I had posted some observations about Delhi Government’s proposed deletions in the NCERT textbooks. Many respondents asked me to specify what my objections were. Here it goes, for one set of textbooks that I know something about, namely Social and Political Life for classes VI to VIII and Political Science for classes IX to X [Please read the full disclosure at the end]:
At first sight it looks like a ham-handed mutilation done by a bureaucrat in a hurry. The result:
• No logic in what is to be deleted and what is to be retained (Panchayati Raj is deleted on the ground that it is not relevant to Delhi, but rural administration is retained with all its details)
• No thought about linkage of one topic to another discussed in subsequent chapters or classes (introduction to democracy is deleted, but justification of democracy is not)
• No attention to what are essential elements that a future citizen of the country must study (the students who may not opt for Political Science in +2 will pass school without having know anything about the Indian Constitution, the working of our Parliament, the institution of President and PM and the Courts!)
• The document often gets the names and number of the chapter and even the name of the subject wrong (It is no longer civics, but Social and Political Life till 8th and then Political Science)!
A closer look shows something much worse. There is a method to this madness. The deletions systematically prune these textbooks of everything progressive, both in pedagogical and political sense. Wherever the texts go beyond the old, formal institutional descriptions of laws and institutions, they face an axe. In sum, the proposal has a problem with the spirit of National Curriculum Framework. It sets the stage for what the BJP may be preparing to do to these textbooks:
• Every discussion on caste inequality and discrimination has been erased as “negative aspects of diversity” and “not good for social harmony”; Chapter on Marginalisation to be deleted from class VIII; chapter that discusses Mandal Commission report in class IX to be deleted
• Same for every mention of disadvantage of Muslim community and discrimination against religious minorities in class VI and X; chapter on Secularism to be deleted from class VIII
• Both the chapters that contain references to the life of Dr Ambedkar (class VI and IX) are to be deleted
• Chapter on gender stereotyping, inequality and discrimination also to be deleted from class VII
• Chapter on federalism that discusses diversity and democracy in the Indian context and celebrate the achievement of the Indian model also to be deleted
• Any positive reference to peoples participation, struggle and movements also to be deleted (Chapters in Class VI, VII); In class X, Chapter on Political Parties to stay but the next one on Peoples Movements and Struggles to go, as it may make the “students feel that agitation, anarchy and going against the government are the only means of securing social justice”
• Any pedagogic innovation and invitation to critical reflection is looked down upon (“confusing”)
• Compared to other subjects within social studies, the deletions proposed in Social and Political Life and Political Science are disproportionately large.
[Full disclosure: For those not familiar, I should mention that I was in the committee that designed the syllabi from class VI to XII and was one of the Chief Advisers for textbooks on class IX and X discussed here, before resigning in 2010 in protest against the UPA governments’ attempt to fiddle with these textbooks. I should also mention, before someone gets excited, that I did not take a single Rupee as fee or royalty for my role in the writing of these textbooks