The Gujarat government on Thursday said it will make the Bhagwad Gita a part of syllabus of state-run schools from Classes 6 to 12, The Indian Express reported.
The announcement was made by the state’s Education Minister Jitu Vaghani in the Assembly during a discussion on Budget allocations for the education department.
“Shrimad Bhagavad Gita’s values, principles and importance are accepted by people of all religions,” Vaghani said, according to The Hindu. “In Class VI, Shrimad Bhagavad Gita will be introduced in such a way that students will develop an interest in it.”
The minister said that initially the importance of the Hindu religious text will be explained to students, and the teaching process will include debates, plays and quizzes. Chapters from the religious text will be introduced in detail from Class 9 onwards.
State Education Secretary Vinod Rai said that the syllabus may include “storytelling of what great personalities like Mahatma Gandhi, Vinoba Bhave or others have spoken about Bhagwad Gita”, according to The Indian Express.
Jesuit activist Father Cedric Prakash demanded that the decision should be reconsidered, according to the newspaper.
“The study of any and every religious or holy book needs to be welcomed by all and at all times!” he said. “However introducing only the study of the Bhagavad Gita in Government schools smacks of majoritarianism violative of the secular fabric of the country and another step towards the establishment of the ‘Hindutva’ rashtra.”
Meanwhile, the Gujarat government also announced that English will be made a compulsory subject from Class 1 onwards. Earlier, English had been introduced as a subject from Class 3.
The announcement on the teaching of the Bhagwad Gita comes in the backdrop of a debate on whether religion should be kept out of schools, in the context of the hijab ban in Karnataka.
A section of Hindutva activists who protested against hijabs in educational institutions had claimed to oppose religious symbols in schools and colleges.