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Error cloud on NCERT texts

New Delhi, Oct. 5: NCERT director J.S. Rajput has said the educational council will correct the “academic errors” in the new social science textbooks for classes VI and IX but not yield to ideological or political pressure.

“For instance, the statement in the ninth standard social science textbook saying Madagascar is an island in the Arabian sea will be corrected,” Rajput said. “But if people are objecting to other political and ideological facts, we have nothing to do. Their suggestions are absurd.”

The chief of the National Council of Educational Research and Training blasted Left historians for objecting to the deletion of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination from the social science textbook for Class IX.

The chapter on Indian national movement says towards the end: “Gandhi was in Calcutta, when on August 15, India won Independence. He was busy there restoring communal harmony between Muslims and Hindus.” Not a word on his assassination. But Rajput says: “Who are they to ask these questions' Let parents and teachers ask them. In any case, if they had so many objections, why did they not write to the NCERT'”

Rajput went on to claim that parents, students and teachers are happy at the reduction of workload. However, at a press conference yesterday, history teachers from Springdales school had rejected the textbooks as “badly written, full of grammatical errors and academic distortions”.

The textbooks reveal basic differences in perception between two groups of historians. For example, on the advent of Aryans and Vedic civilisation, there is a conflict of opinion that clearly shows. “The new textbooks make no mention of the advent of Aryans as a possible cause of decline of the Indus Valley civilisation,” says Arjun Dev, former head of the council’s history department.

Jainism and Buddhism, it has been pointed out, have been “placed out of context” without mentioning the “social and economic milieu in which they emerged”. The textbook does not inform about Harsha’s conversion to Buddhism. It, however, informs in chapter 16 that religious fanatics, headed by the Taliban, destroyed Buddha statues in Afghanistan.

The book also mentions how Osama bin Laden, with other “similar persons, have changed the whole world and have virtually prompted the United States to join hands with India” in the fight against terrorism.

“The sixth standard textbook states Jainism and Buddhism were born out of the philosophical traditions of Upanishads and Hinduism’s quest for salvation,” said a history teacher from Springdales.

Rajput is not budging an inch on these arguments. “These are along expected lines. These people do not trust the NCERT. We regret one or two genuine errors but for the rest, these are all motivated objections,” he says. “However, in a large organisation these errors do occur. Our staff were working overtime.”

But the NCERT director conceded that one statement objected to by Left historians will be rectified. The sentence, which occurs in the ninth standard social science textbook, says: “Unfortunately the BJP could not prove its majority on the floor of the House in 1996.”

Rajput says: “It should have been ‘however’ instead of ‘unfortunately’.”

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