Indian State of Assam Adding Sanskrit to Schools

The study of Sanskrit, the 4,000 year old Hindu language of the Brahmin priesthood, will now be mandatory at schools in the Assam state of India, says the government of this northeastern sector of the country. Those who brought this policy into being and support it, believe that the study of Sanskrit will help contemporary students expand their knowledge of and learn to appreciate pre-colonial Indian civilizations. However, the news of the change also brought out opposing opinions by members of student unions and other educational committees. They claim that the study of Sanskrit is irrelevant to the lives of modern students, and that the time and resources spent on these classes as well as hiring outside instructors qualified enough to teach the language can be spent on subjects more beneficial to the students, such as geography and history, which are currently only a small part of environmental studies as opposed to being taught as separate subjects.

According to a census surveys over the last decade, only 14,000 to 50,000 Indian people cite Sanskrit as their first language, which further points not only to the scarcity of qualified teachers, but also to the relevance of the language as a subject. This takes attention away from the local Indian language of Assamese, as well as shifts the economy away from local people, albeit for a noble cause. Debates continue on the subject, as educational committees decide whether implementing mandatory Sanskrit classes is the best move to achieve the goal put forward by the motion, or if a deeper focus on history will reach the goal while sacrificing less of the current curriculum.

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