A panel on NEP from Karnataka has come out with a position paper on ‘Knowledge of India’, which has been submitted to the department of State Educational Research and Training.
In its 30-page long paper, the panel has made a host of observations which includes imparting ‘traditional knowledge’ and practice to school children and also sensitising them about the nation and its knowledge system. The paper has also stirred controversy for terming the Pythagoras theorem and an apple falling on Newton’s head as "fake news."
The position paper also recommends that the students be taught the language of their native tongue, English, and one of the other Indian national languages, preferably Sanskrit, as a third language.
The panel further wants to introduce schools students to texts like Valmiki’s Kaccit-sarga from the Ramayana, Vyasa’s Santiparva from the Mahabharata, and Kautilya’s Arthasastra as a part of social sciences textbooks. In sciences, the panel recommends Pancha Mahabuta, Tridosa theory, and six rasa-based classification of food and concept of disease as chapters.
'Bharatiya vs Eurocentric' Approaches to Teaching
Many moons ago, legend has it that Sir Issac Newton formulated his greatest theory on gravitation after watching an apple fall from tree. Similarly, centuries ago, Greek mathematician Archimedes had his ‘Eureka’ moment in a bathtub and realised that the more his body sank into the water, the more water is displaced – making the displaced water an exact measure of his volume. This eventually came to be called the Archimedes Principle.
The paper on knowledge of India, contests the above two claims and asserts that the knowledge system of India is far superior and ancient than the findings of the West.
The paper prepared by a team of experts from IITs and other reputed universities across India, wishes to introduce ‘Knowledge of India’ through the prisms of language, epistemology, history, art, and aesthetics using a "multidisciplinary" approach.
The main focus of the paper is to assert the "ancient knowledge systems" of India and help compete with other countries which are patenting several papers and innovations to their name.
Speaking to The Quint, Madan Gopal, chairperson of NEP task force in Karnataka said, “Knowledge of India is not about rubbishing the inventions of the West, but to apprise students that these scientific findings predates the West and the ones which can be found in Vedic literature.”
The chairman of the Karnataka NEP task force also claims that the Pythagoras theorem had its origins in India.
“Students must learn and understand the fact that not everything came from the West. There are documentary evidences to suggest that contributions from India benefited humanity. There are also discussions which are on-going about how Newton borrowed a few ideas from Indic literatures."Mandan Gopal, Chairman, NEP Task Force in Karnataka
Apart from propounding Indian systems of knowledge, the panel also wishes to rewrite certain parts of history, which it claims to be untold.
The paper suggests that it is near impossible to talk about 'Hindu genocide', while in the West, Holocaust denial is a declared statutory crime.
What Are the Problems Concerning the Pedagogic Approach Suggested by Karnataka NEP Panel?
Pedagogy means the method and practice of teaching young children. However, experts suggest that andragogy, the method and practice of teaching adult learners, and heutagogy, the method of self-determined learning also needs to be adapted into education policy.
The NEP is charged with focusing only on pedagogy and not learning methods. The paper, which is an extension of NEP's agenda fails to address different learning outcomes, and instead centres around revival of 'golden Indic past.'
According to the committee headed by Dr V Ramanathan of IIT (BHU) in Varanasi, India is not just a land demarcated land by Cyril Radcliffe or just the union of states constituted into a sovereign democratic republic. Rather, the it is based on a legendary geographic entity, from where various reams of knowledge flourished.
These different literatures from Vedas, Smritis, and Shastras is what is being termed as 'Knowledge of India'. It is with this fundamental approach that the panel suggests reassertion of the golden past of ancient India and effectively recourse teaching methods across Indian schools.
Meanwhile, educationalists feel that knowledge is free flowing and cannot be categorised into specific silos.
"I might be thinking of Pythagoras theorem in India and call it Baudayana sutras, the same can be true of a person in Pakistan who can name it something else. However, what is important is that the theorem remains the same, but the panel wishes to compartmentalise knowledge. This according to me is problematic as it defeats the purpose of NEP," says economist Prof RS Deshpande in his interaction with The Quint.
While, the Indian knowledge system was well developed, Prof Deshpande feels that we must acknowledge that it was enclosed and limited to very few in the society for centuries, and resurrecting ancient knowledge system could be beneficial only when there has been any real development in the same field.
The objective of the paper and agenda of NEP appears to uphold ancient Indian frameworks of education, religion, science and philosophy by communicating to the students some ideas of the past.
Speaking to The Quint, Prof Deshpande further added, "Neither the NEP nor the paper by experts appointed by Government of Karnataka have anything to do with learning. Pedagogy alone is foolish. We must adapt different learning approaches and contribute to society by spreading knowledge."
Focus Not on Education, But on Hindu Identity: Experts' Criticism
Experts who spoke to The Quint also feel that the concern of the paper has been more about Hindus being victims than educating children.
Meanwhile, Kannada Professor Purushottam Bilimale alleged that the panel to be politically motivated in their recommendations.
"I have read the NEP and it is definitely a good policy. But, the panel seems to be appropriating it for political reasons. Today, the right-wing has no intellectuals or social critics and naturally, they wish to go back to ancient texts to make their false arguments seem fair.
A month ago, the Rohith Chakrathirtha committee on revision of textbook in Karnataka were also accused of saffronisation of textbooks and selective dropping of texts by Dalit and progressive writers in Karnataka.
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