The story of how legendary mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan was able to get a degree in Cambridge University after failing university exams thrice in India shows the deep flaws in the Indian education system, scientist Roddam Narasimha said.
Speaking on Sunday at the release of the Kannada translation of Robert Kanigel’s The Man Who Knew Infinity, a biography of Ramanujan, the aerospace engineer reflected on how Ramanujan could never get through the Indian education system.
“Ramanujan was a bright student in school. However, he started suffering as he progressed higher. He failed thrice in his university exams in English and other subjects, except mathematics. He failed his last-ever university exam in 1907. However, nine years later, he received a BA degree through research at Cambridge. In 1918, he was elected to the Royal Society. What did the British do to him that we are still unable to do to our students?” Narasimha asked. This is a question from Ramanujan’s life that is unanswered, he said. “The arithmetic of marks has abolished all other forms of judgment,” he added.
Kanigel’s book was translated into Kannada by C S Aravinda, an associate professor at the Centre for Applicable Mathematics at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR). Titled Anantada Odanaatadalli, Aravinda took about a year to finish the translation. The book is published by the National Book Trust and is priced at `480.
“Ramanujan’s story is still relevant. It tells us that language should never come in the way of mathematical learning,” Aravinda said. When asked for his views on the medium of instruction in schools, he said, “They should learn in Kannada till Class-4. Our children should have a base in their own language to help them learn further.”