Rajasthan Primary Education Minister Vasudev Devnani wants a rewrite of school textbooks, which he feels are focusing too much on “foreign rulers and personalities” such as Akbar and Isaac Newton and not enough on Indians such as Maharana Pratap and Aryabhatta. The minister, who also made surya namaskar compulsory in government schools shortly after he took charge, describes why and how he wants to revamp education.
Excerpts from an interview:
There has been an outburst on social media about your plans to replace lengthy chapters on foreign rulers, scientists and mathematicians. How do you react to this?
Yes, I have noted this outrage. Let me clarify, I am not going to do this myself. There will be a committee formed to draft new textbooks; I am not the one who writes textbooks.
My intentions are good. Foreigners came and ruled us and we end up teaching our children that? We learn about the invention of the aeroplane by foreigners. Why should we not tell our children about the Pushpak Vimaan? If there was an Indian scientist before Newton who did similar work, shouldn’t we credit him? Newton has his own place and so should our Indian scientists. I am not saying stop teaching Newton altogether but let us give due credit to everyone. Look at the discovery of zero by Aryabhatta in our country. We have several national and local heroes about whom very little is taught in school. Deshbhakti and sanskar must be instilled in our children.
We keep calling Akbar “The Great”. Why is he “The Great”? Let me tell you, he is not “The Great”. Maharana Pratap is “The Great”. Akbar was merely a ruler. If there is a chapter on Mughals, maybe he can have a mention in that, but not a separate detailed chapter on him. Yeh sab baahar se aaye hai. They have all come from outside.
Are you saying that Akbar was a foreigner?
You must know. Was he an Indian? I am not a historian but we all know who is who. The Muslim and British rulers came from outside and ruled us. That is why we had a movement for freedom.
Why do you want to bring in these changes now?
When I took charge last year, it was too late to make these changes as the books had already gone to print. Also, the process takes time. A committee has to be formed, then the draft will be made and then the new printing will start.
Your decision on compulsory ‘surya namaskar’ in government schools too has faced opposition. Will you stick to your decision?
Of course. Surya namaskar does not mean Surya ko namaskar karna. It is a set of exercises drawing energy from the sun. If there are people who think you can draw energy from the moon, then they can go do chand namaskar. Like yoga, suryana maskar is simple exercise. Everyone is doing yoga nowadays. The entire controversy over this decision is politically motivated by some confused groups. So far not one minority student or parent has approached me asking to withdraw this decision.
What are your other major plans for the next academic session?
Apart from improving infrastructure, staff strength and monitoring, I plan to introduce pre-primary sections in government schools. From now on, even government schools will have Lower KG and Higher KG. I hope to be able to tap students earlier and get them into the government schooling system right from the beginning.