Saturday, November 22, 2014

Reviving Sanskrit-Forcing it on students is not a solution.

Main purpose of any language is to act as a mode of communication in society. Language also helps in preserving historical records and transmitting knowledge from one generation to other. No one can deny the use and importance of language in our society, need for communication is very essential part of human existence and different languages serve this very important purpose. I don't know exact count of world languages but I am sure there are many, some ancient languages are even spoken today and some are not. The languages which are not spoken in today's world also should be studied as some of them contain vast amount of literature which can be useful even today. Sanskrit is one such language, it is not used as spoken language by any community, sect or tribe but there exists vast amount of literature in that language. Most of that literature is translated in many other languages and available for everyone to read so not knowing Sanskrit is not at all hindrance in today's world to study the literature which was available only in Sanskrit couple of hundred years back.

I am writing this post on this issue because I have first hand experience about being forced to learn Sanskrit because school thought it was good for me. I was forced to study this language in 10th grade because Sanskrit was (and I guess still is) considered as 'scoring subject'. During my school days we had three language system, regional language (Marathi) and English was compulsory and one can choose third language. We had Hindi and Sanskrit as choice  for third language. I chose 50% Hindi and 50% Sanskrit, I always liked Hindi better than Sanskrit and found it much easy to understand and study may be because I was more familiar with that language because of Hindi movies. But in 10th grade I was part of so called scholar batch which was supposed to score better in board exams and that is why everyone in that batch was told to take only Sanskrit as third language as it was supposed to boost our overall score. Our Sanskrit teacher was really nice, she was really calm and polite lady with lot of patience, she tried her best to train everyone by taking extra classes at her own home but I struggled to understand even basics of that language. I was not at all happy that I was forced to study that language, I knew that it is not going to help me to boost my score and that's what happened. I managed to somehow pass that subject by scoring 53 out of 100. I really hated the fact that I was forced to study Sanskrit. I was too weak or scared to register my protest in school. Neither my parents nor me had any clue about this language, they felt bad for my struggle but beyond that they couldn't do much. It took lot of time and efforts from my side to overcome dislike for Sanskrit which I developed at that early age in my life. So the point here is forcing any language on students is not going to make them like that subject or popularize that language. Same story was with English, many of my friends struggled in English because there was no one in our neighborhood who even knew how to read that language forget about speaking it. Many of my friends struggled to pass in that subject, they studied it because it was compulsory and even after studying it for 5 years (from 5th to 10th) most of them don't like or have any clue about it. 

I am not against teaching language (or Sanskrit) in schools as some of my friends got this impression when I was debating with them about this issue. In Indian schools already two languages are compulsory (regional language and English), so they teach languages which are essential for communication in today's world. Third language is for academic purpose, so let students choose which one they want to study. Students should get a choice, let them choose which Indian or foreign language they want to learn as third language. If they opt for Sanskrit then by all means teach it to them. I am sure it is a wonderful language like many others. Even though I studied that language for 3 years I am in no position to comment about that language as my opinion will be very biased. Sanskrit or any other language can not be revived by forcing people to learn it, this is not a correct method. Spread awareness about merits and demerits of learning Sanskrit, create enough job opportunities which will require people to know that language and then people will learn it on their own. Forcing it on students might create more students who might dislike that language (like me). I hope school authorities offer Sanskrit as an option for third language rather than making it a mandatory subject. Unfortunately these experiments are done only in government aided or sponsored schools, students studying in these schools are first victims of any such policy. Private schools where most Indian students study are not supposed to follow these guidelines. So the students studying in government sponsored schools are made guinea pigs to test such policies. No minister or leader bothers to think what can be a consequence of such decision on the mentality of students that too if it is implemented in the middle of school year. Every language deserves to be taught in school but proper platform should be developed and methods should be used so that students don't suffer. I hope interest of all students is taken into consideration before implementing any such decision which few people in sitting in air conditioned room think is right for everyone. 

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

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

1. Make Sanskrit compulsory: Singhal
2. German row: parents move court


  1. "So the point here is forcing any language on students is not going to make them like that subject or popularize that language."

    On first reading of your post I kinda get a feel that you are against forcing of Sanskrit because basically you are against any such forcing on school students. And again you have already been a victim so you have a first-hand experience.

    But then personally I feel that I had been forced to study history, civics, hindi in addition to drawing and craft. All of which I hated and still hate. My love was english, and science. I was neutral towards maths, french and geography. Now if I to simply go by your comment of giving me what i want and not forcing things on me i don't think the school board would even pay attention to what i want.

    "Students should get a choice, let them choose which Indian or foreign language they want to learn as third language."

    What's the use? Even if I choose a language of my choice why force other subjects like history on me. Why can't I have a choice there?

    "Sanskrit or any other language can not be revived by forcing people to learn it,"

    German and French are not taught for revival of language. They are taught because they can help people in future. As far as classical languages are concerned like Pali, Sanskrit, Ardhamagadhi they are learnt for research. A vast amount of literature of olden days lies stuffed in these languages and given the indifference shown by our own people a lot of research is still to be done on our past.

    - it is not just language that is forced there are lot of other unwanted subjects also which are forced.
    - if lets say i was offered subjects of my choice like english, oriya and science plus regional language of state shall i get a teacher for oriya if i am in gujarat or in karnataka? so anyways i have to take what is offered.
    - even if i was offered the choice of oriya i am not going to end up making a career in it. so why all the fuss about it.
    - as a child i looked at studies as a ritual, something sacred. It was only later that i learnt that all our school studies were only there to help us earn a living. nobody cares about what you learned there. if today you ask me who fought the second battle of panipat and in which year i am dead. or which bill gandhi opposed i am speechless. this was all forced down my throat. the idiots in the school board do not recognize that they waste precious years of childhood making a mock of studies. and what's more they do not even help us build a career. all schooling seems to be a piece of mess.

    in the end therefore it does not matter what they force us to learn as students and parents are only going to look at it from the point of securing more marks rather than actually understanding the spirit of learning.


    1. Thanks a lot Anirudh for sharing your opinion on this issue. If you read my post carefully then you must have read that I am not against teaching languages in school, as I mentioned in my post already two languages (regional and English) are compulsory in most of schools. I am clarifying this point again in case you missed it while reading the post. So it is not about language forced as a subject in curriculum but about giving an option to choose which 'third language' student want to study.

      What subjects should be included in curriculum and what shouldn't is altogether different issue and one can debate separately on it. This post is not about that issue. And for the sake or argument one can raise any point, for example many students or kids don't like to go to school so why to force them to study or go to school?? Why not to give them choice whether they want to study or not? So the topic of post is very specific, already there are many things in curriculum which are mandatory for students and many struggle to study those subjects for various reasons so rather than making their task easy please don't make it more hard, thats all, don't read anything more in this entire post.