KOLKATA: Indian colleges and universities are struggling to cope with the dangers of standardised syllabus for social sciences and humanities, according to professor Ananda Lal of Jadavpur University, who took to the stage at a session chaired by JU vice-chancellor Suranjan Das at the education summit on Tuesday
Speaking on the theme of ‘The Classic Indian ‘Stepmotherly’ Treatment, Literature and Arts Education in Future’, Lal said: “Stepmothers can treat children better than biological mothers. Yet, the Indian stereotype continues. I accuse the Indian academic establishment of perpetuating similar prejudicial treatments in literature and other arts.”
According to Lal, the most sought-after arts department in this country is English. “But we teach them to genuflect to Anglo-American literature, to move abroad for higher studies in English and to participate in a neo-colonial or neo-imperialist project that persists in rendering our own regional literature invisible and therefore necessarily inferior.”
He further drew attention to the UGC
‘s recommended curriculum for English that is largely Euro-centric. “Of the 14 core courses, six are on British literature, two on European, two on Indian, one each on American, post-colonial, women’s writing and popular literature. The two Indian courses are on classical and English writings in India. None of our modern literature appears to qualify,” said Lal.
Lal admitted that even if teachers research on non-Anglo-American fields, they are not permitted to communicate it to the students who must for all practical purposes be “children of the United Kingdom”. “The state of affairs is laughable, if it were not so shameful. Tagore had preferred to use the term ‘world literature’ as a subject of study. Indian departments of English and regional literatures should rethink what they are doing and transform themselves into departments of literature,” he prescribed.