Monday, August 4, 2014

Please don't mess up with education.

Recent news about introduction of some of Dinanath Batra's books in recommended reading list for primary and secondary schools in state of Gujarat created lot of controversy. Name of Mr. Batra is very well known in the circles of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and BJP, he was General Secretary Vidya Bharati, the school network run by RSS. He is a retired school teacher and now claims to be educational activist. It seems the purpose of introducing his books for recommended reading is to instill national pride, self esteem and cultural identity among students. There is nothing wrong in teaching students about their ancient culture, there is nothing wrong in presenting them with facts and figures from glorious past but do these recommended books do this in unbiased manure? Mr. Batra's links with RSS or BJP should not be the issue here, the points which he is making should be discussed without any bias or prejudice. Whenever we look at the things with some bias then we try to do selective appropriation. I feel that authors of some of these books (including Mr. Batra) try to do selective appropriation and their views present only one side of story. They try to present Indian culture in very narrow way, only selected era from past is defined as Indian tradition. These authors try to pick up very selective points and try to paint things either in positive or negative way rather than giving a comprehensive view. Selective appropriation of facts often projects one sided image of any incident, person or culture. This type of material is not appropriate for kids of so young age, and if they are presented with such things then it obviously creates doubts about the real intention behind this plan.

Only exposing to one person's (or one sided) view to highly impressionable minds present's its won dangers. Every society's history has some positive and some negative points, we need to present both of them objectively. Religion, culture or traditions everything has been used by many governments to propagate their won ideology. After all politics and religion is the game of controlling people's minds and education is a very good resource to achieve this task. This approach poses a danger of producing conditioned thinkers rather than free thinkers. Decolonization of Indian education is necessary but that should not be equal to de-westernization. There is a need of open debate on this issue where all view points should be considered. People like Mr. Batra definitely have right to express their views and concerns, their points should be take into account, their merits and demerits should be discussed without any bias and after that only things should be accepted or rejected. Educational institutes are very important aspect of any society, government should not mess up with them. These institutes should not be used to push one particular agenda, they should not be a tool in government's hands. Imposing any language (like Sanskrit) or any culture (Hinduism) is not the way to Indianize the education system, there must be a better way of doing all these things without imposing anything on students which might affect their confidence.  Students should be made aware about good part of their culture as well as bad part of it, so that they learn vales from good part of it and learn not to repeat same mistakes from the bad part of culture. Pluralism and diversity in India is part of its glorious culture, one can not ignore this aspect of India's culture and any attempt to do this should be challenged. I guess this is one of the reason why there are some strong voices against introduction of such books in school education.

India has very rich cultural heritage and most Indians are very proud of it. Some things mentioned in these books like cars were invented in Vedik period or Ram traveled in pushpak aeroplane (so aeroplane was first invented in ancient India), etc. under the name of encouraging pride for India's ancient culture are factually wrong and can create very wrong impression in student's minds. One should not mix mythology with history or science, it can prove very dangerous and can harm scientific aptitude of students. I am sure Gujarat government don't want to raise generation of some misinformed students who have very false sense of cultural pride and confused scientific facts. This issue has attracted so much attention because current prime minister Mr. Narendra Modi has written foreword to some of his books recommending them to current students. He did this when he was chief minister of Gujarat but now he is PM of India and people think that now this might be implemented on national scale. I am sure think tank in BJP would not do this considering the resistance they might face nationally but they have absolute majority in parliament so I think fears of people who are concerned are valid. My only hope is that some better sense prevails in all concerned authorities and they stop messing with education system just to please some individual or organization. If at all they want to do reform they can do it in very democratic way with fair and open discussion. I hope they remember about glorious tradition of ancient India where fair and open debates on each and every topic was a norm and act accordingly.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]


  1. Great post. You express your views crisply and unbiasedly. I should urge all to read your blog - all posts.

    One request Vinay. If you can take up this request I would be very obliged. Can you write something on the recent beating up of Marathi-speaking people at Yellur? If you can share your views on how you think we can solve this problem. I am making this request not because I speak Marathi but I am sure this would be applicable to all those grey areas sandwiched between two States with different languages across the border.

    Shantaram Prabhune
    (Retd. from SBI)

    1. Shantaramji thanks a lot for your kind words, encouragement from people like you inspires me to share my thoughts and keep on writing. Language issue is a very serious problem in India, current tussle between UPSC students and central government is one recent example of this. Creation of states based on language looked very logical idea when it was implemented after various protests but it seems it divided India further on regional sentiments and created more walls than bridges.

      Discriminating anyone based on the language they speak is wrong and no government should do that. Politics should always be inclusive not exclusive but this doesn't seem to the case. Thanks for suggesting this subject, I will surely try to write on this issue. Thanks again for sharing your opinion.

    2. Thank you Vinay for considering my request. This linguistic division matter has several implications. Hope to see your post soon.

      -Shantaram Prabhune