New Delhi: In a meeting with the Gujarat education minister and other officials of the department, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) reportedly pushed for Sanskrit to be made a mandatory subject in the state’s schools from Class 1 onwards.
The meeting between the Sangh and state education minister Jitu Vaghani, education department officials and Ratnakar, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) organisational general secretary for Gujarat, took place in April this year on the topic of the implementation of the National Education Policy (NEP), 2020, according to a report by the Indian Express.
The NEP, 2020 was the third such education policy in India and it was passed in July, 2020.
It proposed a number of sweeping changes to the educational structure of the country, such as a shift from the traditional ‘10+2’ structure to a ‘5+3+3+4’ structure, introducing multiple exit and entry points; to reduce the curricular load on the students in favour of more ‘experiential learning’; and a push for making all universities ‘multidisciplinary’.
Importantly, the NEP recommends making a student’s mother tongue/local language the primary medium of instruction until Class 5 and recommends that it be carried forward until Class 8 “wherever possible”.
As part of the Policy’s ‘three language formula’, two of the three languages a student learns in school should be native to India. While the draft policy states that the choice lies with both the school and the student, the extent to which the latter will be able to decide remains unclear.
Further, an earlier draft of the NEP had called for Hindi to be made compulsory until Class 8 in states where it is not spoken, but after intense protests from southern states, the provision was removed.
Since education is a legislative topic on the concurrent list, (meaning both the Union and state governments are entitled to make laws on it) the provisions of the NEP are not binding and its implementation will be done through consultations between Union government departments and those of the state government too. The Union government had suggested the year 2040 as the deadline for the complete implementation of the NEP.
The Express report details that in the meeting, the RSS and its affiliate organisations pitched for the state government to dedicate at least six periods a week to teaching Sanskrit.
RSS-affiliates present in the meeting, like Vidya Bharati, Shaishik Mahasangh, Samskrita Bharati, Bhartiya Shikshan Mandal, are thought to have focused primarily on Sanskrit teaching during the meeting.
Other suggestions from the Hindutva outfit were reportedly that the Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagavad Gita be taught in schools; that ‘Vedic Maths’ be made compulsory; value-based educations from the Upanishads and Vedas be introduced; and private universities be regulated.
Beyond primary school education, the Sangh has reportedly sought for Gujarati to be taught as the first language and Sanskrit as the second in secondary and higher secondary education, leaving the third language to be chosen by the state government.
Further, it has sought to make Sanskrit compulsory in Class 11 and 12 for students seeking admission to Bachelors of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (BAMS) programmes.
A member of the Sangh-affiliate Samskrita Bharati told the newspaper that the NEP is unclear on the role of Sanskrit in education and thus consultation on the issue is required.
Further, the member noted that while the NEP states that no language will be made compulsory, English is taught to all students.
“Now, how the formula will be explained and interpreted is up to the government,” the Express quoted the member as saying.
Sources mentioned in the report claim that a follow-up meeting on the NEP between the RSS and the state government will take place in July this year.
This article was first published on The Wire.