The National Education Policy 2020 envisions an educational system fashioned on the lines of India’s linguistic, cultural and artistic heritage.
It is important to document the evolution of India as a country, and it is equally important to to pass on the knowledge to the next generation in order to keep the civilization alive. India, being one of the most diverse entities, carries a world within itself. This is the most important component of India's unity and strength. The edifice of India’s integrity rests on the bulwark of its refined erudition. This progressive intellectualism stems from its cultural moorings and civilizational roots. There is so much to study, explore and admire about the Indian Civilization that it would take an entire generation of researchers and committed individuals to prepare a well positioned disquisition about it. In this pursuit, it becomes all the more important to delve deeper into the Indian languages, art and culture, scholastically.
India has been a blue-ribbon education provider in the past. It was home to the most advanced educational institutions like Nalanda, Takshila, Vikramshila, etc. These institutions were not just mediums providing education, they were the embodiment of Indian ethos and philosophy. These places were the abode of knowledge and dealt in formalised methods of Buddhist teaching. They were residential universities and did not taper around the mundane educational curriculum. In fact, these centers nurtured the inner capabilities of the students and developed a way of life among them. The National Education Policy as the first such document of the 21st century aims to reconfigure the education system of India on this framework. With its emphasis on the rejuvenation of Indian languages, arts and culture, the NEP 2020 is a propitious policy structure.
The educational ecosystem of India is reeling under the ills of Westernization, excessive privatisation and an exclusion from its cultural underpinnings. This alienation from its indigenous wealth can be termed as one of the reasons why not much was achieved in the domain of education n the 21st century. Achieving literacy targets is insufficient for intellectual enlightenment of the masses. Being home to one of the youngest populations in the world, it is the moral responsibility of the stakeholders in Indian educational system to guarantee universal literacy and proper functioning school and higher education infrastructure. This is not plausible without resorting to our venerable assets and accentuating their importance in school and higher education. It was in our providence that we are linguistically so diverse and hence it becomes an ethical necessity for all of us to reinstate these languages with the estimation and consideration that they deserve.
Languages are a medium of articulation for any culture. They mirror our lifestyle and traditions. It would be wise on our part to be thoughtful in discerning the importance of languages in the contrivance of our fraternal spirit that happened to shape our society since times immemorial. A plethora of measures have been taken in this direction. The promotion of multilingualism is a welcome step that would be concertized by the three language formula. The government reiterates the vitality of indigenous languages by prescribing mother tongue as the medium of instruction wherever possible without making it mandatory for any particular language to be employed across the country. It is true that Indian languages have undergone the perils of extinction. We have lost as many as 200 languages owing to our constant adherence to majoritarianism. As much as the Indian languages beautify our discourse and add to our cultural heritage, they are also the indispensable threads of the fabric that constitutes the Indian identity at large. In order to preserve and procreate the Indian identity, it is of primary importance to preserve the Indian languages. The provision of prescribing the mother tongue as the medium of education runs contrary to the one-size-fits-all system of the erstwhile frameworks. For a country as dynamic as India, we need to construct on our particularities that would eventually lead to our individual development.
Our education would be of little use, if it would not be cognizant of the culture and knowledge of the place we study in. To incentivise local music, art, languages, etc local artists and craftpersons would be employed. This would create an incentive for young scholars to study and take up research in local attributes. The accentuation on traditional Indian knowledge including the tribal credo will lead to expansion in the knowledge base and would refine the content of the curriculum. There is so much to learn from the tribal gospel and it is a disgrace that it was ostracised from the society for so long. The inclusion of these systems would enrich the curriculum beyond measure and bring with itself enormous potential.
The flexibility granted in the curriculum, especially in the secondary schools and higher education would emancipate the students from the draining quest of trying to fit in one box. This was a much needed reform as the former system was essentially compartmentalized. The ingeniousness of students would only develop and thrive if their artistic and creative elements are provided space to flourish. This would create possibilities for students and would open floodgates of opportunities.
Many of us who wanted to traverse through the beauty of India are unable to do so due to financial and other limitations. The budding tourism industry of India has gigantic prospects. The ‘Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat’ Program would help inculcate regard and respect among the youth towards their country and its endowment. Hundred tourist destinations will be shortlisted where educational institutions would be sending their students to conduct probation. An Indian Institute of Translation and Interpretation (IITI) will be established so as to make available quality content in various languages and it would be emboldened by robust use of technology. High quality programs and degrees in translation and interpretation, art museum administration, archaeology, artifact conservation, graphic design and web design within the higher educations will also be created. All these provisions would create employment and would lead to the wider objective of economic and inclusive development.
For a country like India that is staggering under the economic and employment challenges, more so under the COVID-19 Pandemic, any arrangement that would create jobs is worthwhile. Specialization in the above fields would also create a professional environment and would diversify the Indian educational landscape. At the same time this would also lead to efficient conservation of Indian heritage and legacy.
The decision to bring Sanskrit language into mainstream is one of the most potent instructions in the policy. Sanskrit is considered to be one of the oldest, purest, impeccable and scientific languages of the world. It is an elder sister to the Ancient Classical Languages of Europe and the Modern North and South Indian languages are derived from it. Sanskrit Grammar has not been subject to change as it passed from one stage to another. Therefore, it would be in the earnest interest of students across streams to learn the language. Sanskrit would not longer be confined to single stream Sanskrit Universities. It would be connected to other relevant subjects of the contemporary times. Further, National Institute for Pali, Persian and Prakrit will also be set up within a University Campus.
In order to address the recent developments in the languages mentioned in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution of India, Academies will be established, consisting of some of the greatest scholars and native speakers to determine accurate vocabulary for the latest concepts. A web-based portal would be forged to maintain and preserve all Indian languages and their associated rich local arts and culture.
The National Education Policy 2020 bears testimony to the fact that the Indian Education System was in dire need of a monumental overhaul. The endangerment of the Indian languages, art and culture and its outcomes on the merit and overall performance of the Indian Society is a prime example of how one should never neglect one’s origin. The distinct place that India holds at the global stage is only because of its cultural developments and civilizational history. People from across the world turn back to India for their spiritual and transcendental elevation. India has so much to offer to the world and it is only strange that we could not gain as much we could from our own patrimony. Initiatives such as Guru Shishya Parampara, Shilpgram, Octave, NCEP, etc. were meant to restore our historical footprints but were somehow falling short of the desired results.
The National Education Policy 2020 envisions an educational system fashioned on the lines of India’s profuse linguistic, cultural and artistic heritage. Since it is only a policy document and education being a concurrent subject, it would be up to the States on how much they wish to adhere to it. It is an earnest attempt in the right direction that needs to be incorporated in public policy so as to become consequential.
(Mridani Pandey is an Intern with Academics4Nations. She is currently a Research Scholar at Department of Political Science, University of Allahabad.)