Despite scientific evidence to prove that the West is indebted to India for its contributions to education, Indian students have low self esteem as global citizens. This came up during a discussion on 'Indian Higher Education is overly influenced by the West'. And while mixed views prevailed, one point was spelled out loud and clear -- "Indian educators need to be educated about India," said S Gurumurthy, co-convenor, Swadeshi Jagaran Manch. Most teachers are not aware of the fact that several 'lauded' systems of education used in the West originated from right here (India), albeit centuries ago. And Taxila and Nalanda weren't the only references in this regard.
"Not many people know that we as a nation have contributed to primary education in Britain," said S Vaidhyasubramaniam, dean-planning and development, SASTRA University. He was referring to Andrew Bell's 'Madras system' that was inspired during a visit to the South when he came into with a school conducted by a single master through the medium of the scholars themselves. According to the method, every boy was made once a master and a scholar. The panelists went on to add that such glorious accounts of our nation's academic contributions to the world were not taught in Universities. "It's ignorance," said Gurumurthy. "For example, how many people know that a majority of our plumbers come from one small village in Orissa?"
This apart, the cultural merits of the country have not been embraced by the current academic syllabus in schools and colleges. "Why aren't Indian epics a part of our syllabus?" asked Amita Sharma, Additional Secretary (Technical), Department of Higher Education, MHRD. "We grow up reading Homer and Dickens, but not the Panchatantra or Jataka tales... " While most of the panelists agreed that students and educators were more ignorant than anything else to India's academic legacy from centuries past - the present academic scenario was reflected on in shades of grey. "Our schools bring in specialisations too early,"said Savita Mahajan, deputy dean, Indian School of Business (ISB). "Fifteen-year-olds are asked to decide on their choice of subjects and then they're bound to them for life," she elaborated. In this regard, drawing from the West seems a good idea, the speaker opined. "Every University in the American system is multi-disciplinary," she cited and went on to add further, "the transfer of credits is another system they have that would offer our students more flexibility".