Education, commodification, and decolonisation

C. K. Raju

The note by Bhabani Shankar Nayak, on “Zooming the death of teachers and teaching as a profession” Frontier, 14 May 2020,[1] blames Zoom. However, first, the process of commodification of education started long before Zoom became so popular. Major universities have even started aligning their terms and shifted to the semester system to fit the system in the US, and allow US universities to come in. So, blaming Zoom is the wrong thing to do. And to correct a problem, one must correctly identify its cause.

In fact, I recall a clash I had with Sam Pitroda, then chairperson of the National Knowledge Commission, in 2008, on math education.[2] Briefly, Pitroda's point was that we should not re-invent the wheel, so, to teach, trigonometry, one should rely on the MIT MOOC, no teacher needed. My point was that the very name trigonometry is wrong,[3] and shows lack of understanding of the subject, so we can't blindy trust MIT. Its teaching should be changed, and teachers were needed to apply their minds to the issue. I passed on these suggestions personally also to Dr Jayati Ghosh, when she became a member of the Commission, but she did nothing.

Later, I demonstrated the right way to teach trigonometry and calculus at the Universiti Sains Malaysia,[4] Ambedkar University Delhi,[5] and many other places, and I did speak about this in a 2015 talk I gave in MIT,[6] and at a recent international conference.[7] The problem is that our education system does not produce people with enough knowledge to accept or reject it by reasoned arguments, and with reference to OUR practical requirements, and without Western “guidance”, or appeal to Western authority. Therefore, people have been paralyzed into inaction over the last decade.

That brings me to my second point. Let us not even remotely imagine that the earlier system of teaching and research was any good. It was a hegemonic church system of “education”,  imposed by Macaulay as a counter-revolutionary measure.[8] If anyone has any doubts about the church myths and superstitions fed to our school children through math teaching, I would welcome a response to this article on current school math education (class 6 to 9).[9] If you would rather discuss the superstitions in the current philosophy of mathematics (formalism), without reference to the church, then please feel free to respond to this article, on decolonising math.[10]

I have taken up math education as just an example of myths and superstitions where one least expects them, for the myth goes that math is universal, while the fact is that colonial education changed our math teaching. Anyway, the point is that the Western education system was designed to create slaves, whether slaves of the church, or slaves of the colonial state, or slaves of private capital. Slaves don't get to choose their masters, and does a change of masters matter all that much? Our focus should be to redesign education to liberate minds, not enslave them.

But how can we do so? Colonial education has made us so ignorant that most people no longer understand of their own knowledge critical opinions even about school math, as in the article cited above, or even why 1+1=2 (or why Russell and Whitehead needed 378 pages in their Principia to prove that). And our education has indoctrinated us into blindly trusting the the wrong people—the  exploitative West—and equally blindly mistrusting everything non-Western! That's the paradox and the con-trick from which there is no easy exit.

Prof. C. K. Raju, Indian Institute of Education and Indian Institute of Advanced Study




3. C. K. Raju, Cultural Foundations of Mathematics: the nature of mathematical proof and the transmission of calculus from India to Europe in the 16th c., Pearson Longman, 2007.

4. C. K. Raju, “Teaching Mathematics with a Different Philosophy. 1: Formal mathematics as biased metaphysics”. Science and Culture 77 (2011) 275–80. arxiv:1312.2099. 2: Calculus without limits”. Science and Culture, 77 (2011) 281–86. arxiv:1312.2100.

5. “Calculus for social scientists”,

6. “Calculus : the real story”, video:, abstract:

7. “Precolonial appropriations of Indian ganita: epistemic issues”, IIAS Roundtable, Shimla, March 2020. Abstract:, blog:

8. “Decolonising the hard sciences”, Frontier Weekly 2013,

9. This was published in a magazine, but I don't have the publication details.

10. "Decolonising mathematics”, AlterNation 25(2) (2018) pp. 12-43b.

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May 17, 2020

Prof. C. K. Raju

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