Religion and education in the subcontinent

That history, culture and religion are being tortured in schools across South Asia is disputed only by those who design and endorse the curriculum. Most of the focus is, of course, on the madrasses in Pakistan, especially following 9/11 and the renewed interest in the Taleban. (Here’s a fairly detailed look at madrasses in Pakistan.) Much less attention has been paid to the 20,000 Vidya Bharati schools run by the Sangh parivar. This review of D. N. Jha, The Myth of the Holy Cow by Susan Watkins published sometime ago in The New Left Review may help people become aware of the neglected side of indoctrination in the subcontinent.

“That Jesus roamed the Himalayas, absorbing Vedic wisdom from the gurus he encountered; that the human race originated in Tibet; that the gods reside in the body of the cow, mother of us all—all this has long been taught as established fact in the 20,000 Vidya Bharati schools run under the auspices of the Sangh parivar, the hardline Hindu-nationalist network that lies behind India’s ruling party, the BJP. The Vidya Bharati agenda has already been introduced into primary and secondary schools in BJP-run states, where education policy is often a pawn in coalition deals with regional parties. In 2001, the Sangh-dominated National Council of Educational Research and Training began deleting and rewriting sections of the history textbooks—removing, among other things, any reference to Indian traditions of eating beef. In January 2002, NCERT produced a new history syllabus, founded on its ‘value-based’ national curriculum framework for the country’s schools, which had proposed introducing courses on Vedic mathematics and a ‘spirituality quotient’ as a form of academic assessment.”