Education Today: Ramanujan and Premchand

Recent studies have found Indian students utterly inferior to the students from almost all countries. It was strange to find the Indians poorer in English and mathematics in comparison to even the Chinese. The Chinese have topped in that survey too.

India has a great history of its mathematicians in ancient India. It continued. The list of the best mathematicians of the world of all time has quite few Indian names- Apstambha (630-560 BC), Panini (520-460BC), Aryabhatta (476-550), Brahmagupta (589=668), Bhascara Acharya (1114-1185), Madhava (!340-1425), Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887=1920). Even today, we may not know their names, but many great mathematicians are working silently in US and there are some even in India.

I could never imagine after going through the report that Indians can be so bad today. But how can the findings be wrong in every case.

I get morose after reading the surveys. I was myself pretty good in mathematics and scored pretty high in School Final Examination. Rakesh and Anand were good too. And so I still have some special interest in mathematics and now in its history.

Mathematics, particularly arithmetic has remained very close to the heart and useful in day to day working life of almost every Indian. In my childhood, my mother and the family trader who use to buy our grains regularly teased and embarrassed me by asking the arithmetic problems regarding sales of grains and its prices or the money to be paid to the labourers. Those were the days when the measures were not metric. I had to struggle, whereas the locals knew the easy way of coming to the final numbers. A rural boy was better in tables.

What I shall like to propound was that the Indian students particularly from rural India were and, may be, are poor in English, but pretty good in mathematics. English was certainly a difficult thing. My uncle could not continue his education in West Bengal and he had to shift to UP Board where English was not compulsory.

As the story goes, Indian Mathematicians, RAMANUJAN failed in English in Intermediate, so his formal studies were stopped but his self-study of mathematics continued.

Interestingly, Premchand, one of the greatest writers of Urdu and Hindi India produced till date, failed in mathematics.

However, it is true that the Indian schools today fail to make the students to love to learn, master and apply the knowledge of these subjects, particularly mathematics. The teachers of mathematics might have scored hundred percent in mathematics in higher examinations, good for getting selected and employed as teachers, but hardly know the ways and means to make the subject interesting enough to make the students grasp the subject instead of mechanically following the process of solving it and getting the correct answers.

I always emphasize that the school curricula up to high school level must have only two subjects-language and mathematics. Mathematics requires much better teachers, the teaching aids, and perhaps essentially good laboratory and technological aids.

I am opinion that all targeted languages, say English, Hindi and French must be taught in comparative manner simultaneously at school stage with emphasis on developing sound communicating skills with sufficiently good vocabulary. All other subjects such as history geography or environmental sciences must be part of the text books in the languages. Those who get interested will certainly go for the specialization in higher classes as in our days we went for the science subjects.

It is heartening that some foundations, schools and their missionary teachers are working to find out a better means of teaching these subjects. I wish the government just facilitates them rather than interfering with their work.
Indian Mathematicians
Ancient- Apastamba, Baudhayana, Katyayana, Manava, Pāṇini, Pingala, Yajnavalkya

Classical-Āryabhaṭa I, Āryabhaṭa II, Bhāskara I, Bhāskara II, Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri, Brahmadeva, Brahmagupta, Brihaddeshi, Halayudha, Jyeṣṭhadeva, Mādhava of Sañgamāgrama, Mahāvīra, Mahendra Sūri, Munishvara, Parameshvara, Achyuta Pisharati, Jagannatha Samrat, Nilakantha Somayaji, Śrīpati, Sridhara, Gangesha Upadhyaya, Varāhamihira, Sankara Variar, Virasena

Modern- Shreeram Shankar Abhyankar, A. A. Krishnaswami Ayyangar, Amiya Charan Banerjee, Raj Chandra Bose, Satyendra Nath Bose, Harish-Chandra, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, D. K. Ray-Chaudhuri, Sarvadaman Chowla, Narendra Karmarkar, Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis, Jayant Narlikar, Vijay Kumar Patodi,Srinivasa Ramanujan, Calyampudi Radhakrishna Rao, S. N. Roy, Sharadchandra Shankar Shrikhande, Navin M. Singhi, Mathukumalli V. Subbarao, S. R. Srinivasa Varadhan

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