Guest Columnist

John Richard Schrock

India Moves Away from Science


     In its May 30 issue, the premier science journal Nature just detailed the new science curriculum being mandated in India. Combined with prior actions concerning switching from English to Hindi as the major language of communication, India appears to be more rapidly drifting toward being a religious-led state or theocracy. This has implications for the U.S. relative to future computer programmers as well as similar religious-political desires. 
    India places responsibility for producing India’s school textbooks with the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), a government-funded body. And NCERT has just removed evolution, the periodic table of elements, ecology, electromagnetism and a significant number of other concepts from the new textbooks now being issued for the next school year. But NCERT has failed to communicate with parents, teachers and researchers on why they have removed these foundational subjects.

    Unlike the U.S. Constitution that ignores education, India added the words “To develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform” to their Constitution in 1976. Therefore the cuts in central science concepts, made without holding public hearings or seeking public input, has caused much concern in India’s science community.

    Much classroom instruction in India has previously relied on rote memorization. Therefore there is a movement toward “problem solving,” “critical thinking” and “active learning.” But this does not occur in a content vacuum, and knowledge of core concepts remains critical to these teaching strategies.
    India researchers point to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a right-wing Hindu nationalist organization with “…close ties to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party” (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This group demeans contributions from outside India, and promotes beliefs more in line with the Hindu faith. Amit Shah, currently the Minister of Home Affairs and a head of the BJP from 2014 to 2020, is also arguing that Hindi should replace English in India’s educational system.

    There are a large number of local languages across India: Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, etc. As a British colony, English was the common second language widespread in schooling. Today, India does not have an official national language but both English and Hindi are used in official communications. Since Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, his government has promoted Hindi as the official state language.

    This too would be a severe anti-science action insofar as English has become the lingua franca of science. To be recognized for a new discovery, you need to publish in English. And nearly all of the cutting-edge science worldwide is now published in English in journals.

    The NCERT elimination of major science concepts in the next generation of India’s science textbooks aligns with the BJP’s anti-English movement, and some observers detect a pro-Hindu religious motivation behind these efforts.

    In the U.S., a substantial number of H1B1 visas are awarded to computer programmers from India who possess superior ability in programming due to more early education in algebra plus extensive education in sentence diagramming in English. These diagramming skills reinforced by end-of-high-school tests, are critical to their superior computer skills. The loss of such future computer programmers if Hindi is substituted for English would have a serious consequence for American computer programming.

    In addition, India is now the world’s most populous country. Regularly portrayed as the world’s largest democracy, these actions in India continue a gradual movement toward a theocracy, a system where one particular religion becomes the standard for political actions. Without an equivalent to a bill of rights, a representative “democracy” can easily become a theocracy.

    In the U.S., we now hear far more calls to put prayer back into public schools, reestablish puritanical standards of behavior, and restore certain religious views.

    Looking back to India's ancient history, these efforts are promoted to “make India great again.”