Undemocratic Texts within a Democracy: A Pedagogic Critique on the Onslaught on NCERT

Pedagogic critiques on the current political regime’s denial of democratic voices can be viewed in the light of recent chapter cuts in NCERT textbooks.

The New Leam Staff

Cover Image – Class 9th Socil Science Textbook, NCERT

Much has been written and said about the onslaught on public institutions, the purposeful decadence of public universities, the dilution of important sources of authority and the overall debunking of the democratic ethos within the nation under the current political regime. 

The present regime has been accused of harbouring an antipathy to the vibrant political culture in the nation and has been considered one that believes that social movements and mobilization of people from the grassroots is nothing but an obstacle in the path of the neo-liberal aspirations of the state.  Those who have argued and voiced their concerns in this regard will once again be disappointed at a recent development concerning the field of pedagogy.

As we witness the biggest event of democracy- the Lok Sabha elections and talk about India being the world’s largest democracy and how crucial it is for its citizens to exercise their right to franchise- the NCERT has conveniently decided to drop an entire chapter concerning democracy in the contemporary world.  

The chapter that has been deleted is from the class 9th political science book and is entitled Democracy in the Contemporary World’. The decision to drop this important chapter was allegedly taken by a committee within the NCERT that invited no expert from the field.

Moreover, what is paradoxical is the fact that the committee that had formed the textbook was not even consulted before deleting this chapter.

The committee of political scientists and experts in the social studies who had finalised and worked towards the completion of the political science book in 2005, was hardly spoken to or consulted before having taken this significant decision.

It is a painful reminder of the arbitrariness and willful degeneration of education and the politics in the nation. The deletion of the significant chapter shall be a reason for concern for us all.

What we must also acknowledge is the fact that debates regarding the removal of significant NCERT chapters also took place during the UPA regime but what is problematic here is that unlike in the UPA era, no expert committee was consulting before deleting the portion. The procedure for adding/deleting portions from textbook has a multi-layered execution process and cannot be done through random wish.

It is also sad that in a nation like India, the NCERT is uninterested in enabling students to read on democracy and the emergency with which textbooks are being altered is disturbing.  It is painful to witness that such an important part of the syllabus that discussed the progress of democracy throughout the world, the movements that led to the expansion of democracy and the end of colonialism and starting of universal adult franchise has been so conveniently deleted from this political science textbook.  This comes weeks after NCERT deleted chapters on caste struggles in India, the history of clothing and colonialism and its relationship to cricket.

1 COMMENT

  1. It’s amusing actually… Folks who should really critique such excision i.e. teachers in particular or even parents and students have not bothered to echo such sentiments of loss, outrage, tragedy which have largely remained so of the left intellectuals, which gets voiced with all self righteousness in The New Leam, The Wire, Huffington Post and Scroll. While few teachers like myself ( well… An exteacher) would lament this, most teachers would welcome this. Indeed more than a decade after its publications, wonder how many social science teachers really understood why there were chapters on cricket, literature and modern art in history books and media and industry in politics book in the first place. The thing is fancied JNU scholars did best what they can do best… Write, pontificate and posture. So they wrote this textbook. And that of Eklavya as well. Both are commendable no doubt. Hurrah to them. But that is a comfortable ivory tower exercise. While such intellectual endeavours are needed what is needed more is outreach, constant, systematic, laboured engagement which they would have discovered is far complex, messy, time consuming and painstaking involving people of supposedly ‘inferior’ intellect, saturated in world of problematic beliefs, social outlook and political preference (referring to teachers here btw) subject to several pressures and harassment of a type and order so sui generis that is more difficult to handle than those involved in publishing papers in fancy seminars and conferences and EPW, claims of solid archival work and undertaking difficult ethnography of Geertzian or Sahlian variety notwithstanding. Your editorial is so full of truisms, lazy and tame pontifications which will surely find resonance in leftist echo chambers but not with someone of my ilk who knows from experience that there is so much more to good social science teaching than textbooks… good or bad. (Or reconstituting and detoxifying NCERT… Folks forget educational bureaucracy itself is a quagmire made of different bodies, boards, directorates which work at cross-purposes. Think of blasting CBSE too sometimes for example…and how right from the beginning in their scheme of things they undermined NCERT’s social science textbooks by their own ‘practical’ curriculum) Having also worked in an NGO seeking to reform social science curriculum, it was more horrifying to figure out how hopelessly ill equipped even the foot soldiers meant to popularize the idea of such approach informing NCERT textbooks were. None of the fancied JNU and JNU incubated scholars were around even to reach such teacher educators leave alone teachers. Of course such NGOs themselves operate more like marketing and event management enterprises and with such instrumental mindset they too really don’t bother whether such textbooks are butchered either by teachers or teacher educators. Indeed the silence of so many educational NGOs over such mauling of textbooks is also equally depressing.
    So I suggest instead of using a tired and abused template of Hindutva bashing and obsessing purely on their shenanigans, the New Leam should go deeper into matters and explore the many variables that affect schooling.

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