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PMO push for gender lessons in schools

New Delhi, Jan. 1: The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has written to the HRD ministry asking it to introduce in school textbooks chapters on respect for women as part of moral education.

The letter was sent last week while protests raged against the December 16 bus gang rape in Delhi.

The PMO has said it has received several suggestions from eminent persons for changes in the textbooks to make students aware of gender sensitivity.

The ministry, in turn, has decided to write to the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the education boards of state governments advising them to incorporate the changes, the sources said.

The NCERT is the premier agency to prepare textbooks for schoolchildren. Its books are followed by CBSE and 15 state boards. Some state boards have their own textbooks.

Experts feel the NCERT books can be revised to give greater importance to gender issues against the backdrop of increasing crimes against women. The council had prepared the textbooks in 2006-07 and they do not “explicitly” reflect gender issues.

Anita Rampal, former dean of the education department in Delhi University and an expert associated with the preparation of NCERT textbooks for elementary classes, said the texts on social science and literature had “implicitly” highlighted gender issues by giving examples.

“We have gone by the National Curriculum Framework (the basis for selecting the contents) and have given examples to explain concepts of gender, self-dignity and values. The books don’t deal with such issues explicitly.”

Others stressed the need for revisions. Mrinal Miri, co-chairman of the national monitoring committee that approves the NCERT textbooks, said the books must be revised every five years keeping in view the changing needs and new knowledge generated in various subjects.

“I do not think there is a profound attention on gender issues in the NCERT textbooks. One has to reflect and reintroduce materials which are creative so boys and girls enjoy reading and learning,” Miri said.

But psychologist Azizuddin Khan, who is part of IIT Bombay faculty, said moral lessons in schools weren’t enough and underscored the crucial role of parents and the family in shaping a child’s values.

Khan cited a Unesco study that links the relatively low crime rates in Finland to strong parental guidance for children. “In Finland, parents do not send their children to schools till they are seven years old. Till that time, the parents give all training on values and education at home.”

Khan suggested parents must play a greater role in India, too. “A child has to practise in life what he learns at school. For this, the parents have greater responsibility.”