Why the NEP must spell out ‘ancient knowledge'
If the definition of ancient knowledge is kept open-ended and undefined in NEP, we are headed towards a dangerous whirl.
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The New Education Policy (NEP) has proposed a paradigm shift in the Indian education system at all levels – from early learning to higher education. While most of the reforms suggested have been recommended by various expert committees in the past, several new elements have also been added.
NEP recognises that the purpose of the education system is to develop good human beings capable of rational thought and action, evidence-based thinking and possessing scientific temper and ethical values. (Photo: Reuters)
NEP recognises that the purpose of the education system is to develop good human beings capable of rational thought and action, evidence-based thinking and possessing scientific temper and ethical values. At the same time, it envisions an education system “rooted in Indian ethos” for “transforming India, that is Bharat” into a knowledge society. NEP mentions contributions of ancient Indians to “mathematics, astronomy, metallurgy, medical science and surgery, civil engineering, architecture, shipbuilding and navigation, yoga, fine arts, chess, and more.” Such legacies, it says, should be “researched, enhanced, and put to new uses through our education system.”
In principle, there is no contradiction between scientific temper and promoting traditional knowledge and ancient science. For decades, science academies have researched into the work of ancient astronomers and mathematicians as well as texts like Charak Samhita. Study of traditional medical systems too is an established discipline. But introducing modules on ancient knowledge at different levels of education is altogether different. First, ‘ancient knowledge’ itself has become contested territory in recent years, with everything from virtues of cow urine to herbal Covid cure claiming the title. If all such claims are considered ‘ancient knowledge’ and subjected to research, it will drain on our institutions that are already starved of research funds. Second, it will open flood gates for mythological tales such as Pushpak vimana touted as an example of aerospace engineering to creep into textbooks. To think this knowledge can be useful in the contemporary world, as NEP says, is farfetched. You can’t expect Indian Space Research Organisation to dip into ancient texts before developing next spaceship to Mars or a transplant surgeon to look for clues from Ganesh’s plastic surgery. If the definition of ancient knowledge is kept open-ended and undefined in NEP, we are headed towards a dangerous whirl.
(Courtesy of Mail Today)