SRI KIREET JOSHI ON SANSKRIT
It has been suggested that curriculum development is essentially a process of qualitative improvement. This is, of course, true; but what the country needs most urgently today is to liberate the educational system from the Macaulayan mould in which it has been so rigidly fixed that we need to propose to the country some radical strategies which would show how a new mould can be created, which would reflect the results of experiments which are going on since the last hundred years in certain progressive corners of India and the world. Indeed, it may be argued that this task could legitimately fall outside the purview of the exercises involved in the development of a national curriculum framework. But this argument is indefensible, since it is necessary to point out how the present mould of education prevents the implementation of some of the innovative ideas which have already been pronounced in the past, and which have been repeated also in the present document.
The discussion document frankly admits that the three language formula exists “only in our curriculum documents and other policy statements.” (p. 39) The document points out that some States follow only a two-language formula, and that where even three-language formula is followed, there is no unanimity as to what should be the third language. But having studied all the relevant facts, and even when pertinent questions have been raised, the document does not come forth adequately in respect of an important and urgent issue. This issue relates to the study of Sanskrit.
Indeed, the document advocates the cause of cultural heritage, not only because it is a part of fundamental duties but also because every educational system must necessarily be the carrier of the cultural heritage, for building the bridges between past, present and future. But how can, it may be asked, this aim be realised without Sanskrit? For in any impartial view of our culture, Sanskrit stands out prominently as a language that has in India a history of more than five thousand years and has even a distinction of being even today a pan-Indian language and also a living language, since it even now continues to grow and develop, absorb modern idioms and is vibrant in the air and atmosphere of Indian cultural life which is shared by the largest masses of common people. One does not know how the aim of the duty that has been cast by the Constitution to preserve and nourish the cultural heritage can be fulfilled if we are to neglect the study of Sanskrit. In addition to the constitutional duty, Sanskrit needs also to be taught on the ground that greatest stores of knowledge concerning self-culture and self-perfection are to be found in Sanskrit, and the new scenario of knowledge that we want to build up demands the recovery of that knowledge so as to synthesise it with and even illuminate the modern trends of knowledge. Moreover, several disciplines of knowledge which were developed in India in the past, such as astronomy, mathematics, natural sciences and medicine need. to be brought to the attention of the scholars of modern knowledge with living sharpness. One is, therefore, compelled to conclude that Sanskrit needs to be taught not only at an elementary level but even at higher levels of competence.
To the argument that the three-language formula does not permit any direct entry to Sanskrit in our educational system, one sharp answer could be that if a language formula does not serve the real purpose of education that is being conceived and advocated, then it is high time to review that language formula. The discussion document could have at least brought out forcefully the need for such a review. At the same time, the following three constructive suggestions can be put forth, even in the context of our present disabling condition:
- Sanskrit could be made a part of the curriculum of the study of the cultural heritage of India.
- Sanskrit could officially be encouraged as an optional extracurricular language throughout the entire system of school education; and
- The country should establish institution schools exclusively devoted to the teaching of those languages which foster the preservation and transmission of our cultural heritage. (We may note that such schools have been developed by the British Council and Alliance Francaise, which are open both for students and members of the public). Proficiency acquired in these schools could also be given recognition by boards of examinations, colleges and universities.