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Question Pythagoras theorem and trim ‘Eurocentric’ concepts, observes the position paper of Karnataka’s NEP 2020

The state believes that introducing the ‘Bharatiya’ way of seeking education will help in highlighting the cultural identity of India among the students.

In an effort to introduce the ‘Bharatiya’ way of seeking education, the position paper of Karnataka’s National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 has laid down certain guidelines questioning the ‘Eurocentric’ concepts of education and instead giving priority to ‘ancient’ and ‘traditional’ knowledge.

The state believes this would help in highlighting the cultural identity of India among the students.

According to Madan Gopal, head of the Karnataka NEP task force, the position paper is a status report that every state has to upload in the public domain. This will be considered by the department of school education at the central level to later submit a guideline report for the National Curriculum Framework. The task force was constituted under the directions of former chief secretary HV Ranganath wherein over 26 committees were formed to prepare the position papers.

In the position paper of Knowledge of India, the guidelines encourage students to question the Pythagoras theorem and Newton’s law of gravity. It says, “ …encouraging an attitude of questioning and not merely accepting whatever the textbooks (or print/electronic/social media) say as infallible truth, with a clear foundation of how knowledge generation takes place and how fake news such as Pythagoras theorem, apple falling on Newton’s head etc. are created and propagated.” Instead, the paper emphasises on mentioning the importance of Bharatiya mathematicians such as Aryabhata’s numbering system, introduction to bhūtasaṅkhyā and kaṭapayādi systems (arithmetic). In fact, the position paper seeks to trim down the sections on Greek mathematics, especially the depictions of the faces of ‘Greek mathematicians’ such as Pythagoras and Heron.

The position paper also observes that there needs to be a shift from the ‘Eurocentric’ history of science and introduce ‘Bharata’s’ contributions to this field. “In subjects like science, particularly chemistry and physics, the current textbooks do not mention anything about ancient and medieval Bhārata’s contributions to this field. There needs to be a serious shift of focus and gaze from the Eurocentric history of science,” the paper reads.

The same paper also notes that Smrti (Manusmrti) has often been subject to ‘unwarranted controversy’ and it is important to introduce the ‘injunctions’ the text carries. It mentions that, “even though Manusmṛti contains lofty ideals of public and societal good, it has become controversial to the extent that its very name solicits unwarranted bemoan from a section of our society. It will be a matter of surprise to learn that injunctions to the effect of prohibiting the spilling of pollutants, leftovers, blood or poison in water; spitting in water; urinating on the streets or in the barns; defecating/urinating in fields, canals, mountains, fire places, dilapidated Devālayas; littering river banks is mentioned in Manusmṛti.”

Meanwhile, the position paper of Language education focuses on the need to learn ancient and classical languages such as Sanskrit, Persian and Pali. In order to learn the concepts of solar eclipses and the solar system, it refers to the story of ‘Taittirīya Saṁhitā’ where the Moon is said to have 27 wives, with whom he spends one night each.

Speaking to indianexpress.com, Gopal said, “The position paper is only a status report of what Karnataka thinks about the need for changes in school education. The left ecosystem cannot impose intellectual fascism and dismiss other points of views. In fact, a deeper research into the findings of international scientific forums show that there is no such person called Pythagoras and it was the name of a school. Meanwhile, Manusmrti is part of the several other ‘dharma shastras’ on how to lead a life. However we are not denying that there exists some controversial texts in Manusmriti which are open to debate. The position paper also highlights that the local language that is Kannada and any Bharatiya language (not just Sanskrit) must be given importance in school education.”

Educationist and Chairperson of one of the position papers titled ‘Emerging trends of community participation’ said, “It is clear from the introduction in the position papers that the government wants to introduce the Bharatiya way of education. It is not surprising and they are just testing the waters. However I believe, knowledge and concepts cannot be based on oral texts, Vedic practices and puranas. It should be based on scientific research and with a consensus from experts in academia. Sanskrit was a complex language and was not universal to everybody. That is why other languages such as Pali, came into existence. Most of the concepts that are now being introduced as Bharatiya knowledge, were discarded long back due to lack of clarity and no concrete evidence.”

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