Language is not only a medium of expression, but also a channel of pride of any nation and its ancient culture. It is the means of exchanging the expression of human sentiments, one’s cultural values, ethos and emotions. The inter-communicativeness of thoughts between two human beings is not possible without language. Acquisition and sharing of knowledge are also possible from this medium of communication. Indian traditions believe that if there were no language, this world would have been dark, dull and purposeless. Neglect of the advancement and progress of language can cause any nation to paralyse and eventually finish. This is the reason why since times immemorial every nation has necessarily incorporated development, innovation, evolution and expansion of languages in their education policy.
India has always had an inclination for proper and rooted education. The purpose of education in India was not just the attainment of knowledge but a complete realisation and deliverance of the self. The journey of Indian Education traditions, ethos and cultures could be gauged from Saa Vidyaa Yaa Vimuktaye (knowledge is that which is for liberation) to Saa Vidya Yaa Niyuktaye (knowledge is that which is for the job). This was mainly focused on the attainment of true knowledge, wisdom and truth as the ultimate goal of an individual.
The Indian education system has always been evolving in due course and the result is the change of the world, the change in human expectation and the change in the educational system in the world. This is the reason why in 2020 the Indian Government approved a New Education Policy. In this new National Education Policy(NEP), an attempt has been made to give a universal shape keeping in mind the subtlest and the most important subjects. While this policy seems to be showing an inclination towards language, this policy has shown its unique attraction towards inter-diversity.
Since the advent of the new National Policy on Education, a comprehensive discussion on education has ushered in the country. It was imperatively needed that one shouldn’t forget the glorified educational past to have a culture-based education.
Here, it is equally important to know what Education is. It literally means the act of learning and teaching, but if we look at its broader connotation, education is a continuous social process in any society with a purpose. Thereby, refines the development and inner powers of humans. By education, man is turned into a qualified, well mannered, cultured and refined citizen due to amelioration in his knowledge and skills as also approach and attitude towards life. Regarding education, Mahatma Gandhi meant the overall and best development of the body, mind and soul of the child and man. Similarly, Swami Vivekananda asserted that education was to express the inherent perfection of man. This is why NEP is adopted with a great vision of true knowledge.
The Indian education system has always been evolving in due course and the result is the change in the world, the change in human expectations and the change in the educational system in the world. This is the reason why in 2020 the Indian Government approved a New Education Policy (NEP)
Here, it is equally important to know the youth who will be the true beneficiary of this policy. Swami Vivekanand, a gem of India, always pleads with the nation to utilise the power of youth. He emphasised, “Act on the educated young men, bring them together, and organise them. Great things can be done by great sacrifices only. Neither selfishness, neither name, neither fame, yours or mine, nor my Master’s even! Work, work the idea, the plan, my boys, my brave, noble, good souls – to the wheel, to the wheel put your shoulders!” This NEP complements the views, preachings and vision of Swamiji.
The strength of any developed nation is its youth. Demographically, the India of today is at its youngest best. Nearly 78 per cent of our country’s population is of youth below 40 years. A few years ago, one reputed international magazine had quoted that India was possibly the only nation with so many young and educated people. Besides this positive, the system has been changed after so-called globalisation. Today, India has a value system different from that of the past.
The more I think of this, the more I am convinced that the answer lies in the clarion call that Swami Vivekananda gave to the young of this country more than a hundred years ago. Swamiji addressed the issue by simplifying the whole problem of existence. To the more discerning, he made this way of life a spiritual pursuit.
Unless our youth realise the identity of their nation, they cannot invest their role and talent in the development of that nation. For this, it is urgent and imperative that youth power should be made aware of the pride of our nation through its history and it should be used in nation building. In this context, the National Education Policy has an important expectation from the Sanskrit language, which teaches the lesson of वयंराष्ट्रेजागृयाम: (Let us awaken the nation). जननीजन्मभूमिश्चस्वर्गादपिगरीयसी (Mother and motherland are more than heaven).
Keeping all this in mind, NEP emphasises upon value-based education for the youth. It states: “Value-based education will include the development of humanistic, ethical, Constitutional, and universal human values of truth, righteous conduct, peace, love, non-violence, scientific temper, citizenship values, and also life-skills; lessons in service and participation in community programmes will be considered an integral part of a holistic education.”
“Act on the educated young men, bring them together, and organise them”
Accordingly, the vision of the NEP 2020 is that it instils among the youths a deep-rooted pride in being a Bharatiya and not Indian, not only in thought, but also in spirit, intellect, culture and deeds, as well as to enhance knowledge, skills, values, and dispositions that support responsible commitment to human rights, sustainable development and global well-being, thereby reflecting a truly global citizen. It also says that the rich heritage of ancient and eternal Indian knowledge and thought have been a guiding light for this policy.
Formulated on the principles of quality, equality, accessibility and capability, this policy is a guiding philosophy for the future of our great nation, a core text, a means to realise the hopes and aspirations of crores of youth. As it is perfectly enunciated by Swami Vivekanand, “Education is not the amount of information which we put into our brain and run riots there, undigested, all through life. We must have life-building, man-making and character-making assimilation of ideas.”
Promotion of languages
The biggest feature of the New Education Policy is that it emphasises on awakening the creative potential of human beings through art, culture and language. Earlier, knowledge and skills were separated. This education policy opposes that. The beauty of NEP is that it encourages sincere efforts to integrate all these vital aspects of Indian educational philosophy, while also including essential aspects of modern education which is commensurate with changing times. Accordingly, it underlines the importance of language, which would be the medium of understanding.
Looking at the history of the world, after Independence from colonial rule, almost all the countries of the world chose the path of progress in their own language. Israel made dead Hebrew its national language, and today it is one of the major languages of technology all over the world. Today, Hebrew is forced to be translated into other languages. Similarly, Russia made Russian, China made Chinese and Japan made Japanese languages of their education and communication. Our small neighbour Nepal also made its own language Nepali. India has been an exception. Despite being an ancient nation after its Independence from colonial slavery, India still has English as its language of education and administration. Almost all the Commissions set up so far to improve the condition and direction of education, recommended an end to the dominance of English. But, in the name of the result, they continued to appear the same. Even after the British left, the dominance continued to be of English. The fundamental ideas in the foreign language restrict learning.
Macaulay’s educational policy was serving English’ vested and latent interests instead of those of India. Plato, Aristotle, Max-Muller and Marx , were being taught, but philosophers, academicians, eminent thinkers like Kapila, Kaņāda, Gautama, Shankar, Mandan, Bhāskarāćārya, Ćāņakya, Brahmagupta, Pāņini, Kātyāyana and Patanjali, were being completely neglected. Keeping this negligence in mind, the National Education Policy presents a complete roadmap for promotion of Indian languages, art and culture. Its study makes it clear that this education policy has been formulated with the emphasis on language education.
It is hard to believe that country has lost 220 languages in the last five decades due to non-protection of our languages. UNESCO has declared 197 Indian languages as endangered. The 22 languages of the Eighth Schedule are also facing a variety of difficulties. NEP enunciates the need to integrate teaching and learning of Indian languages with every level of school and higher education. In order to ensure that languages remain relevant and vibrant, there needs to be a continuous flow of higher quality learning and print content.
The NEP 2020 has strongly felt this paucity, and, for the first time, India has been given a voice to realise the strength of language. For the first time, the NEP has laid full emphasis on language and language education in India. In NEP, language is considered to be the means of building values attitude and creative imagination in education. It aims to provide this through the use of mother tongue till adolescence. It emphasises that fundamental ideas come in their mother tongue. Hence mother tongue should also be used for Higher Education and Research. Among all the Indian languages, this policy has given a special space to the Sanskrit with other classical languages. This is the reason behind the word Sanskrit appearing 26 times in NEP 2020.
Bringing Sanskrit into the mainstream
Sanskrit is the richest language in the world. Its vocabulary is approximately 10 crores. The original words in English are only 35,000. The basic words of Hindi are nine lakhs in number. Hindi is spoken and understood by about 850 million people, while English is spoken and understood by only 320 million people. Keeping this importance of Sanskrit in mind, it has been resolved to mainstream this language by not restricting it to schools and universities. Sanskrit is not only a subject, but is also a prominent place as a medium language in Higher Education.
It has been suggested to mainstream the Sanskrit language of the country for its progress to use this language as the language of knowledge and science in higher educational institutions due to its significant contribution and literary, cultural importance and scientific progress of various disciplines and subjects.And why not link Sanskrit language with the mainstream? In this lies the identity and existence of India. Today, when India’s Indian-ness is explained, it becomes the basis of the knowledge science promoted in literature and scriptures of this language. Not the period of medieval and pre-Independence period which has been the period of destruction of the entire knowledge tradition. Sanskrit is not a language but a complete science in itself. Explaining the beauty of this language, Vivekananda says , “This Sanskrit language is so intricate, the Sanskrit of the Vedas is so ancient, and the Sanskrit philology so perfect, that any amount of discussion can be carried on for ages in regard to the meaning of one word.”
Value-based education will include the development of humanistic, ethical, Constitutional, and universal human values of truth, righteous conduct, peace, love, non-violence, scientific temper
Internationally-recognised institutions of ancient India such as Takşa-śila, Nālandā and Vikramśila, Vallabhī. set the highest standards of multidisciplinary teaching and research and hosted scholars from across the world. Following that legacy, Sanskrit Universities will also move towards becoming big multidisciplinary institutions of higher education. The Sanskrit Departments, which conduct teaching and excellent interdisciplinary research in Sanskrit and Sanskrit Knowledge System will be strengthened within the entire new multi-disciplinary Higher Education System. A large variety of Vocational Education will be imparted to Sanskrit teachers across the country in a mission mode through various degrees.
A scheme has been proposed to set up a new institute for languages and provide a large number of vocational education to Sanskrit teachers. In addition, the need for expansion of institutions and universities in all classical languages, efforts to strengthen manuscript conservation and translation and study have also been emphasised.
The National Education Policy is truly a game changer. From this point of view, in terms of the number and quality of youth in Sanskrit, it can become the voice of Sanskrit for the world, as it talks about becoming the Vishwa-guru of present India. In the present National Education Policy-2020, languages have been treated as tools of empowerment. With this coordinated noble spirit, the Indian knowledge tradition contained in Indian languages as well as Sanskrit should be used properly; this policy enables an innovative and adaptive attitude to languages. It can be used in the development and prosperity of the individual, general, society, nation and the world at large.
We must also understand that the languages of India are derived from Sanskrit and enrich not only Hindi, but other Indian languages as well. About 60 per cent of the words from Sanskrit have been adopted by Indian languages in their vocabulary as adjectives, roots, property etc. The importance of Sanskrit in the National Education Policy-2020 is also evident in the sense that the word Sanskrit has been used more often than other Indian languages.
The inter-convergence of intellectual and reasoning tendencies has caused a distinct emergence of the formal philosophy or well-developed knowledge system. The flowing triad of karma, knowledge and devotion from the fertile mind of the Indian mystics has contributed to the development of humanity by washing the spiritual dirt of distant human beings and making them pure, eternally pure-awakened and always clean.
The sad culmination of this pleasant tradition of knowledge was we confined it to define that Shastra rather than to the needs of contemporary society. This tradition could not become a medium of scientific research. The one that should have been the cause of the salvation of the world was wrapped in a red cloth in a corner of the house. Knowledge is like oil, not ghee. It should be detailed rather than compressed. Today is the time to reconcile ancient traditions with modernity.
This NEP complements the ideas of Bharat not India to inspire youth for a better world knowing past and present of our nation with ancient glory which is preserved in Sanskrit.
Last, but certainly not the least, NEP 2020 is undoubtedly a treasure seeking a strong future by learning from its past and meeting the needs of the present. It is committed to restoring Indian culture. The challenge of 21st Century education is to recognize the interdependence and oneness of all who live on the planet, and strike the right balance between ‘love and peace for the world’ and ‘love and harmony for one’s own country’. As our scripture says;
May all be happy, may all be free from illness. May all see what is auspicious, may no one suffer.