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ICSE, ISC chop Bard down to size

Shakespeare has sacrificed his Macbeth so that ISC students can devote more time to maths.

The Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations has decided to “lighten” the ICSE and ISC English syllabi in response to suggestions from school heads and teachers who think their students need to focus on science subjects.

One of the suggestions was to exclude Shakespeare from the English syllabus but the council rejected the idea.

Instead, the new course offers a truncated Bard and a slashed literary syllabus.

Students writing their ISC from 2015 onwards would study Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing instead of a “complex” Macbeth.

George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion has made way for Arms and the Man in ISC.

For ICSE, the council has chosen one comedy, The Merchant of Venice, to replace another, As You Like It.

The number of poems, essays and short stories in the ISC syllabus has been slashed from 15 to 10. All the essays, poems and short stories are different from the ones in the old course. Ditto for ICSE.

The decisions were arrived at after a series of meetings in New Delhi. A council official said that a circular notifying the changes would be sent to the affiliated schools soon.

In tech-crazy Jamshedpur and Ranchi, students who prepare for engineering and medical entrances right from Class IX onwards will perhaps be thrilled. Teenagers focused on the “career-defining competitive entrance exams” that lie ahead of them are unlikely to complain about the attempt to make Shakespeare less heavy-duty.

But over all, academics across the cities are fearing a skewed development of young minds and its effect on society in the years to come.

“Is this a practical solution to combat academic stress? The board made the age-old division between science and arts official. Literature is not about reading a couple of stories but studying culture, history and ethics,” said Yahiya Ibrahim, English department head, Karim City College. Even tech experts are appalled over the board pushing maths and science at the cost of literature.

“Replacing one Shakespeare piece with another is acceptable but certainly not reducing the total load to encourage preparation for engineering entrance. If the board has publicly announced this reason, it is criminal and myopic. In the long run, the country will pay the price for neglecting literature to promote technology,” said Shantanu Chakrabarti, who retired as the head, research applications, Tata Steel, and is now a visiting professor at IIT-Kharagpur and NIT-Agartala.

“Academics is about balance. Literature helps in analysis and reasoning,” said Biyot Projna Tripathy, national-award winning film-maker.

Opinions on the new syllabi at both secondary and higher secondary levels stay sharply polarised.

“First and foremost, what we must remember is that everyone can’t be engineers. If so, the country is heading towards disaster. Robots can’t run a society. Moreover, humanities, especially literature, are as important as any other subject for the holistic development of a child,” said social worker Amitava Ghosh.

Countering that, a teacher from Ranchi, who refused to be named, reasoned: “Most students are interested in professional courses and not literature. It’s better if they are given easy books.”

Will the myopic view win?

What do you think of the new ICSE & ISC syllabi? Tell ttkhand@abpmail.com