An Education for Indians: An Alternative Narrative
Also, going back to the past would hardly bring any resolution to India's persistent problems of exclusion. A Sanskritised education represent further disenfranchisement of the already disenfranchised communities: If anything, this will be a reactionary move stamping out the rudimentary democratization that the education by vernacular brought about in the last three decades. India's educational tension is signified by the tension between the over-riding aspirations for good life and constraints set by economic imagination - schools and TV have prepared a generation to start demanding access while the system is only concerned with creating jobs and opportunities in the limited context of global back-office and service industries. Within the current structures of global economy, it is indeed hard to accommodate a few hundred million aspirants: That is a problem which will remain unaddressed without a change of discussion. Going back to traditional education, in context, is a pathetic, and doomed, formula to put a lid on these rising aspirations, consolidate privileges further and put a lid on these aspirations.
If this is the opposite of the revivalist notion of Sanskritised education, there is more to break away from India's past. At the core of Indian education, even the English education of the colonial scheme, sat the tradition notions of caste; education was for a certain role in the society, for a certain privilege, which is essentially conceived as moving away from the necessity of physical labour, of the requirement of doing anything by oneself. The lessons of caste lives on in the very Indian aspiration that an education must make one a manager. Restoring the dignity of work, which is also somewhat undermined in the modern global education based on the mantra of service economy, will be one key departure that an Indian education must make. This is needed not just as a moral thing (the moral imperative of breaking away from the caste mindset will be there) but also pragmatic, because, as Richard Sennett will argue, skills are usually formed with patient work of a persistent nature, and alienation, which is one of the key impediments of creativity and imagination at work, can only be overcome with an identification with one's object of labour. In the Indian context, it is not the mechanics of industrial production, but the hierarchical notions of labour and work embedded in education alienates the person and impedes creativity.
Finally, an Indian education must be based on a realistic expectation and appraisal of India's role in the global economic system. The false rhetoric of India's emergence as a world leader should be discarded in favour of a practical quest for creating a good life for its own citizens. Abstract as this may sound, such quest may entail discarding the ideals of free consumption at the core of Western education system, because that may indeed be impractical, financially and environmentally, to provide for hundreds of millions of Indian aspirants, and finding ways of sustainable and productive ways of living a better life. And, to do so, indeed, one needs to take a global view, understand the economic, political and environmental challenges that we collectively face, and the common effort that one must pool together to create prosperity in the future (which will be different from the experiences of the industrial revolution).
So, in summary, India needs an education system which addresses its uniqueness, but this does not mean going back to the past. Rather the opposite, it will require overcoming the constraints imposed by its past and tackling its present and future challenges, such as fostering tolerance and accepting diversity, and developing skills and promoting the ideals of good work. An Indian Education system must also seek ways to ensure prosperity within the constraints set by the global economic system, and break away from the notions of a re-run of industrial revolution: It must seek to create a sustainable path to prosperity within the reality of a global late industrial civilisation.