Integrating India’s Heritage in Indian Education – Part 1
“Indian” education? Few countries boast such a rich cultural heritage as India, yet the average Indian student is exposed to almost none of it. Such is the painful paradox of “modern” Indian education. The degenerate outcome of colonial policies reinforced rather than reformed after Independence, India’s educational system fails to instil into young Indians a dynamic awareness and understanding of their country’s achievements and civilizing influences in various fields and at various epochs, including today. Slogans such as “unity in diversity” have acquired a hollow ring, especially when what constitutes and nurtures this “unity” is carefully kept out of sight.
The unspoken line of thinking underlying this attitude is that India’s cultural heritage is basically useless to students: in the rat race for jobs, it would only be dead baggage to them. Cultural heritage is fine for political speeches, museums, and to attract foreign tourists, but not for teaching: no one should doubt that all useful knowledge comes from the West. India cannot, therefore, generate knowledge: her ultimate ambition should only be to become an efficient recipient of knowledge generated elsewhere. No longer the land of Knowledge, only a pale colony.
Macaulay would have been delighted to see how faithfully we have followed his dictums. To anyone with a living culture, it should be clear that such an attitude can never foster self-confidence in students. It leaves them at best ignorant of, and at worst inimical to, what India has stood for in world history. It ingrains in them a subservient mindset that sees the West as the ultimate reference point. Not that Indian education should be anti-West, of course, but why should it be so hostile to Indian culture both in theory and in practice?
In reality, to integrate Indian culture and heritage in the curriculum would do students a great service: it would equip them with a more concrete knowledge of their country and the mind of its people, which can only help them in any professional life; it would give them a sense of belonging to a stream of civilization instead of being meaningless individuals drifting in space and time; it would instil in them some of the great values that India stood for at the peak of her creativity, such as truthfulness, courage, and a harmony between individual and collective dharma; it would enrich and refine them, bring them a deeper perspective of things, and ultimately a greater ability to deal with life’s challenges by helping them towards a balanced and harmonized personality. Are such lifelong benefits contemptible? Are they not part of what a meaningful education should provide? And can mugging up a few dry facts about past dynasties, wars and betrayals provide them?
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