St James Independent Schools of London has for more than two decades had Sanskrit as an integral part of their syllabus – indeed a compulsory subject for junior pupils – citing the benefits of the language for children’s development. The school has a mixture of Indian and English students, and is a Christian establishment; its interest in Sanskrit derives from the language’s intrinsic merit as a ‘perfected language’ (as the term ‘samskrta’ of course denotes) rather than any religious agenda.
Although the junior school uses many traditional Indian techniques of instruction, including recitation and Tagore-inspired outdoor classrooms, it advocates a different approach in terms of content. Instead of the rote learning of Sankrit’s prolific grammar favoured in India, the school prefers to use stories from the epics and puranas to teach its pupils. Indeed, in the absence of any existing material with this approach, St James’ has even developed its own textbooks which introduce Sanskrit beginners to the language via the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Might Sanskrit prove more popular a subject in India if it were taught like this?