Narendra Modi ji, we expect education reforms from you!

Children are the future of nation. To provide them correct, useful and quality education is the duty of the state. The Nehruvian ideology ensured the reverse in post-independence India. This has been Modi’s biggest failure in last 6 years. This article takes a bird’s eye survey of evolution of Indian Education over millennia; and discusses how our current education system is inadequate, and in some cases positively harmful for development of children. I make a case for comprehensive education reforms in India.

Evolution of Indian Education system

Ancient Indian education system

In ancient times, Gurukul system was prevalent in India. Students used to go to the Ashrams of Gurus and learnt not only from his oral lessons, but also from his conduct, tasks assigned to them and from each other. There was perfect equality in that system sons of Kings would study with the commoners in the Ashrama.

Later on this period saw the establishment of world’s first universities and centers of excellence in Takshshila{Taxila is more common but incorrect spelling}, Nalanda, Vikramshila, Mithila, Varanasi , Kanchi etc. Huge amount of literature was written by scholars in all branches of study from art, music, dance, sculpture, architecture, literary criticism, grammar, metaphysics, to logic, medical science, law, astronomy and mathematics etc.

textbook reforms : learn from Nalanda
Ancient Nalanda University : burnt down by Bakhtiyar Khilji in 1193

Most of these books have either been destroyed or lost. A large fraction of those available have never been printed/translated. Still, the amount of available literature is enough to keep one busy for many lifetimes.

Some most important works of this period include:-

  • Maths : Sulva Sutras{for geometry}, works of Pingala, Aryabhatta, Katyayana, Varahamihira, Brahmgupta, Sridhara, Bhaskara etc. and various Jain mathematicians including Bhadrabahu. Many of the mathematicians also worked in the field of astronomy.
  • Chemistry : Indian chemistry was quite advanced. Buddhist monk Nagarjuna wrote many books on chemistry. One of the lasting proofs of the genius of Indian chemistry is Iron Pillar of Mehrauli.
  • Medical science : Charak wrote Charak Samhita, with details of Ayurveda. Susruta is known to have performed surgeries, including plastic surgery. He designed many many instruments and protocols for surgery used even today. Vagbhatta, Jivaka were other famous physicians. Yoga was also developed.
  • Grammar : Panini grammar of Sanskrit is used even today and considered to be most advanced. American Marxist and Grammarian Noam Chomsky has used many concepts of Indian Grammar in his works.
  • Governance: The Arthashastra of Kautilya is quite well known. Similarly Shukraneeti, Neetishatak of Bhatrihari etc. are well known works on governance.
  • Music, dance and other performing arts: Natyashastra of Bharatamuni is a foundational text of these arts and is followed even today.
  • Apart from that tons of literature was written on topics as diverse as religion, philosophy, fairy tales, astrology etc.

However there are two major misconceptions about ancient education system, that need to be dispelled. These misconceptions have been introduced by self-loathing Marxist historians and now promoted by conversion-hungry missionaries, Hinduphobic Islamists and their fronts like radical Ambedkarites. I have discussed both in detail below. The reader will himself be able to take an informed position after reading.

Myth #1 : Women were not allowed any education in ancient India.

This is one of the persistent myths. The truth is in ancient India, women did get education. I put forward following points{many of which are well known} for your consideration.

  • Women poets have written verses of Vedas. These 27 women include Apala, Ghosa, Lopamudra, Vishvavar etc. Surely no uneducated women could write Vedic hymns. Additionally, the lie that women are banned from listening to Vedas is demolished. If they created the hymns, they certainly had to right to listen to them.
  • In Upanishads, we come across many women philosophers. The revered name of Brahmvadini Gargi Vachaknavi, who debated with Yajnavalkya in the hall of Janak Videha is quite well known. She was a teacher of Vedas. Similarly, Maitreyi is a celebrated philosopher in Upanishads.
  • In Gita, Lord Krishna counts intelligence as one of the feminine qualities. The verse no. 34 from Chapter 10, also counts memory, fine speech etc. among the qualities of women. This is a famous verse as its first part was quoted by Oppenhiemer, father of atom bomb, while watching nuclear detonation : “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”.
  • Shakaracharya is known to have debated with Mandana Misra and appointed wife of Mandana Misra, Ubhaya Bharti as judge. An uneducated women is not likely to be judge of a philosophical debate. Further, she herself debated Sankara. Therefore, women were quite well educated even until 8th century{ commonly accepted period of Acharya Sankara}.
  • Bhaskara II wrote a book on mathematics known as Lilavati, named after his beloved daughter. He taught his daughter maths using this book as is evident from the contents of the book. This was in 12th century. Clearly, before Muslim invasion, it was not uncommon for a woman to be educated in India.
  • The prominent position of women amongst ancient Hindus is proved by the number of inscriptions they have left{for example in Satavahana kingdom}, the coins that have their names {Samudragupta} and the fact that even today Hindus pray to Goddess Saraswati for wisdom.

One cannot say that women enjoyed perfect equality with men in ancient India, but they got it much better than Muslim and Christian countries. One must remember that the Christian countries were debateing whether women were ‘humans’ and ‘had souls’ until 17th century. The position of women in Islam even today is pitiful. Only recently, Malala was shot by Taliban for advocating education for girls.

Myth #2 : Brahmins had monopoly over the education, specially Sanskrit.

Many ‘intellectuals’ claim that Brahmins have had a monopoly on education for ‘5000 years’. Mostly, you will see such assertions are made to deceive Dalits and breed Brahmin-hate in their minds. I put forward following facts for your consideration:-

  • Ashokan inscriptions are addressed to common people. How were they supposed to read if they were illiterate? In the inscriptions, Ashoka urges people to respect Brahmins and Sramanas. Obviously it is directed towards people other than Brahmins. Similar inscriptions are found of many Kings in ancient times.
  • Ancient temples of India were made by Sudras. There can be no doubt about this fact and all scholars accept this. There are two questions in this regard:-
    • One, if Sudras were not educated, how could they make such architectural marvels ?
    • If they were not educated, how could they make the murtis of Gods as prescribed in the Shastras?

He surveyed It can be said that everyone did not get the same education. But that does not happen even today!

Education in Medieval period

In medieval times, education suffered as a direct result of destruction if universities by Islamic invaders. They famously burnt libraries of Nalanda as the knowledge taught there was ‘unislamic’. Further, they established their own centres of learning in cities they conquered. However, major centres of Islamic education remained in middle east. The chief developments of medieval times in field of education are:-

  • Due to destruction of centres of higher learning, higher education and research suffered. We do not see much original work in India in this period. After a time, even old knowledge was forgotten as manuscripts were burnt and Hindus became concerned with bare survival.
  • The education of women almost stopped. Child marriages started due to fear of Muslim abduction of girls. This denied them the opportunity to study except at homes.
  • Centres of education like Varanasi, Kanchi and Mithila were established by some native Kings. However, these could not reach the heights achieved by ancient Indian scholars.

The knowledge of Muslims was inadequate in sciences and this period marks a decline in Indian Mathematics, medical science and chemistry etc. Muslims tried to translate many Indian works, but could not grasp the full meaning of the contents.

However, due to translation, partial knowledge of Indian mathematics and medical science reached Europe through Arabs. They get the credit for introducing numerals, algebra, algorithms, geometry, Fibonacci series etc. but Indians are responsible for all these achievements.

Education during Colonial period

At the start of British conquest, or even until some time later, India had a robust system of primary education. Muslims could not destroy it as their influence in villages was shaky and most of Indians were still directly ruled by Hindu Rajas and Zamindars. Society paid for basic education consisting of 3Rs and every village had a small school.

Indeed, situation of education in India was far better than contemporary Europe even at the start of 19th century. Following evidences can be given in support:-

  • Munro commissioned a report in Madras presidency to assess condition of education. The report mentions that every village in Madras presidency had a functioning school. It provided instruction in 3Rs to all sections of society{including lower castes} in native languages.
  • The report in Madras noted that method of instruction was far superior than Europe and students attended 7-15 years of school. Indeed, the Class Monitor system was adopted in UK from India! It is mentioned in the same report.
  • A similar report from Bombay comes to similar conclusions.
  • The most important report in this regard was written by Adam in Bengal. He also saw existence of schools in every village. He mentions 1 lakh schools in Bengal and Bihar alone!
  • Dharampal, a prominent Gandhian scholar, in his seminal work The Beautiful Tree: Indigenous Indian Education in the Eighteenth Century (1983) calculated the literacy rate among Indians as 70-80% on the eve of British conquest. It was generally double that of Europe.

British rule contributed to a great extent in destruction of Indian education. By the time British left India, our literacy rate was not even 20%. They had replaced the indigenous education system with an alien system. Major features of colonial education system in India were:-

  • The aim was not to make pupils productive members of the society. Lord Macaulay in his famous minute said : “We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect.”  Thus their education policy had four fold aims:-
    • to produce clerks and administrators for govt and British private concerns. {interpreters}
    • To promote English goods in India{English in taste}
    • To make British rule palatable to Indians{English in opinions}
    • To promote growth of Christianty{English in morals}
  • The content of the syllabus was determined as per the aims. There were very few technical or medical colleges. The books sang praises of British rule and extolled their virtues.
  • A large number of Christian missionary run schools were opened. These facilitated conversion of pupils and their parents. One can see these policies in action even today in tribal areas.
  • Those indigenous schools which did not teach govt mandated syllabus were discouraged. Those that accepted were provided govt grants.
  • The medium of instruction was kept English. Indeed, English was made mandatory for govt jobs. This gave a death blow to indigenous schools.
  • The impact of these policies was that India produced a large number of unemployable youth, who started hating their own country, religion and traditions.

Post independence developments

The post independence education policy continued in the British made framework. There were no largescale changes. Indeed even today, we follow the same pattern. Some small changes were made, which worsened the situation. Chief among these is appointment of communists in the academics and textbook preparation committees. Some of the curious features of our school level textbooks are:-

  • The achievements of Hindus are substantially tones down. For example, you would not read about how Hindus resisted every invasion and even defeated invaders repeatedly. Similarly, the achievements in areas of education, science etc. are barely mentioned.
  • Whenever you read anything about Hindus, you are sure to read something about caste or condition of women. It is ignored that all pre-modern societies were unequal and much less civilized than Hindus.
  • Anything non-Hindu is overly glorified as good. The basic principle is “Hindu bad, non-Hindu good.” This also serves in creating and exploiting faultlines. So Buddhism is good, Jainism is good, Carvaka is great, Islam and Christianity are great, Muslim rulers are great reformers, and Hinduism is the absolute worst thing in the history, Hindu rulers are oppressive, Hindu practices are regressive and Brahmins are worst of all creatures!
  • In the footsteps of British rulers, technical education is ignored. India has millions of engineers, but less than 10% are any good. Similarly, seats in medical education are woefully inadequate in number and fee is prohibitively high. Medical students can graduate from Russia in a fraction of the cost.
  • The purpose of education is till apparently to produce clerks rather than skilled workers. Thus we have an army of unemployed graduates who expect the govt to provide jobs to them all. Indeed, millions of them prepare for govt jobs for years and waste precious youth just dreaming of ‘lal batti’.
  • Even in good schools and colleges, focus is on rote learning rather than original thinking.
  • The position of English as a medium of instruction has become stronger. This is at the expense of native languages.

This is not a surprising condition considering that India was ruled by anglophiles for the larger period of its post-independence period. The corrupt elite had other priorities than education reforms.

This period, which saw major educational reforms in other Asian countries, saw further degradation of standards in Indian education system. One can point to IITs and IIMs etc., but these are islands of excellence in the sea of mediocrity.

Modi’s failure

modi's biggest failure
Modi needs to show will to reform.

This was expected to change once a govt rooted strongly in Indian traditions took power. Narendra Modi was ushered in with absolute majority. However, he has not been able to bring any educational reforms. I substantiate my contention by following facts and arguments:-

  • The NCERT textbooks prepared by the previous govt. continue to be used. In last 6 years, to use the words of minister incharge of education, “not one word has been changed”!
  • The govt has not been able to bring a new Education Policy in 6 years. If this is not shameful, what is?
  • The policy makers remain the same old Marxists. The govt proudly says in Parliament that it has not removed a single such person from their position of power. How do they expect to usher in a new policy with the same old people?
  • The narrative in academic world continues to be dominated by Marxists. The govt has not appointed academic sympathetic to it in these universities. An example should suffice : an academic of the caliber of Koenraad Elst has not been appointed in a university and writes amid much difficulty. He has been instrumental in demolishing AIT as well as establishing Hindu case in Ayodya matter. On the other hand, Kamalnath govt in MP appointed infamous activist Dilip Mandal as Prof within a few months.
  • The technical education has not changed even a bit. Students are taught the same old obsolete course and focus is on securing a job in IT industry rather than on research and development. The industry-academic link is non-existent. There are hardly any professors or even guest professors from foreign universities.

This criminal negligence of education will ruin India’s chances of being a superpower. Compare what China has done. It has multiple universities in top 100, reputed foreign professors, strong focus on technical education and academics who strongly present the Chinese point of view. It imparts even technical education in Chinese language.

Conclusion

There is an urgent need to reform the current education system. History does not give second chances. Fortunately, Modi has a majority in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

He also has support of society. Indeed, if temples are freed from govt control, these can play an important role in educational reforms. However, govt has to make the majority of effort. Updating the syllabi and textbook reforms are low hanging fruits. Reforms in technical and medical education can be a medium term project. The content of reforms can be the subject of a separate detailed post. However, first the govt has to show the will to do it. India’s superpower dreams depend on these reforms.

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3 Replies to “Narendra Modi ji, we expect education reforms from you!”

  1. It’s become fashionable for everyone to blame the PM. All Indians acted like slaves of the dynasty for sixty years !! They have suddenly woken up !!

  2. # मेरे ख्याल से यह काम भी बहुत जल्द करेंगे।

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