Textbooks based on facts, opinions, arguments; need to learn to distinguish: School Education Secy

Parts of NCERT textbooks, particularly those dealing with history, have been “criticised” because they offer “opinions or arguments” and are “not entirely based on facts”, Anita Karwal, Secretary, Department of School Education and Literacy, is learned to have said during a national consultation on curriculum revision held Monday.

Karwal, former CBSE chairperson and the most senior government official heading school education, said the country’s education system currently does not equip a child with skills to distinguish between a claim, a fact, an opinion or an argument, aspects which are covered under the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) in which India also participates.

“When we are talking about science learning, for example, this is an area where we really need to focus on, that is the critical thinking area. Whether it is science, whether it is language. In language also, people have been criticizing some NCERT texts for certain things that have been written there. And those are actually only opinions or arguments, they are not facts, and that is why they have been criticized. In particular, our history textbooks have been criticized for this. Our history textbooks are not based entirely on facts. They are based on opinions, they are based on arguments. A child should be able to distinguish between all this and come to a conclusion before releasing the internal conflict in society, this is something we all need to be very careful about,” Karwal is learned to have said.

The remarks were made during a day-long interaction of 25 groups of experts with the National Steering Committee revising the National Curriculum Framework (NCF). The groups, which represent areas ranging from Knowledge of India to Mathematics Education, have been tasked with preparing position papers, which will inform changes in the curriculum and textbooks, by May 15.

Officials told The Indian Express that Prof (retired) CI Issac, chairperson of the focus group on social sciences, said that history currently taught in schools is “subjective, not objective”. He said the starting point should be reversing the order in which the first Article of the Constitution describes the country’s name.

The first Article of the Constitution states that “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States”.

“In the tender minds, we must teach them first Bharat, then India. Instead of India alias Bharat as in the Constitution. Social science teaching to tend minds must be creative and positive. Nowadays, our history in school syllabus is subjective, not objective. The Indian defeat, Hindu defeat is the main theme of school syllabus. You can hear about Muhammad Ghori, the victories… we may say Alexander the Great, who made him great? Alexander is great to Greek people, is it to India or Bharatiya people? So these problems we have discussed (in meetings of the focus group on social science),” he said.

The comments of the chairperson are important because the position paper on Knowledge of India will also be followed by other focus groups so that elements of the ancient Indian knowledge system, upon which emphasis has also been put in the National Education Policy 2020, can be integrated across subjects.

Meanwhile, The Kashmir Files film also found mention during the day-long sessions when Professor K Ramasubramanian, from IIT Bombay and a member of a focus group on Knowledge of India, said: “Today morning, I saw a mail where somebody sent a clip of Kashmir Files. What has been done for a long time is suppressing the facts and misporraying, this is what has happened even with respect to knowledge of India. I think this is going to be eliminated is what I strongly feel and we will be extremely careful in formulating what is to be formulated to see that we don’t ever make any statement that is hyperbolic which will be counter-productive,” he said .

The 12-member national steering committee of the NCF revision exercise is headed by former ISRO chief K Kasturirangan. The NCF was last revised in 2005 under the UPA government, and before that in 1975, 1988 and 2000.

Incidentally, in December last year, a Rajya Sabha committee, headed by BJP MP Vinay P Sahasrabuddhe, tabled a report in the Housemaking a pitch for books “free of biases”, review of the representation of Indian freedom fighters in history textbooks in schools, and recommended that “ancient wisdom and knowledge” from the Vedas be incorporated in the curriculum.


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