New Delhi, March 2: The Centre has asked the states to refurbish their school curricula with chapters on gender issues and self-defence training for girls, but experts fear the initiative would prove mere “lip service”.
The human resource development ministry sent the letter a month ago following the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old in a Delhi bus in December.
“It is suggested that curriculum and textbooks be re-examined and improved for gender-positive materials. At least a two-three-day gender module be conducted with all teachers during the annual in-service training programme,” said the letter from Rajarshi Bhattacharya, secretary in the department of school education and literacy.
The National Curriculum for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) is the premier agency that prepares school textbooks used by the Central Board of Secondary Education and some 15 state boards. The other state boards write their own textbooks.
Anita Rampal, former dean of education at Delhi University, said the NCERT textbooks are composed according to a National Curriculum Framework (NCF) prepared by an expert committee. These textbooks explain gender issues and values implicitly through examples and stories and are updated regularly.
“But few states use the NCERT books in elementary classes,” said Rampal, who has been involved in preparing the NCERT’s social science textbooks for elementary classes. “When the states prepare their own textbooks, they are supposed to keep the NCF guidelines in mind. But that is not happening. As a result, textbooks prepared by state-level agencies lack adequate material on gender and other important issues.”
Lawyer Ashok Agrawal, who has filed a series of petitions on the alleged violation of the Right to Education Act by various agencies, said the government letter was mere “lip service”.
“Is the ministry really serious about sensitising children in state schools on gender issues? Had it issued any advice earlier or consulted the states on the matter? I think this letter is just a routine communication to project the ministry as one concerned about gender equality,” he said.
Rampal said the letter may trigger some thinking in the states but added that the Centre needed to engage more deeply with the states on the matter. “Neither the NCERT nor any other agency has done any research or prepared any module — which could be a short film or any other creative material — to sensitise teachers about gender issues,” Rampal said. Bhattacharya’s letter asks the states to train schoolgirls in self-defence in their physical education classes. “Self-defence training can really give a sense of self-confidence to girls to handle any kind of situation,” Rampal said.