Government decision to introduce Sanskrit in school education draws controversyCritics question the rationale behind introducing the subject right from grade one and say it will be an extra burden on students.
The government’s decision to include Sanskrit in the school level curriculum starting from grade one this year has landed into controversy with education campaigners opposing the move, saying it will only add an unnecessary burden on the young children.
The Curriculum Development Centre, under the Ministry of Education, has prepared the curriculum for the subject to be included in the school education starting in the new academic session. The new academic session begins in Nepal in mid-April. But this time it has been delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Currently, grade one students need to study four compulsory subjects–Nepali, English, Mathematics and Mero Serophero (my surroundings)—in addition to an optional subject. Students study either one subject in their mother tongue or one local subject prepared by the respective local governments.
Now, the government has included Sanskrit as another optional subject. Students have to study one subject–either one in their mother tongue or a local subject prepared by local governments or Sanskrit.
According to Ganesh Bhattarai, director at the centre, Sanskrit has been included in grade one curriculum starting the upcoming academic year.
The centre has said the subject on the mother tongue should get the first priority as an optional subject followed by a local subject. “Sanskrit should be the last option as an optional subject,” said Bhattarai.
The National Curriculum Development Council led by Minister for Education Giriraj Mani Pokharel in January had cleared the way to introduce Sanskrit in school education.
Sanskrit was taught as a compulsory subject for grade 6 to 8 students before 2000. The Maoists, during the insurgency, were against the subject which was scrapped after they started attacking teachers who taught the subject.
The subject is being reintroduced after two decades when the education minister comes from the same Maoist party.
Education campaigners, particularly those advocating for the mother tongue, have opposed the move of introducing Sanskrit in school education, saying it is an unnecessary burden on the students. They say the young minds that have been compelled to study at least two languages will have an additional burden if a new subject is added.
Education campaigners on Thursday submitted a letter to Minister Pokharel, demanding that the decision be rolled back.
“We are surprised that the government that gives so many excuses for not implementing constitutional provisions of education in mother tongue, has decided to introduce Sanskrit all of sudden,” Amrit Yonjan Tamang, a linguist, who is among those to submit the protest letter, told the Post. “The decision made without any study and consultation should be revoked immediately.”
So far, the government has prepared mother tongue curricula in 24 different languages for basic education. Over 100 languages, however, are spoken in the country.
Yonjan said Sanskrit is a classical language, which could be useful for research and the study, but there is no logic to introduce it from grade one.
“There are no people having Sanskrit as a mother tongue,” reads the protest letter. “The timing to introduce the subject at the time of the Covid-19 pandemic is worrying.”
They said a new subject has been introduced at a time when the Language Commission is yet to come up with its report. The commission after the study of the languages spoken in the country will suggest the government about the subjects that could be introduced in the curriculum.