Restricting western influences denies students vistas of learning
Restricting western influences denies students the means to hold their own on a global stage.editorials Updated: Feb 18, 2016 00:31 IST
The effort to recast the curricula in schools and inculcate a sense of desi values in students at all levels seems to have become an obsession with both the Hindutva forces and some BJP-led state governments. The latest is the Rajasthan government, which has decided to drop poems by John Keats, Thomas Hardy, William Blake, TS Eliot and Edward Lear, among others from school books. Additions to the curriculum include works like ‘My visit to the bank’ and ‘Sangita the brave girl’. In another move, Banaras Hindu University has decided to undertake a year-long effort to educate students of the ills of western culture.
Rewriting textbooks in Haryana was in the news, thanks to the initiative of Dinanath Batra, the man who shot to fame for his contribution to publishers pulping Wendy Doniger’s seminal work on Hinduism. It is no one’s case that students should not learn about Indian culture or not study the works of Indian authors. But to restrict access to western literature is to deny them vistas of learning which will equip them to hold their own in a globalised world. Whether we like it or not, the knowledge of English is a great advantage when competing on the global stage and we are rightly proud of this. We should not fritter away this advantage due to some misplaced sense of nationalism. Why should students be denied knowledge or the sheer reading pleasure from the great works of English literature?
Often, these decisions to chop and change the curriculum are motivated by political considerations. Many of our netas who advocate Indianisation of the curriculum or lecture people on the evils of western culture make sure that their own children get an English-medium schooling and higher education abroad. In Rajasthan both the Indian works and the English ones can be learnt by students, it should not be a case of one or the other. The main aim of education should be to enable and empower students as they progress through the system and into the job market. Today, the market is not limited by borders. In the past, state governments like that in West Bengal abolished English as a medium of instruction. This led to an entire generation for whom employment opportunities were restricted. Current dispensations should at least take a leaf or two out of past books where efforts to stamp out foreign influences have not paid off.