//HRD for a council to review textbooks

HRD for a council to review textbooks

Akshaya Mukul

NEW DELHI: Saraswati Shishu Mandirs, Vidya Bharati schools and madrassas accused of teaching obscurantism and sharpening religious divide, better watch out.

The HRD ministry is planning a National Textbook Council, which would review textbooks for schools outside the government system.

The ministry is preparing a bill to form NTC. The bill, currently at the initial stage, was recommended by a CABE committee headed by Zoya Hasan which looked into regulatory mechanism for textbooks and parallel textbooks taught in schools outside the government system. But the NTC would not be reviewing books of NCERT and SCERT.

In fact, Hasan's committee had recommended a separate autonomous State Textbook Council.

NTC, to be an autonomous body, would review textbooks and ensure that no book propagates anything which is against the Constitution; defames the country; challenges sovereignty and integrity of the nation and incites contempt against any religion.

In a nutshell, NTC would see if books comply with the constitutional values and national policies of education. It would also be a forum for ordinary citizens to complain about content and quality of textbooks.

Its membership would be drawn from civil society and academia. NTC will decide the periodicity of review.

Simply explained, NTC will review textbooks of private publishers which are used by students in unaided private schools.

While schools affiliated with CBSE recommend NCERT books, those affiliated to ICSE use books by private publishers.

Also, many schools like Shishu Mandirs and Vidya Bharatis use textbooks by private publishers at primary and upper primary stage which go unscrutinised.

During the survey of school textbooks, the Hasan committee had found problems with textbooks of Shishu Mandir, Vidya Bharati and even madrassa textbooks.

For instance, if Shishu Mandir books had questions like how many Ram Bhakts died to liberate the alleged temple in Ayodhya and when did the process of collecting bricks for temple began, madrassa textbooks glorified "everything Islamic to a point of sharpening the religious identity of students".

"Blind faith, rather than critical and scientific thinking, dominates these books. The most troubling aspect is that children are deprived of alternative views," the committee had noted.

Therefore, Hasan's committee had recommended that the "laissez faire approach" towards school textbooks should not be allowed.

It had said that books should be "informed by the philosophy of liberal, secular and democratic" values. While appreciating plurality in the textbooks, CABE committee felt there should be an institutional mechanism to review books.