Findings on Indian Culture

In its first part, the Survey put several questions on aspects of Indian heritage: arts (music, dance, painting ...), science (Indian achievements in mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, medicine ...), festivals, traditional sports and games, literature (ancient or modern), inspiring historical or mythical characters, yoga and spirituality.

Results were striking: 91% of all students felt that they would benefit from learning elements of Indian culture. While 80% wished Indian culture to be part of extra-curricular activities, 60% wanted it taught as part of the curriculum; moreover, 45% wanted it through both methods — even though we presented them as mutually exclusive. Only 1.3% did not want to learn about it at all. Among the aspects of Indian culture that students would like to learn, art came first, followed by asanas and pranayama, physical games such as kabaddi, and meditation.


Indian arts: Students showed a liking for Bharata Natyam (22%), Carnatic and Hindustani music (17% & 14%), despite the fact that art is clearly low on the priorities of today’s education: over a third of students had little awareness of Indian art forms, and only 37% reported learning art as part of their regular curriculum.


Festivals: Hardly one fourth of students were aware of the significance of popular festivals (such as Holi or Pongal).


Yoga & meditation: 83% of all students found the practices of yogasanas, pranayama and meditation helpful. 52% have learned some of them at school, 28% outside.


Spirituality: Almost half of the students were unable to offer a definition of spirituality.


Indian texts: 80% were familiar with the Ramayana, 72% with the Mahabharata, 33% with Buddha’s teachings and 29% with various saints. (Most of this awareness likely came from outside the school.)


Regional traditions: Only a third of students reported having learned stories or teachings from regional or tribal traditions.


Sports & games: 82% were familiar with kabaddi, 45% with kusti, 40% with chaupad, 37% with paramapadamu, 22% with pachchisi. 67% of all students reported that some of these traditional games are practised at school (kabaddi in most cases).


Indian languages: 51% felt that Indian languages (ancient or modern) should be learned, half of them for cultural reasons, the other half for the promotion of national integration.


Literature from other States: At the same time, only 21% remembered having read any literature from another State. This low figure reflects an alarmingly use of literature in promoting national integration.


Values: Only 38% of the students felt that they were acquiring some values at school, an alarmingly low proportion; 7% specifically stated they were acquiring no values at all, 11% gave intermediate replies, and 44% did not reply at all. As regards the values which students said they would most like to assimilate and practise in their own lives, those fell in the following categories: honesty 10%, truthfulness 9%, brotherhood and friendship 6%, duty and dharma 4%, reverence for / inspiration from one's parents, self-perfection, courage and simplicity 3% each, and non-violence 1%. When a separate question asked the students which values they felt they had acquired from stimulating stories from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Panchatantra, etc., the categories and proportions were very similar, which eloquently reflects on the inspirational potential of such texts and stories when used as educational tools.


Overall interest in Indian culture: In a study correlating 11 different questions and defining a five-grade scale, 83% of students showed a substantial degree of interest in Indian culture or in learning about it at school, denoting an eagerness for cultural education — undoubtedly one major finding of this Survey.


Influence of variables on cultural education

Looking at the Survey’s first part through the main variables brings observations:


Gender: Girls were generally ahead of boys: overall, they appear more interested in Indian culture as well as more aware of it.


Medium: Indian-language students valued Indian culture (including yoga and meditation) markedly more than their English-medium counterparts. They were also more eager to learn it, both as part of the curriculum (67% of them, against 45% English-medium students) and as extra-curricular activities (86% against 78%). Indeed, 59% of them wanted culture through both methods, against only 38% for English-medium students.


Tamil-medium students were the most dissatisfied as regards the attention paid to Indian culture in their curriculum, followed by Bengali- and Marathi-medium students. At the same time, Tamil-medium students showed very little interest in learning other Indian languages, and reported the poorest awareness of literature from other States.


Hindi-medium students shared the last two characteristics of Tamil-medium students.


Bengali-medium students and Gujarati-medium students were the most interested in learning other Indian languages, and the latter were in addition the most aware of literature from other States.


Overall, students of Gujarati and Bengali mediums were those most interested in Indian culture, followed by Marathi, Tamil and Kannada. Barring Hindi, English-medium students score the lowest.


Class: Moving from class 9 to class 12 revealed two parallel trends: while the cultural content decreased, students felt a growing need for it. For instance, the higher the class, the lesser the exposure to literature from other States, but also the greater the eagerness to learn Indian languages.


School type: Private schools tended to have more cultural content than government schools (this appeared clearly also as regards the practice of yogasanas, pranayama and meditation). This may be one reason why we find a higher demand among government rural school students for Indian culture to be integrated in the curriculum.


However, rural schools, whether government or private, ranked higher than urban ones as regards traditional sports and games.


Overall, students of rural government schools showed far more interest in Indian culture (63 on a scale of 100), followed by their counterparts from private urban schools (57). Students of government urban schools seemed the least interested (54).

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