For years we have been learning, that Vidya and Shiksha are synonyms (or paryayawachi) but, are they really synonyms?
Are they really synonyms?
NO, both have a lot of difference in their meanings.
Vidya means ‘correct knowledge’, ‘life skills’ or ‘clarity of life’. It is more related to behaviour, living and personality development. Indian students call themselves as ‘vidyarathi’ because it is in Indian culture to go to Gurukul or school to learn life skills or to learn how to be a good human, not to learn subjects.
Shiksha means ‘learning’, ‘instruction lesson’ and ‘study of a skill’. It is more related to studying and learning subjects (like Physics, Chemistry, Maths, etc). Indian students never call themselves ‘shiksharthi’ because vidya is more important than shiksha.
Why there is such confusion?
In Indian culture, the education was always imparted through Gurukuls (for Hindus) and Madrassahs (for Muslims). This was a traditional and a very effective system through which education was imparted. This system was followed for more than 2000 years.
The confusion began in 1835 when the English Parliament passed the English Education Act. Thomas Macaulay passed the Minute on Education and all Gurukuls and Madrassahs were forced to be closed and the new term called ‘school’ was the place of learning which taught basic Western sciences and English literature. In 1844, the Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian and other Indian languages were abolished from the Court and also the schools. The British announced Government jobs for those who studied in English schools. The Wood’s Despatch 1854, was another Act( which is considered as the Magna Carta of Indian education), this time in favour of Indians, which supported the education of masses including girls.
By this time it had already become a mixture. The Indians could neither adapt the British nor could stay Indian anymore. By this time Indians had forgotten the differences between vidya and shiksha because the new system was not as well regulated as the traditional one. By this time shiksha had become more important than vidya because the British never understood the difference between vidya and shiksha, so it is obvious that a system by the British would also not understand it.
The legacy of the Company Raj and British Raj still continues. Still, we are taught vidya and shiksha are synonyms. This is because we adopted the British system even without thinking twice. Maybe we should start educating ourselves about it. The Indian and British civilisations had a little common among them that is the reason why most things in Indian culture in the 1800s was considered taboo in Britain and the British rules were seen with suspicion by the Indians.
According to my assumption, it will take 20 to 30 years for every Indian to learn the differences between vidya and shiksha. It is understood and quite normal because the long-lasting effects of 190 years of Imperialism will not go away in 70 years of Independence.