The Gujarat government on Thursday, March 17, announced to introduce Shrimad Bhagwad Gita in the curriculum of all state-run schools from classes 6-12. Gujarat Education Minister Jitu Vaghani made the announcement in the Assembly during the Education Budget discussion and said these were part of the implementation of the National Education Policy, 2020.
On the decision to make the Bhagwad Gita a part of the syllabus from the new academic session in June, the Government Resolution states: "The school education will include Indian culture and knowledge system… in the first phase, values and principles of Bhagavad Gita will be incorporated in state government schools from Class 6-12 in a manner that they are able to understand as well as generate interest for these."
As per the rules drafted under the notification, Bhagavad Gita will be introduced in the form of storytelling and recitation, which will also be evaluated, in Class 6-8, The Indian Express reported.
Storytelling and recitation will also be part of school assemblies. In addition, extracurricular activities on the text like debates, plays, essay-writing, quizzes and drawing— will be introduced in government primary and secondary schools.
Congress And AAP Welcomes Move
Both the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party have welcomed the decision to include Bhagavad Gita in schools.
Reacting to the move, Gujarat Congress spokesperson Hemang Raval said, "We welcome the decision of inclusion of Bhagavad Gita in the syllabus, but the state government also needs to learn from Gita first, India Today reported.
"The book clearly says that to face any situation, you have to first accept it. What is the present situation of education in Gujarat? Out of a total of 33,000 schools, only 14 schools are A-plus grade schools. Around 18,000 teacher posts are vacant and 6,000 schools are closed." he said.
Raval added that Gujarat has the highest number of school dropouts and many students do not even know how to read and write till Class 8. He hopes that the government will do something for such students. "We welcome the inclusion of Bhagavad Gita in schools but that we have been learning since childhood," he said.
Gujarat AAP spokesperson Yogesh Jadvani, while welcoming the state government's decision, said, "We welcome the decision made by the government of Gujarat. This will benefit the students."
While Delhi Deputy chief minister and education minister Manish Sisodia welcomed the move, he said that the Gujarat government's deeds are like Raavan and they talk about Gita. "Definitely it's a great step but people who are introducing it need to practice the values of Gita first. Their deeds are like Raavan and they talk about Gita," he said.
Karnataka Education minister BC Nagesh said that Bhagavad Gita is not only for Hindus, and if experts suggest, the government will also introduce it in schools in the southern state from next year.
Others Question The Decision
While the Gujarat government said that the decision is to introduce school children to the teachings of Bhagavad Gita under the New Education Policy-2020, academics and legal experts question the move to include only the Hindu-specific scripture with 700 verses in the curriculum. They ask if minority students whether Muslim, Christian or Parsi will be allowed to learn their religious scriptures like Quran, Bible or Avesta to mention a few.
Jesuit activist Father Cedric Prakash termed the decision "a shock though not totally unexpected" and sought its reconsideration. "The study of any and every religious or holy book needs to be welcomed by all and at all times. However, introducing the study of only Bhagavad Gita in state-run schools smacks of majoritarianism violative of the country's secular fabric and another step towards the establishment of the 'Hindutva' Rashtra," he said in a statement.
The Gujarat government's decision to include Bhagavad Gita comes at a time when the petition over wearing Hijab in educational institutes as a means of religious practice has reached the Supreme Court.