Smriti Irani’s KV policy – Lost in translation

Updated: Nov 16, 2014, 20:04 PM IST

I don’t know what Smriti Irani – our venerable HRD minister – has in mind when she formulates policies, but with a stroke of a pen she is jeopardising the prospects of so many students in India.

How would she have felt if the school curriculum changed in the middle of the year? She would have felt marooned on an island in the middle of the ocean. Her intention to strike off German from the language course is brazen and bizarre, particularly as it comes mid-term. Students have already laboured over the subject for two to three semesters and should not be expected to spruce up their knowledge of Sanskrit mid-way, just because the idea has caught the fancy of the enlightened HRD minister, who unfortunately has the power to formulate and amend guidelines that affect lakhs of children.

Even if Irani is hell bent on implementing her bright idea, could she have not waited for another few months and then brought about the change in the new academic year!

That of course is just the basic point. The other being whether such a policy change is retrograde rather than forward looking and contrary to the promise the Modi government has been making about making India future ready.

Either we must have the vision and will to push through our ancient language and revive it to make it relevant in a manner that the Jews have resurrected Hebrew, or simply think of a better idea.

Undoubtedly, there are benefits of learning Sanskrit – it opens the door to a large oeuvre of profound philosophy, and also some relevant techniques of learning sciences and mathematics.

But if we can’t make Sanskrit a mass language, let the kids learn something that is useful and will help them in their careers.

I would have recommended opening the ambit of the course on foreign languages even larger and liked to give children the choice between French, Mandarin, German and Japanese. It would vastly help them access new technology and make inroads into new territories for higher education, and later for business and employment.

While chairing the 99th meeting of the Board of Governors of the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan this week, Smriti Irani said the MoU signed in 2011, which enabled German to be taught in government schools, was “unconstitutional” and called for its termination, as it was in “violation of national policy of education”.

Did she realize she was playing with the future of over 68,0000 students in some 500 KVs across the country? Does she understand that Germany is one the top 5 destinations for Indian students wishing to pursue college level education abroad? Would the knowledge of German not come handy then!

Crucially, the policy puts government school educated students at a distinct disadvantage against pupils in private or public schools, where multiple foreign language courses can be offered under the CBSE framework.

Possibly, Smriti Irani may have aimed at pleasing some party or RSS bosses by re-introducing Sanskrit in such a jarring fashion, but she does much disservice to the younger generation.

Had India not embraced English whole-heartedly after Independence, we would not have accrued advantages attached to knowing the language today, when the country has opened its economy.

No one is against preserving and nurturing our heritage, Sanskrit very much being a part of it, but I would have liked to see Smriti Irani come up with some practicable ideas towards its restoration in modern life than rhetorical and retrospective actions that serve no one’s purpose except hers.

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