Gita: From home to school?
First the government allowed the Swarnavalli Maha Samsthanam Sonda of North Canara district to give discourses on Bhagvad Gita in schools to “enlighten” students. When faced with violent protests by student organisations in Kolar, Haveri and other places, it quickly assured them that attending the discourses was optional. But it has now gone a step further and wants to make the Gita a part of the state syllabus. Accusations that the ruling BJP was trying to saffronise state education while ignoring many of the real problems besetting it have been flying thick and fast since Chief Minister D.V.Sadananda Gowda announced on Sunday that the government was ready to make Gita a part of the syllabus.
Many feel the move could boomerang. Dr. S R Keshava, an economist and professor at Bangalore University (BU) warns that if the government goes ahead with its plan to introduce the Gita as part of the syllabus it could affect the secular nature of society and lead to demands for study of other religious books too in schools. “I do not want to diminish the importance of the Gita. It is respected the world over. But I cannot support making it a part of the curriculum. Tomorrow the government could come under pressure to introduce texts of other religions too,” he says, wondering what the need is to go down this controversial path when the state's students are struggling to make a mark in national admission tests and Karnataka’s contribution in the fields of science, technology, research and development is nowhere near satisfactory. “Also government schools dont have enough students. The state should be trying to find a solution to these problems, instead of talking about introducing the Gita in the curriculum,” Dr Keshava argues.
Senior officials of the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) too do not support the idea of making Gita a part of the syllabus as they fear it could lead to divisions among children from different backgrounds studying in state schools. “What we need is upgrading of the syllabus to prepare students for future challenges at a time when the education sector is undergoing rapid changes. But the state government has failed to tackle this. We still don't have answers how to prepare students for the Central curriculum, how to increase the enrollment in government schools or introduce the Right to Education (RTE) Act," points out an officer.