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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Knowledge in India - Past and Present

In India knowledge has always been sacred. In ancient times India was the global hub of learning. Students for all around the globe came to the Nalanda and Taxashila Universities for higher education. Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism  and Sikhism originated in India. The Buddhists monks were the most enthusiastic and spread the Buddhism across different countries that included Tibet,Burma,China, Japan, Thailand,Korea, Indonesia , Sri Lanka and many other countries of south east Asia also Afghanistan. 

An Indian monk Bodhidharma, who went to China , along with Buddhism also taught ancient Indian martial art called Kalaipattu (it is still practised in Kerala). This martial art was further developed by this countries that embraced Buddhism. That's why today there different forms of martial arts like Kung-Fu in China, Karate and Ju-Jitsu in Japan, Taekwondo in Korea, Muay-Thai in Thailand and there are of course many other forms of other martial arts in South East Asia. 


The science of yoga and Ayurveda originated in India. It was India that gave the world the first system of medicine Ayurveda.  The temples and buildings of ancient India bear a testimony to the fact that there were great architects in India. The sun temple at Konark  and other sun temples in south India are a proof of the fact that Indians were good in astronomy as well. 


The great scientist Albert Einstein once said  “We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made.”


It was the great Indian mathematician Aryabhatta who gave the value of 0. It must be noted that without knowing the value of zero. Lots of scientific discoveries would have been impossible. The computer won't have existed at all and you the reader won't be reading this blog.


Science research took a backseat in India because the Indians were more focused towards spiritual learning. Indians believed that the ultimate target of life was to attain Moksha or Nirvana  i.e freedom from the cycle of birth and death.


 The caste system got rigid with times , earlier the caste of a person was based on his occupation. A cobblers son son if he took up learning the Vedas became a Bramhin or a Bramhin's son if he decided to become a soldier would become a Kshatriya. But later on caste became dependent on a person's birth. A Bramhan's son was a Bramhan and he had to take up study of Vedas and other religious texts whether he liked it or not. A Shudra's son was a shudra and he had to do the same menial work. 

The people from so called higher castes looked down upon the people of lower castes , the Bramhans stopped the education of lower caste people, as a result many were deprived education. The rigid caste system was the beginning of the decline of the nation. 


Later on when India was under Muslim rule, the education of women was stopped and people became conservative. The nation was mired with illiteracy and it was easy for British to come here and rule the Indians who were lacking in terms of education and were mired with blind beliefs and superstition.


The British rule saw the worst time India ever had to go through. India's cottage industry was destroyed, India had 33% share of total global trade before the British came in, but during the British rule the global share came down significantly and whatever little gains were made, was all pocketed by the British. 


The first census of India done in In 1900 show that a mere 7% people were literate and female literacy was a only 0.6%. This were figures for literacy and not education. The system of education introduced by British was expensive and its target was to produce clerks and lawyers that the British needed. In spite of that , in that era India produced renowned scientists like Dr Jagdeesh Chandra Bose, Dr Satyendranth Bose, Sir CV Raman, Dr Vikram Sarabhai,Dr Homi Bhaba, Dr Subramanyam Chandrashekar etc whose contribution to science are well known.


After Independence the educational system that was set up by the British hardly changed. There has been hardly any effort made to create researchers unlike other countries like China, South Korea and Japan.


Science education in the schools of India is theory based, there is hardly any practical experimentation shown to kids to increase their interest in the subject. In the schools of India its all about scoring marks by cramming the answers of the given questions. You will find kids memorising paragraphs after paragraphs of answer by repeating it like a parrot. 


 In India students are encouraged to take up engineering and then work for some multinational or PSU and after that move up the managerial ranks. In fact there are huge number of of graduates from IITs and lots of MSc degree holders who opt for studying management in some premier Management Institute like IIMs or XLRI. In India it has now become fashionable to hold a IIT - IIM combo degree. If students want to go for management why do the have to study engineering.


There are many cases where a computer science graduate from the IITs ends up in a liquor company making strategies for selling a few more bottles of beer after getting his IIM MBA degree. There are people who criticize MBA education calling it unnecessary. Most of the successful entrepreneurs around the world actually don't have a degree at all. So the need of a MBA is actually questionable. But the IIMs of India have given some excellent managers and business leaders and has incubated companies from the campus. 


But it is very vital for the Indian government to encourage and fund science and technology research. If we are to become a global superpower we have to have excellent scientists in in India. Right now many bright students actually migrate to Europe or America where they get way better opportunities. 


If India invests more in scientific and technological research , it would be immensely benefited. 




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