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Ila Pal: A short biographical note 7
I History of Education 19
II Philosophy of Education 74
III The Child: Whence, How, and Whither 126
IV Student Life 153
V Education of Women 187
VI Organisation and Methods 200
Padmashri Maganlal Tribhuvandas Vyas
Born in Avidha, a small village in the Rajpipla state of Gujarat, M.T. Vyas was a wealthy landlord’s son. While studying law in Ahmedabad when he read an article by George Aurundale, an English Educationist who had established a Teachers’ training college in Adyar, near Madras. Fired by his vision of education Magan took the first train to Madras. Once he met him, Maganlal instantly knew that he had found his calling and would like to train himself as a teacher, much against his father’s wishes. On the convocation day his principal Dr. Aurundale exhorted his students to go into the villages and establish a school in any place where there was a shade of a tree and at least one student, eager to learn. “Don’t wait for buildings, not for teachers either. If you are sincere and teach in the glorious traditions of Ashrams in ancient India, many will join you in your endeavor." So Maganlal started a school under a tree in Shuklatrith, on the banks of river Narmada. And true to the words of his Guru George Aurundale, many, some of his own classmates, joined him in a short time.
One day Maganlal got the news that Dr. Aurundale was coming over to see how the school was faring. He was delighted that Maganlal had implemented his ideas, that too with such limited resources. As he was leaving he said, “Now is the time when you should expand your vision. I would like to offer you a scholarship to study in the London school of Education”. While Maganlal was delighted to take up his offer he was determined to put the school on a more solid footing and ensure that it will attract a band of dedicated teachers to take it further. No less important was his wife, Sarojben who needed to continue her studies. Eager to remove her from the constrictive caste-based atmosphere of the village, he got her admitted in the Annie Besant School and college based in Benares. During the two years of his stay in England he made sure he stayed in touch with his beloved, and how!!
MT Vyas returned from England in 1927, armed with a Master’s degree in Education from the London school of Education. Within a short time of his reaching he was offered the position of Deputy Director of Education, a post offered only to British until then. However, even an offer as lucrative as that did not entice him. After all he had returned from England to fulfill a promise he had made to himself - of setting up a progressive school based on nationalistic ideals which would be responsive to the changing times, a school that would shape children to be proud Indians. He had envisioned a school where the scientific educational technique of the west, the ideas of productive education advocated by Gandhiji and the creative activities formulated by Rabindra Nath Tagore could be blended for all round development of the child. Thus in 1930 M.T. Vyas and his life companion Sarojben started a school and was aptly named - New Era School.
The school came to be recognized as a trailblazer, with many firsts to its credit. It was the first coeducational school, first to introduce the Montessori Method, first school to blend co-curricular activities like dramatics… music…dance into its curriculum, first to start teaching Modern Maths and the first truly secular school where students recited prayers from all religions. Impressed by New Era School and the quality education it imparted, His Highness of Rajpipla from the erstwhile state of Gujarat, invited M.T. (as he was popularly known) to his court and requested him to take over as a Diwan – chief minister -of the state. “Your Highness, I feel honoured.” M. T. said humbly, “Please do not take an affront but I would like to be independent; not serve as anyone’s subordinate. However, please tell me what you want to achieve and I will try my best.”
That is when His highness made a fervent plea that he bring education to the state and usher in measures that would bring social equality. In the course of a few years M. T. Vyas, aided by the state, established 40 full-fledged schools in the state which are still in excellent health and progressing exceedingly well.
In 1957 the New Era School was accepted as an associated school by UNESCO and included in the list of Asia’s best schools. In 1958, Mr. M. T. Vyas was the first Educationist in the country to receive the Padmashri for his distinguished services to the cause of Education.