overhead projectors, recording devices, movies, magic lantern, slide projectors, audio-visual projectors, radio and television and so on were also used in classroom by the able teachers who had understood their effectiveness in imparting knowledge. It was followed with the stage that emphasized the use of Multimedia. It is a combined, synchronized, and interactively compared electronic version of all the above mentioned Medias. That has brought a revolutionary change in the classroom, by introducing and implementing of hardware and sophisticated software technologies in the class room. Present classrooms are equipped with the electronic media of information and communication technologies (ICT) in education, known as E-learning.

Radio came to India first in1923, in a small way, though it took four years to find its root here. First broadcasting of educational programs through radio in India was done in Bombay in January, 1929. On an experimental basis and in an occasional and informal way, the Indian State Broadcasting Service (ISBS) started broadcasting educational programs on 1 April 1930, at Madras for two years and it become permanent in May 1932. Later various attempts were seen from different parts of the county. After independence, All India Radio (AIR), the radio broadcaster of India, officially known as Akashvani (since 1956), began to broadcast different kinds of programs, from various stations, in different languages as per the requirement of the area where the stations are situated. In post independence years, school broadcast was taken seriously at radio and most of the main stations started this broadcast in the languages prevalent in their area. Its program Vividh Bharati offers a wide range of programs including news, film music and comedy. Its Vigyan Vidhi programs aimed to disseminate scientific information to students and teachers, or state. AIR efforts in the project mode in Maharashtra and Rajasthan, have been prominent.

Television named as ‘Doordarshan’ (DD) in India, is the National Television Network of India. Its first telecast started on Sept 15, 1959 in New Delhi. Since its inception, due to its ability to cover large audience, television has been perceived as an efficient force and tool for imparting education to Indian masses. The first major educational television projects of India were the Secondary School television project telecasted (1961) for improving the standard of teaching in schools within the territory of Delhi. Delhi Agriculture Television (DATV) Project named as Krishi Darshan (1966) was telecasted for communicating agricultural information to the farmers on experimental basis. In 1970, the Educational Technology (ET) scheme took up by the Ministry of Education; a Centre for Educational Technology (CET) under NCERT was set up. It was followed by the establishment of ET cells in those six states, where SITEs have already set up in 1974. An experimental satellite communication project called Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) was launched in India in 1975. These earliest systematic and large-scale efforts covered six Indian states and territories and run an educational television channel to educate the poor masses of India on various issues via satellite broadcasting. The Post-SITE project (1977) implemented for the villagers of Rajasthan was successful in achieving its objectives. The launch of Indian National Satellite project (INSAT) (1982) was aimed at making the rural masses aware of the latest developments in the areas of agricultural productivity, health and hygiene. Though Television and radio sets were supplied to schools over many years, there were always AIR and Doordarshan as the carriers for the broadcasts. As a part of INSAT, a tripartite education project with the support of UNDP, UNESCO, and GOI was established. Its availability for educational purposes, led the Ministry of Education to take over the production of educational television programs for transmission via Doordarshan and educational Technology Division in the Ministry of Education was set up. Later CET was merged with the Department of Teaching Aids of NCERT and was renamed as Central Institute of Educational Technology (CIET). CIET charged with the task of undertaking educational television and radio or audio programs, conducting training and research, and performing as a central coordination agency for all production and utilization efforts. CIET conducted experiments in teleconferencing. Under another scheme of the Ministry that was entirely equipment driven, between 1986 and 1990, the Ministry distributed 2,28,118 radio-cum-cassette players (RCCPs) and 31,129 colour television sets to schools at the cost of several crores of rupees. However, as a study conducted by Prof. M. Mukhopadhyay shows, this step did not yield the desired results, as it did not go beyond providing the equipment.

The University Grants Commission started its first Higher Education Television Project (HETV) known as ‘Country wide Classroom’ in August 15, 1984. It was aimed for improving the quality of education among university students while extending their reach. In May 1991, IGNOU - Doordarshan Telecast programs was started. It was mainly designed for Distance learners. Gyan Darshan (GD), the exclusive Educational TV Channel of India started on 26th January 2000 is a joint program of Ministry of Human Resource Development, Information & Broadcasting, the Prasar Bharti and IGNOU. Other Avatars of Educational Television may be used along with other media in distance education for interaction, to support learning materials and technology integration, were Open Telecast, Telecast with printed word, Telecast with print and feedback and Group Telecasts. Edutainment are entertainment events and they provide incidental learning opportunities through programs like quiz show, soap opera, or dial-in advice shows. Where topics of general interest like health, sciences, commerce and so on will be considered.. Indian Tele text service popularly known as ‘INTEXT’ was started by the Doordarshan Delhi on November 14, 1985, with its potential for delivering educational instructions.

Indian history of computer starts with the history of computer in Indian statistical institute (ISI). It assembled the first analogue computer in 1950 and procured the first digital computer in 1955. The first Computer came to India in 1956, was also for Indian Statistical Institute Kolkata under doctor Dutta, Majumdar and Roy. It was also Asia’s first computer outside Japan. The first indigenous electronic digital computer developed in India was built by Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, in 1961, known as Tata Institute of Fundamental Research Automatic Calculator. School computing in India gained momentum with the project by government ‘Computer Literacy and Studies in Schools (CLASS)’ in 1984-85, using the computers provided by the BBC and covered 42 Resource Centers and 2,582 schools. Government of India was able to locate funding for the program through credit from UK. Later, under the Department of Electronics Accredited Computer Courses (DOEACC), a registered Society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860, computer training institutes/organizations in the non-formal sector was first initiated. It was followed by a revised CLASS project during 1993–2004, and CLASS 2000 program. Though all these interventions didn’t brought expected good result, but made some impact.A few large and small scale efforts to mobilize ET, through projects like the Bhandup project, the Avehi-Abacus project in Mumbai’s municipal school system, and the Tilonia and Hoshangabad models with specific educational objectives, appropriate methods and materials. They were emphasizing on learning rather than teaching and showed good results in the wider mode too. But they not came into the light due to the absence of neglect and political will to sustain them.

Internet was first introduced in India on 15 August 1995, starting with Mumbai, Delhi, Calcutta, Chennai, and Pune. It was one of the consequences of the significant and far reaching impetus obtained to Indian e-learning market followed by rapid emergence of the information and communication technologies (ICTs) together with the globalization, liberalization and privatization policies of government of India. It was followed by an era in which the growing presence of the internet and increasing broad band connectivity were seen. The emergence of web-based learning and other interactive online learning, transferring the boundaries of school and college education gave further boost to it. Using the public private participation approach (PPP), government of India ensures maximum collaboration from private bodies to extend the effective provision of e-Learning services to the vast and widely spreading educators of the country. It is implemented through the projects like Sarva Siksha Abiyan and it @ school projects.

Today we have e-learning portal dedicated to provide online education to Indian professional students and corporate India. Thus we can conclude that e-learning, the use of electronic media and information and communication technologies (ICT) in education has brought revolutionary effect on today’s formal, non formal and informal means of education.


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