New Delhi, July 20: Marxist historians will be heard once again in classrooms across the country.
The United Progressive Alliance government has decided to re-introduce National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) history textbooks authored by Romila Thapar, Satish Chandra and Bipan Chandra for Class VI to XII students.
Textbooks introduced during the NDA regime by the then human resource development minister Murli Manohar Joshi and his lieutenant, NCERT director J.S. Rajput, have been shelved. Joshi had removed books authored by Left liberal historians when he was in office.
But for the current academic session the Left-authored books will only be read as “reference” material and not full-fledged textbooks. Teachers will use the old and new books, with the Left-written texts being used to correct the “innumerable” errors in the new books.
A note tabled by HRD minister Arjun Singh in the Lok Sabha today on the NCERT decision said: “It is unfortunately not practical to change all the textbooks at this stage when the current academic year has already advanced so much.”
But students in the 2005-06 academic year will study only the old textbooks which will replace the present set. “In 2005-06, the earlier history books will be restored with appropriate modifications in line with the existing curriculum and minor corrections wherever required,” Singh said.
The minister’s decision brings the curtains down, at least for now, on the four-year controversy sparked by Joshi’s decision to introduce a new NCERT curriculum and bring in new history textbooks. The textbooks, which were criticised as “unsuitable”, were introduced in 2002.
The NCERT will now reprint the old history textbooks so that at least five copies can be sent to each school following the CBSE syllabus.
“They will also be available in the market,” Singh said. Workshops will be organised for teachers to help them combine both sets of texts.
Also on the HRD ministry’s agenda is a revision of the new NCERT curriculum, which has been attacked by some academics as biased and flawed. Singh said a full-fledged revision will be carried out and a new curriculum would be in place by next year.
The minister said the quality of all NCERT textbooks, not just history texts, is in doubt. “There will be a quick review of all the textbooks,” he told Parliament.
After taking over as HRD minister, Singh appointed a three-member panel of historians to suggest alternatives for the history texts. The panel’s recommendations were studied by the NCERT’s executive committee, which finally reached a decision last evening after two long drawn-out meetings.