NCERT Textbooks: Curtailing Academic Freedom or Reducing Academic Burden?

NCERT

The CBSE wants three critical chapters to be deleted from the NCERT class IX History textbooks. These are the chapters that talk of caste conflict and caste struggles that have taken place in Indian society.

The New Leam Staff

In yet another attack on academic freedom the Ministry of Human resource and Development has decided to remove three chapters from the Class IX history Textbook in India. In the board circular addressed to the students and teachers circulated earlier by the ministry, the officials statedNo questions from the section should be asked in 2017 summative assessment”. Now in 2019 the ministry has decided to delete three chapters from the textbook completely. As informed by the ministry the revised textbooks would be circulated later his month.

The ministry justified the act by saying that “the decision is part of the curriculum rationalisation exercise initiated by Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javedkar in order to reduce the “burden” on students.

This is not the first time that the government has interfered in the intellectual space and limited the domain of academic freedom. In 2017 as well the ministry made several changes in the curriculum and the syllabus at large.

The Intricate Details of the Issue

The history textbook titled “India and the contemporary world-I comprises of three sections, Section 1 on Historical Events and Processes, Section 2 on Livelihood, Economics and Societies and Section 3 on Everyday Life, Culture and Politics. Both the former two sections are inclusive of three-three chapters each and the later third section comprises of two chapters. The chapters which have been deleted are from the second and the third section: the third section is erased off completely and the third chapter from the second section is erased in addition to it.The first chapter which has been deleted is related to Peasants and Framers and the latter two chapters which were deleted were titled “History and Sports: The story of cricket” and “Clothing: a social history “respectively.

All the three chapters collectively referred to the history and politics of class, caste, hierarchy, patriarchy, conditions of women and region in societies across India. Historians like Tanika Sarkar look at this attempt of the government to be very dangerous as it will not allow the students to get an understanding of our past.

NCERT is otherwise an autonomous organisation which has the authority to design course structure, curriculum and content of the NCERT textbooks which are mostly used by the students of Central Board of Secondary Education. The HRD ministry’s decision to remove the chapters from the book is nothing but an authoritarian step taken by the government in order to curb academic freedom.

This particular history textbook was designed by the textbook development committee in collaboration with the chief advisors of NCERT. The development committee included members like Monica Juneja(Historian and guest professor at the University of Germany), Vandana Joshi (Lecturer, Sri Venkateshwara College), Nandini Sundar( Professor, Department of Sociology, DSE), Mukul Kesvan( Professor, Jamia Milia Islamia), Janaki Nair(Professor, CSSS, Kolkatta), Rekha Krishnan(Head of Senior School, Vasant Valley School, New Delhi), Pritish Acharya(Reader, Regional Institute of education, Orissa) under the chairmanship of Hari Vasudevan (Professor, Department of History, Calcutta).

The ministry of human resource and development has the authority to give a final say to the content of the textbook at last. But in this case the ministry’s decision has come out to be completely isolated taken without any consultation with the academic team and further is representative of the dictatorial attitude of the current government towards academic space.

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