The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong arms for textbook battle

New Delhi, Oct. 16: Opposition leaders today planned the burial of the new NCERT social science textbooks even as Murli Manohar Joshi highlighted before the media his ministry’s efforts at upgrading school curriculum.

“We have asked most Congress-ruled states to review the social science textbooks and not to use them,” said Congress leader Manmohan Singh. The Congress is in power in 14 states while the BJP and its allies rule six.

Leaders from seven parties — the Congress, the CPM, the CPI, the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Nationalist Congress Party and the CPI(ML) — met at the CPI headquarters and asked states ruled by them as well as the Telugu Desam Party and the Biju Janata Dal to “reject” the textbooks.

Besides factual errors like describing Madagascar as “an island in the Arabian Sea”, the ninth standard social science textbook brought out by the National Council of Educational Research and Training does not have a line on Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination. It also describes the October revolution in the former Soviet Union as a “coup” masterminded by Lenin.

While NCERT chief J.S. Rajput has made it clear the council will correct only factual errors, Joshi said issues like whether Gandhi’s assassination should be mentioned “should be decided by the authors and the teachers”, not by his ministry.

How effective will be the call of the Opposition leaders would depend on the school examination boards which will have to exclude the NCERT textbooks while setting question papers. Otherwise, students would have to contend with questions from books they are not familiar with.

Usually, state examination boards are packed with representatives from parties governing the states. This would help the Opposition implement its plan. Till the eighth standard the decision whether or not to use a particular textbook rests with individual schools.

Last time the Opposition had the support of NDA allies like the Desam when they campaigned against the new national curriculum. With the arrival of the new social science textbooks in the market, the Opposition is demanding a meeting of all education ministers to discuss the textbooks and a thorough review so that a consensus can be evolved. The leaders also want a reconstitution of the Central Advisory Board of Education.

Next month, Delhi will host a national convention of academics, educationists and teachers to discuss the new social science textbooks. This will be followed by conventions in other state capitals. “We want to build a mass movement on the issue of a secular, scientific, modern and forward looking education,” CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan said.

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