When Should Kids be Taught about Bharat?

The panel members pulled no punches as they took many aspects of the education system head on, pointed out the flaws in the syllabus and didn’t even spare premier institutes like IIT and IIM. Sonali Shenoy reports

Published: 15th February 2016 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 12th February 2016 11:26 PM   |  A+A-

How early should children start learning about their country? This question brought forth tacit reactions from a panel including a life coach, a Deutsche Bank Global Strategist and a Jindal School professor. The hot debate dealt with topics as immense as the Phantom and Tarzan comics that intrinsically convey that black people can do nothing and always need a White man to come to their rescue.

P Kanagasabapathi, a Sastra University professor, who chaired this session, said, “If an ideal management graduate from India was asked about the primary sector of this country, they would still say it is Agriculture, when the truth is the agriculture sector contributes only 14 per cent of the GDP while the service sector contributes over 65 per cent. There is a need for mentoring students with the right perspective.”

Deutsche Bank’s Sanjay Sanyal spoke about how most history books are pushing the wrong ideas, “Much of the history books we have today is the history of our foreign invaders and more precisely the history of Delhi. If you are not from this part of the country you would not have heard of the Cholas, the Pandavas and the Vijayanagara Empire.”

According to Sanyal, many historians are too scared to replace the syllabus lest the government will charge them with right-wing bias. 

Laying stress on the debate of freedom of expression, Lata Shenava, life coach and trainer said, “Pick up any Hindi serial and all that you have is a child being molested, a woman being burnt, bonded labour, the Devadasi system. Every parent wants the child to go abroad and not come back.”

‘Nothing Destroys Childhood like IIT and IIM’

Professor Shiv Visvanathan may have been dismissed from four colleges and recently transferred from his latest department of work, but he lives to fight another day. And his message resonated with hundreds of high pressured students at the ThinkEdu Conclave 2016.

“Nothing destroys childhood like an IIT or IIM,” he said, to a roar of applause on Tuesday. The social scientist from Jindal School of Government and Public Policy in Haryana added to more cheers, “Childhood is about invention. As a friend said, our scientists are very good as summarisers, they are not originals. This is the problem with IIT. It teaches convergence, not divergence.”

The need of the hour is for teachers to introduce a sense of playfulness in their methods, he said.

He also pointed out that waiting a decade for government approvals to change a syllabus was not the way and perhaps it was time for a child to offer some perspective. “We need a child to tell the BJP emperor that he has no clothes.” Criticising the government for taking the joy out of learning, he said, “Childhood is a time of invention or joy. And I don’t see any joy in IIT or Mr Modi.”

Diversity over uniformity

Speaking for diversity over uniformity, Visvanathan said inventive thinking can hardly be encouraged when the focus is to get one and only one ‘correct’ answer in a pre-board exam, rather than explore the possibilities. “Science is about invention, new theories, new possibilities - and what we have are government programmes and official professors destroying this dream,” he added.

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