Tulsi-worship, rote-learning, Hanuman’s food habits: What Karnataka’s NEP 2020 position papers say

National Education Policy 2020: Karnataka’s NEP “position papers” intended to ‘create a Hindu religious jingoistic mind’, said an educators’ body.

The position papers call for teaching students about Indian foods and "rejecting pizza, burgers" (source: Shutterstock)The position papers call for teaching students about Indian foods and "rejecting pizza, burgers" (source: Shutterstock)

Team Careers360 | July 13, 2022 | 05:32 PM IST

By Atul Krishna, R. Radhika, Sanjay

NEW DELHI: The paper on health promotes prejudice against meat-eaters, says eating eggs causes “hormonal imbalance” and suggests having yoga gurus oversee mid-day meals.

The paper on pedagogy argues that memorsiation has a different connotation in India and, therefore, rote-learning must not be discouraged. The paper on environment education suggests chanting while bathing and worshipping tulsi plants. The one on knowledge of India recommends teaching Manusmriti, covering “Hindu genocide”, and trimming sections on Pythagoras, Heron and others because according to it, “Pythagoras theorem” is “fake news”.

Karnataka’s department of state educational research and training recently made 26 “position papers” on the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 public. Drafted by different focus groups on the direction of the ministry of education, these are meant to guide the implementation of the NEP 2020 in textbooks and curriculum design for the state's school education.

They caused controversy immediately, prompting the group, All India Save Education Committee to issue a statement demanding that the paper on Knowledge of India be withdrawn. “The skewed history of BJP belittles the contributions of world civilisations and attributes fictitious claims to our predecessors,” says the statement. “By false glorification of ancient India the BJP intends to instil ‘Hindu pride’ and “create a Hindu religious jingoistic mind.” The recent textbook revision in Karnataka – along the same religio-political lines as these papers – drew much criticism.

Careers360 looked at some of the position papers and has compiled their broad prescriptions below.

Curriculum, pedagogy: ‘Memorisation practices’, ‘English-knowing arrogance’

The paper is positioned against “western lines” of thought and education and says those who emerge from it “will think in a certain British way”. It insists that “Bharath needs to be understood through Indian eyes”. To cite as example, the paper says: “There are cultural anomalies and differences like the caste system. But despite these anomalies, India has its own way of life. But west found and equated many terms which it can perceive in its own way. Indian practices are called Hinduism as religion when there was no religion in this country.”

The discomfort with English-speaking, urban India shows up also in its section on free-speech. The paper says students cannot speak freely due to others’ “urban arrogance, English knowing arrogance and such attitudes” and suggests that schools have a designated space where students can speak freely.

In its attempt to restore the “Indian” perspective on everything, it goes against the NEP’s position on rote-learning, a key point in the policy.

“Memorisation in India has a different connotation,” says the paper. “Shruthi and sthuthi samskrithi of India produced one of the great knowledge systems. This memorisation is different from rote learning.…Veda, Upanishad, Purana are all learnt through memorization techniques which did not hamper development of brain cells. One has to understand India through Indian eyes. But till date rote learning and memorisation are equated in western lines and always avoided. NCF 2005 and Even NEP 2020 also feel to do away from memorisation.”

The paper says there “needs to be a clear stand from Karnataka to adopt the age-old memorisation practices without hampering the development of brain cells”.

The recent controversy in Karnataka over Muslim students wearing Hijab to schools has found mention, albeit obliquely. The paper states that different schools imposing different dress codes has resulted in “unequal feelings among students”. Adding to the rather confused framing, the paper parenthetically adds: “The notion like Uniformity itself is against to Indian ethos, but it is required with local specifications.”

Knowledge of India: Teach Manusmriti, Pythagoras theorem ‘fake news’

Drafted by a team led by Indian Institute of Technology Banaras Hindu University (IIT-BHU) professor, the position paper on “knowledge of India” is meant to guide teaching of “how India was able to achieve stellar prosperity and being the knowledge lighthouse for the world until the recent past”. It begins by all but rejecting the Constitutional definition of India in favour of “Bharata” of the Visnu-Purana.

The paper bases its prescriptions on the assumption that “our young students are not even aware of what our ancestors have achieved over different millennia in various fields of knowledge”.

karnataka school news, what are the policies of bjp, bjp changing textbooks, karnataka school latest news, karnataka nep 2020, karnataka textbook, karnataka nep implementationNEP 2020 position paper suggests Sanskrit be taught as a third language

It claims that “Christianity and Islam are presented in individual chapters” and “Bhārata's culture and its civilization’s main accomplishments are not highlighted”. It proposes chapters on “Hindu genocide” like “events such as the genocide of the Malabar Hindus (referred to as the Moplah riots), the genocide of Maharashtrian brahmins, the genocide and exodus of Kashmiri Hindus”. It recommends overhauling history textbooks but claims “the purpose is neither to stoke communal passions nor to feed the rancour”.

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The paper says that a majority of claims of ‘Greek’ science is based on “scanty, and many times, fudged evidence.” “While there is hardly any evidence for an apple actually falling on Newton’s head or Archimedes realising buoyancy when in the bathtub, such stories are famous and widely told and retold,” it says. It suggests that representation of Greek mathematicians such as Pythagoras, Heron need to be trimmed.

The paper said students must develop the habit 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”.

The paper suggests teaching Sanskrit as a third language to school children and introducing Manusmriti and ancient numerical systems like Bhuta-sankhya and katapayadi-sankhya paddhati and other concepts from ancient Indian texts in the syllabus.

“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,” the paper states.

Science Education: ‘Misconceptions, blind beliefs have to be clarified’

The position paper on science suggests national and state-level aptitude exams to identify scientifically-inclined and brilliant students and provide them scholarships.

The paper suggests schools maintain a cumulative record of each student based on assessment made once in three months (trimesters) to avoid over burdening of students. “The obtained marks should not be the main criteria for the promotion of students from one grade to another,” it states.

The paper suggests introducing children to the role of Indian scientists and philosophies – “ancient, medieval and modern” – not as “pieces of history” but as examples of “circumstances which led to the development of these disciplines”.

“How our culture respects science and [the] scientific basis for our cultural practices should be incorporated with the content,” says The paper adds that, “misconceptions about scientific phenomena and blind beliefs have to be clarified through experimentation or exploration.”

Language: Three language policy in Classes 1 to 12

The NEP 2020 position paper supports teaching in the mother-tongue, “local language” or Kannada until Class 5. Class 6 onwards, teaching will be bilingual with bilingual textbooks.

This, says the paper, will “enable the children to be culturally and linguistically rich with strong local roots and global reach”. Three languages will be taught from Classes 1 to 12 in all the schools in the state and will carry equal marks in exams. “We need a kind of language policy that is also acceptable to the non-Kannada people in Karnataka,” says the paper.

bjp history textbooks, karnataka nep 2020, national education policy, karnataka school news, karnataka textbook controversy, karnataka textbook row, what are the policies of bjp, bjp changing textbooksThe papers argue that history textbooks in Karnataka have wrong information

Social sciences: ‘Avoid public controversy’, ‘textbook writers are against Hinduism’

The position paper observes that social sciences depict “more of European cultural experiences of other cultures”. To remedy this, it suggests introducing social sciences to the Indian students in “an exciting way to reflect on both Indian traditions and the local social and environmental surroundings, without losing the site of global concerns”.

Feedback from teachers, the paper claims, stated that history books include “certain wrong information”. Scarcity of food during the Vedic period due to sacrifices, or murti puje is a social evil are “mistakes” that have not been corrected. “History does not generate a sense of pride about our nation. Instead, it generates negative attitude towards us,” says the paper.

Further, the teachers’ feedback said that topics of Christianity and Islam are “repeatedly introduced” to Class 6 and 7 students but there isn’t “even a short introduction to Hindu Dharma”, claims the paper. The textbooks, however, have Bhakti as reform movement that “appear[s] repeatedly”. “It gives the impression that textbook writers are against Hinduism,” the paper states.
For Class 9 and 10, the paper advocates introducing differences between certain categories like religion, tradition, caste, sampradaya, jati, mata and how to differentiate it from Western concepts. The position paper also has a section on avoiding “public controversies in social science teaching” that can be avoided by logical reasoning with appropriate data and observation; it will reduce ideological rifts, it says.

Textbooks for Class 1 and 2 should include “good things” from epics like Ramayana, Mahabharata and Shlokas and religious books like Quran, Bible, the paper proposed.

Environmental Education: Worship tulsi plant, chant while bathing

The paper on environmental education professes to draw inspiration from Hindu scriptures such as the Vedas, Puranas, and Upanishads and the epics Mahabharata and Ramayana. While it talks about combining tradition and modern knowledge for the sustainable approach for resource conservation, most of the references are traditional Hindu practices.

The paper gives examples of chanting of mantra while bathing to evoke a sense of duty, worshipping of Tulsi plant, use of Ashoka and Mango tree leaves in religious rituals that must be included in environmental education. It further talks about other traditional Hindu practices like offering water to Pipal tree, veneration of Sun as god, “animals allowed to breed in temples” and protection of tigers and cobras on religious grounds to be taught to students to “bring a sense of pride among children”.

“The students should be made aware that cultural practices were intrinsically associated with the natural environment and correspond to each other in their own way, which brings a sense of pride among children,” the paper states.

Health: Meat is ‘not good’, yoga gurus to monitor school meals

The position paper on health and well being argues for a “carefully planned meal” to address “over-nutrition”. According to the paper, this is achieved by planning “cholesterol-free, additives free” mid-day meals in which “eggs, flavoured milk, biscuits, should be forbidden to prevent obesity and hormonal imbalance”. The panel was led by Dr. KJohn Vijay Sagar, professor and head, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, NIMHANS, Bengaluru.

The paper argues that “given the small body frame of Indians, any extra energy provided through cholesterol by regular consumption of egg and meat leads to lifestyle disorders”.

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It claims that “studies conducted across the countries suggest that animal-based foods interfere with hormonal functions in humans” without saying which study. After suggesting that “animal-based food” is “not good”, the paper also claims that “gene-diet interactions indicate what is best for Indian ethnicity and the natural choice of the race needs to be considered”. The paper then says that the “natural choice of food for Indians is plant-based, unlike Western food choice”. The paper also says that plant-based foods are more “man-friendly”.

nep-position-paper-karnataka-textbooks-featured-image_bctYGfMNEP 2020 position paper on health lists what foods are "good" and "not good". "High consumption of animal-source foods" is the second.

It also suggests that children between the age of 11 to 14 years, should “help with the mid-day meal preparation, make traditional kashayams, and evaluate the nutritional importance of self-cooked foods”. It said that children should “participate in the mid-day meal preparation and preparing healthy drinks like Kashayam and buttermilk with leftover milk”.

The paper also said that ‘Athmanirbharatha’ should be promoted in children “by stopping browsing the internet for healthy foods”. It suggests that students should instead be encouraged to opt for indian foods like “amla, raw mango, chaat masala” and encourage them to “reject pizza, burger, and such foods”

The paper suggests that “Indian-centric stories leading clearcut messages are needed” in the curriculum structure of three to five year olds instead of “a storyline where all vegetables feel inferior”. It said that stories of “Bheema and Hanuman’s eating habits” will help children link eating the “right” food to “valour, courage and success”.

It also said that providing information on how the “Ayurveda, Panchakarma, and Indian Ghee based diet address hyperacidity” will help students “build confidence in Indian medicine and Indian food culture”.

It said that health and wellbeing requires an “expert team” of “dieticians and yoga gurus” to monitor each child's midday meals and health records from Classes 1 to 12.

Gender education: Reject binaries

The position paper on gender education has made a case for an “in-depth understanding” of issues pertaining to gender gaps and insensitivities that continue to persist. It further questions the idea of binary in gender and promotes acknowledgement of individuals across the gender spectrum.

“With the understanding that “gender” is not a binary concept, and that it is a socially constructed notion, gender education must acknowledge and accommodate individuals who self-identify across the gender spectrum. Awareness of certain terminologies and concepts is necessary if we want to engage in gender education in a fair and respectful manner,” the paper states.

karnataka school news, nep 2020, national education policy, karnataka nep 2020, karnataka nep implementation, what are the policies of bjp, bjp changing textbooksNEP 2020 position paper says the curriculum should develop pride about Indian mathematics (source: Shutterstock)

The paper, submitted by committee headed by Vani Periodi, gender expert and women's rights activists, also asserts on expanding the scope to the entire LGBTQ+ community as opposed to just transgender people mentioned in Karnataka State Transgender Policy 2017. The members of the LGBTQI+ community are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and others. The inclusion of the term “transgender” or “third gender” in NEP 2020 has been rejected by the community for its limited connotation. The paper proposes the use of LGBTQIA+ as the most inclusive and accepted term across the spectrum of identities and sexualities.

The paper also critiques the gendered roles that solidify gender binaries. “Ideas of masculinity and femininity are closely associated with this misconception and further the gender divide, in an affective manner. Largely, men are depicted mostly in the roles of farmers and traders, whereas women are seen as caretakers of children,” the paper states.

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One of the proposals made in the position paper is to correct “gender bias” in textbooks that “reproduce what are falsely considered gender norms” but are based on preconceived notions. “A third-grade mathematics textbook contains written material that highlights the male in working roles - “Sommanna earns”, “Shyamanna and Ramanna’s shop”, “farmer Mallappa”, “Rama’s Garden”, “Basavaraju grows potato in his garden”, “Rangappa’s garden” and so on. Both the narrative and pictures in the text book show male figures engaged in business and physical work, giving the students a hidden message that only men are capable of working,” the paper highlighted.

Mathematics: Increase astronomy content in science

The position paper on “mathematics education and computational thinking” suggests developing pride about India by “highlighting the historical background of origami in mathematics”.

It also said that 90 percent of the “wonderful achievements of Indian mathematicians” are in “Siddhanta Texts - Astronomical Texts” and that astronomy content should be increased in science curriculum to link them to mathematics content.

Teacher Education: Become ‘gurus and acharyas’

The position paper on teacher education says that teachers “should act as an instrument in the realisation of national goals and people’s aspirations and should reflect the Indian heritage”. It also calls teachers “guiding stars and lighthouses” who must be regarded as “Gurus and Acharyas”. It also says that “teachers should grow to the level that they command respect from all sections of society”.

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The paper also suggests that the curriculum should “include training modules on toy/games concepts based on Indian civilization, heritage, culture, mythology, history, ethos, technology, ethnicity, national heroes, and important events Inculcate positive behaviour and good values (‘Sanskaar’)”.

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