Reviving India’s knowledge systems for modern Indian education and society

‘Our systems and institutions need to be rooted in our civilizational ethos.’

Indian Knowledge system, IKS, NEP 2020, NEP 2020
'Education is the manifestation of perfection already existing in man'

Indian Culture and Philosophy have had an important effect globally. The contribution of these iconic legacies to world heritage, on one hand need to not only be supported and conserved for future generations but also systematically  researched, improved, and put to new uses through our evolving education system and the New Education Policy 2020. According to Shobhit Mathur, Co-founder & Dean, Rashtram School of Public Leadership, the nation’s call for Ātmanirbhara Bhārata and current initiatives to implement the NEP 2020 will contribute to and enrich the Indian education system. He believes India’s Knowledge Systems have the potential to provide pertinent reflections for the NEP 2020, charting a future course of action with its integration within existing educational frameworks. Financial Express Online caught up with him to know more about his views and work on education. Excerpts:

Tell us how India’s knowledge systems (IKS) will be beneficial for aspiring GenZ students to develop their leadership and problem-solving skills?

Look around you. What are the biggest challenges facing humanity? Climate change, terrorism, mental depression – would probably come to your mind first. These problems only seem to increase each year at an accelerated pace. What are the solutions that we have for them? The west has been unable to address them. This is particularly because their worldview and societal structure do not provide the knowledge and the associated praxis to address these challenges. We need an integrated approach that results in harmony within oneself and with nature. This is the core of the Indian Knowledge Systems – it connects you with yourself, your community, and the creation. Importantly, it provides a praxis in the form of Yoga, Ayurveda and rituals that allows the knowledge to be practiced in a simplified and distilled manner by the larger populace. Imbibing and practicing this knowledge will be the key trait of aspiring leaders of the future.

How will IKS help preserve India’s rich and ancient legacy in governance and public leadership by including it in academic offerings and curriculum?

After independence in 1947, there was an opportunity for us to create a constitution and design a state (Rajya) that aligns best with the nation (Rashtra). However, we adopted a colonial state with little criticism of the ideals and institutions. Right from the notion of nation-state and union of states, to rights to ideals like equality, to choice of democracy, to secularism, mostly the modern systems known at that time were adopted in the Indian constitution. There has not been analysis or a debate of whether these align with Bhārata i.e. our National aspirations. Consequently, today we have dissonance between the State apparatus and the aspirations of the Nation. Our systems and institutions need to be rooted in our civilizational ethos, i.e. we need Swaraj, to make India a global power yet again. This needs a thorough study grounded in the Indian knowledge Systems to present a new theory of the State, economic philosophy, societal structure, etc.

Where is the educational system lacking in terms of providing versatile experience and advocacy skills for the students?

Swami Vivekananda famously said, “Education is the manifestation of perfection already existing in man”. The education system today is designed for the atomized individual serving the industrialized world. It is not aimed at bringing to blossom the true potential of the student. It creates self-centered job-seeking individuals who are focused on making a living. How can ‘making a living’ be the highest aspiration of anyone? We are capable of much more, but education limits us. The solution for a new education system lies in the Indian Knowledge Systems. Our ancestors have delved deep into human nature and how it can express itself. The Mahabharata says, “A student learns one-fourth from his teacher, one-fourth from his own intelligence, one-fourth with the passage of time and one-fourth from his peers”. We need to create an education system that is based on this.

Shobhit Mathur, Co-founder & Dean, Rashtram School of Public Leadership

How do you think IKS can be adapted for modern India, providing exposure to students who will need to deal with holistic and complex issues in an ever-increasing globalized society?

How do we unlearn and relearn quickly, how can we adapt our habits in changing contexts, how do we look at things holistically given unlimited information and limited attention spans, how can we foresee scenarios through the complexities – these are the major questions of our times. Our faculties have not evolved to manage the ever-increasing uncertainties and volatility. It is time to hone our inner instruments, and the Indian science of the inner self is the way out. The tragedy of our times is that we have been disconnected from our knowledge heritage. We first need rigorous study of the same. This requires that we reconnect with the language in which our knowledge lies i.e. Sanskrit. We need to create new curricula, textbooks, and content in multimedia that can be taught in educational institutions, and popularly consumed on digital platforms. And importantly, we need to create a praxis of habits, rituals and festivals that can bring this knowledge into our day to day.

Tell us a little bit more in terms of the courses and academic curriculum being developed at Rashtram to integrate India Knowledge Systems into mainstream higher education?

Rashtram Accelerator is a one-year residential programme hosted at our campus in Delhi NCR. Rooted in the ethos of Bharata, the programme is firmly focused on nurturing leaders to solve the most pressing Indian and global problems.

The Accelerator Programme is designed to help manifest the ‘perfection inherent in each of us’. The elements of Swadhyaya and mentor guided Samvada help discover your Swadharma, aligned to your Swabhava. The programme aims to give form and flight to your moral imagination and intellectual curiosity by crystallising and accentuating your physical, emotional, cognitive, intellectual and social intelligences. The participants live on campus along with mentors and faculty for a continuous learning experience. Rashtram also provides incubation for social entrepreneurs wherein their opinions are informed and a practical context is set for bringing their vision for social impact into fruition.

Rashtram School of Public Leadership draws from this rich source of Indic Knowledge Systems and channels it into a seamlessly integrated Accelerator Programme to nurture a new brand of civilizationally-assured leadership for India.

Where do you see IKS five years down the line and its future role in establishing India as an advanced knowledge society? 

Beside the Chinese, the Indian civilization is the only unbroken living civilization on this planet. It has experienced turmoil, survived them and thrived. It is now lying low due to its wounds, but will rise again. It has always been a ‘knowledge civilization’, our biggest strength being the Indian Knowledge Systems. We need to reconnect with that fount of wisdom, and assimilate and adapt it for application in our times. With the recent decades of economic growth, our confidence as a civilization has increased. But a lot of work is yet to be done. At the moment, most importantly, we need thought leadership grounded in the IKS. To enable this, we need independent knowledge-generating academic institutions. I see how the seeds of these ideas have been sown, in due time they are sure to germinate and spread into the rest of the world. That is the duty of our generation. Let us make this resolve.

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