How to teach Indian history? How to teach the sciences? From whose points of view?
British written Indian history texts no more suit an Independent India, right?
So too an India -centric and why even a South East Asia centric world view is what we in India must focus on.
It is India, China, Japan that are going to matter more and more to us. To become a strong Asian regional power in the near and why even the far future. So too to teach even sciences, we have to teach, say as Richard Dawkins, teaches us biology and evolution.
There are so many such new subjects and teaching priorities. Indian education has to change! Change to make India a more stable and more united and vibrant as a nation! India in the last 100 years!India in the next 100 years!
How our schools and colleges have to teach the history of our times?
Our schools, colleges need a radical new curriculum. We have been writing on education for a long time. How serious and how committed are we to our education? What is unique in Indian education?
If the readers who go through our magazine carefully, they would have noticed that much of what we have as conventional curriculum is what we inherited from the British legacy. Yes, we are very addicted to the English language education but much of what we read as history or knowledge, say the humanities, geography, civics and other subjects are what we have imbibed or inherited, or rather what we have imitated from the British schools’ practices.
Unfortunately, what we teach as history, not the history of India but even as the history of the world is what we have taken from the British texts. Especially for India, I have been advocating for some time that it is not a very good history of India we teach.
We teach of course ancient India but then in isolation. We teach the colonial history but here again in isolation. Who came first to India? The British or the Dutch?
Who created the first great discoveries in Indian history and languages? The British or the Portuguese?
Not just these elementary questions. How we read our past, recent past, say the last 100 years?
How we have to teach the next hundred years? What perspective we have to have, we of the independent India?
Readers would find in the pages of this journal, often, about the various countries, the UK, USA and Asian countries and their very different education systems?
In fact, the Americans are often more obsessed than we Indians about the effectiveness of their school education.
There is a fear in the USA about others, more so the Indians might overtake them in key subjects like maths, science, engineering and other skills. There is a real backlash now against the Indians with IT skills migrating to the USA.
Just now, I read that the world in the next 100 years would be a world of migrants. Says the UN Special Reporter on the Human Rights of Migrants:” By the year 2050 the world will need 150 million migrant people!”
How to teach Indian history?
Indians lost lives in the two world wars, lost lives in the slavery trade conducted by the foreign governments, British included, the poverty and periodic famines and how India lost its self-confidence and will-power as a nation, as civilisation and people. All this must be taught to give a new confidence in the present status of India as a free country.
Lately, I am advocating that we have to teach Indian history from an essentially Indian point of view.
Not as the British saw India and wrote about India.
Not the British versions. But an Indian point of view must emerge in our writing of histories.
In fact, am becoming more and more tired of what is being written and published in India and outside about and Indian history perspectives.
There are very many distinguished scholars now working in overseas universities.
One critical view of the British history is that the British amassed fortunes in their overseas territories.
Then they built their massive country houses that even today stand as a symbol of the best in British life and aristocracy.
But how many in India know that the British also indulged in the worst of slave trade.
In the 18th century, it became a fashion and a status symbol to take part in slave trade.
Te British exported slaves from Africa and elsewhere, why, even from India to far off territories. In the West Indies, in the Caribbean seas we had had slave plantations in sugar, coffee and tobacco and the bigger the country houses they built the bigger was their trade in sinful activities, slave trade was!
Caribbean leaders have recently approached a law firm in London to build a case for reparations against the British, French and Dutch governments from their exploitation and accumulation f wealth and properties earned out of slave trade.
This shameful and disgraceful trade and wealth earning and building aristocratic houses is an untold story even in England today.
There are some feeble voices now heard from such movements like Heritage buildings conservation etc.
But in India we are totally in the dark and Indian scholars and historians must at least unearth much information on the slave trade from the Indian soil and the harrowing tragedies that Indian people went through.
The abolition of slave trade, its bicentenary was celebrated in 2007 and it is time we in India also wake up and bring our history at least up to date and at least bring our lost lives to their deserving glory.
This can be done by experts. But as a public person, I suggest we start teaching Indian history from a global perspective.
We have to link the Greek and Roman histories. Roman Empire and its institutions, Roman Republic, its various other institutions, law, judiciary, roads, stadiums and their administrative structure. How Roman Empire survived for some 1,500 years?
So too the concepts of democracy, freedoms etc from the Athenian times.
Much more particularly we have to teach modern Indian history from the arrival of the many East India companies. Portuguese, Dutch and the British and the French East India companies.
How the Portuguese introduced their language and education and Catholicism etc.
How the Dutch who arrived at Pulicat in `1609 to 1690 who traded in textiles and also in slave trade on a large scale.
Between 1621 to 1665, 131 slaves shipped sailed! From a number of South Indian towns and cities like Madura (1673-1677) etc. From Thanjavur and Senji between 1918-1620 2,118 slaved were sent out to Ceylon.
Likewise, other foreign missions. Even from Tranqubar.
That is how the world in future is going to be! There are now so many radical changes and we seem to live and teach so many things about which we are so ignorant!
We seem to live through a time of momentous changes. Such statements are often made by many experts and scholars. One such statement is this but with so much impact about which we, the teachers and scholar and intelligent readers don’t seem to care for.
Already the world is becoming a host to migrant populations everywhere. The so-called “foreigners” are who? None other than the growing population of migrants.
The latest recent tragedy in the wake of the Lampedusa tragedy on October 3, 2013, just a few days ago, where over 300 African migrants drowned off the Italian island. The Italian government conducted even a state funeral for the tragedy.
In fact, this is not the first time such a tragedy takes place. There are such tragedies taking place more often, off the coast of Australia and also Italy and other such vulnerable parts in the rush to get out of poverty and also in search of a better alternative for so many people.
The just mentioned UN Reporter notes how the world is also learning to change.
The many countries and government, the states often proclaim their sovereignty. This is still the territorial sovereignty but do the states and governments know that most of these states with migration polices don’t even know they can’t enforce any such policy. In fact, they are willingly or silently giving way to what is the great reality.
The great reality of the modern world, if we can call this the post war world that is after the end of the Second World War, the world has seen a steady rise in migration across all national borders.
Why, take India. India is today is one of the world’s great migration state.
In the US alone we, Indians live something like 21 million Indian people. People of Indian origin are now a new term in the migration discourse, right?
In fact, why we gave the title to this essay as India in the last 100 years. Why? We are the pioneers in outbound migration. Right from the 18th and 19th century onwards, under the British rule, we enabled Indian coolies to migrate to the distant lands, right? To South Africa, to the Caribbean islands to Fiji etc. Now?
Now, we are also one of the countries to send out the best talents, doctors and engineers to the UK and USA. As for the unskilled a semi-skilled labour India is again a sort of leader. Go wherever you can, to the South East Asia we have low-skilled Indian migrant labour. Even in the USA and UK we see the low-skilled Indian labour engaged in all sorts of backbreaking work, from agriculture to floor washing to what have you.
And it is not just these two countries have this migration problem. Germany has such a huge migrant labour. We were recently in Italy. We were struck by the high presence of Bangladeshi migrants and also Africans. One African lady is now a minister in Italian government and there is a backlash.
But then, the UN Reporter says that the world needs migrant labour. To keep the economies of these countries going. He cites many instances. It is not an offence to be a migrant labour. The migrant labour is willing to work for low wages, whereas the local labour, the native labour prefers to live on the welfare and thus the world can’t do without the migrant labour.
Closely related to the migration issue are the borders of states. The current control and regulation of territorial borders would also see some changes, face much impact once we realise that we have to have enlightened polices to allow people to travel freely across the borders and also to get work and to live, the opportunities that must become the rights of people, low and high-skilled people who have ambitions and creativity to live the way they like.
Te new world of the next 100 years must be a world of greater and growing opportunities for people to live free and unrestricted lives.
The point here is that we have to teach our children more and more about the way the world is changing.
How to teach the history of our times?
This is the key question of education today. How to teach maths and science? When the current generation of children, as they are, are growing up as computer-savvy and also learnt to acquire skills so fast for themselves, to teach the new knowledge areas we need to create much awareness.
What is education for? How the computer age had exploded on ourselves in the 1980s and 1990s of the last century?
How the current and future projections for the new skills, IT and IT related skills are going to change the way we work and live. Already we see an urge among the youth to create jobs and entrepreneurship. We have to teach about the young entrepreneurship.
We have to teach about how the computers, Internet came along. How the WWW came about. Of course much about the social media, the Google and other Facebook and sister products and companies.
How the world is going to be connected with the new devices?
Why, even such knowledge like evolution.
I am just now going through Richard Dawkins’ “The Greatest Show on Earth”, the evidence for evolution. I thought, as if am sure most Indians, most Indian educators might believe and even teach about evolution as a fact.
But I am surprised to see in the USA and even UK that teaching of evolution is becoming more and more controversial!
The first and second world war.
In these two wars how many Indians were killed and what Indian got from the two wars? What were our leaders, gandhiji in 1914 was 45 years old person! were doing?
In the First World War, it is estimated 1.2 million Indian soldiers took part. Of which 74,000 were killed.
In UK, the centenary of 1914 war is being celebrated and those who won the Victoria Cross are to be honoured in UK. Only those born in UK would be so honoured. The Indians who won the VC won’t be so honoured!
The so-called Great War was fought for the “King and the Country”. In this, India is not part of the country! And India which went through so much poverty and the famines! Anyone has any idea?
In the second war too, we have to tell and learn a different history. In the Eastern Theatre, in South East Asia, it was Japan who came to Indian Territory and it was Japan’s defeat that brought the war to an end. The surrender of Japan and the role of Doughlas McArthur role are not highlighted. Nor the dropping of the two atom bombs in August 1945.We have to learn this part of the story. The role of Roosevelt in the coming of Indian independence and also the role of such patriots like Chinese leader, Chiang Kei-shek and Madam Chiang Kei-shek who as leaders of an Independent China urged Roosvel to grant India independence.
These facts are not mentioned or highlighted in our histories so far, right?
Says Dawkins:”The plight of many science teachers today is no less dire. When they attempt to expound the central and guiding principle of biology, when they honestly place the living world in its historical context-which means evolution, when they explore an explain the very nature of life itself, they are harried and stymied, hassled and bullied, even threatened by loss of their jobs. At the very least time is wasted at every turn. They are likely to receive menacing letters from the parents, and have to endure the sarcastic smirks and close-folded arms of brain-washed children. They are supplied with state-approved text-books that have had the word, evolution, systematically expunged, or bowdlerised into change over time. Once we were tempted to laugh this kind of thing off as a peculiarity of American phenomenon.
Teachers in Britain and Europe now face the same problems, partly because of American influence, but more significantly because of the growing Islamic presence in the class rooms. Abetted by the official commitment to multi-culturalism and the terror of being thought racist”(page4).
Some 40 per cent of parents in the USA think evolution is false and creationism, the Biblical version of genesis is still true and must be taught to school children.