Mismatch, quality queries on Hindi textbooks released by NCERT last July

Basant Kumar Mohanty
Basant Kumar Mohanty
Posted on 02 Jan 2024
05:46 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. File Photo.

Both developments have buttressed the questions some academics have asked about the credentials of some members of the panels that prepared or supervised the syllabuses and textbooks

Hindi textbooks released by the NCERT for Classes I and II last July contain contradictory claims on the identities of the authors of a poem and a short story, with questions raised also about the quality of some of the content in these two textbooks.

Both developments have buttressed the questions some academics have asked about the credentials of some members of the panels that prepared or supervised the syllabuses and textbooks.

The Hindi textbook Sarangi for Class I has a story, Meena Ka Parivar, about a happy family. The edition of Sarangi for Class II contains a poem, Khel Sandhya, about sports and games. The acknowledgement pages of the two books credit both the story and the poem to “Mira Bhargava (USA)”.


Official sources said Mira Bhargava is the mother of Manjul Bhargava, a professor of mathematics at Princeton University who was on the development team for both books.

However, on the inside pages of the books themselves, Malti Devi has been named as the author of Meena Ka Parivar, while Rakesh Chandra is mentioned as the author of Khel Sandhya.

Manjul Bhargava is both a contributor to, and a reviewer of, Sarangi for Class I, which contains his poem Akshaar Geet. He is also a reviewer of Sarangi for Class II.

In all, Manjul Bhargava is co-chairman of a panel for the development of the syllabuses and learning material for all subjects for Classes III to XII, and a member of an oversight panel making sure all this aligns with the education policy. He was also on the panels that drafted the National Education Policy (NEP) and the National Curriculum Framework (NCF).

Anita Rampal, former dean of faculty (education) at Delhi University and former chairperson of the textbook development committee of NCERT for primary classes, described the mismatch in the authors’ names as “unprecedented”. She said the NCERT needed to clarify this discrepancy.

Rampal expressed dismay at some of the content of the Class I and II Hindi textbooks, including Akshar Geet by Manjul Bhargava, which is meant to facilitate the learning of the Hindi alphabet.

Akshar Geet is not a poem. It merely presents each letter in the Varnamala, forcing some rhyming lines, without a coherent theme or consideration of whether children can make any sense of the text. Why falsely push such a text under the genre of a geet/ song or poem?” Rampal said.

She said Meena Ka Parivar reinforces a stereotypical idea of the family whereas young children should be exposed to different types of families, including those who adopt children.

“In textbooks published in 2006-07, we had tried to move away from the concept of a biological ‘girl-boy-parents’ family by giving examples of a diverse and inclusive concept of a family,” she said.

Rampal said Khel Sandhya illustrates games children play outside their homes but unnecessarily portrays darkness as something they feel scared about.

“Children who live and play outside protected homes learn to overcome many hurdles as part of a collective growing-up. Efforts should be to draw on their agency rather than suggesting or reinforcing the fear of darkness,” Rampal said.

The Telegraph sent an email to NCERT director Dinesh Prasad Saklani on December 27 asking who actually wrote Meena Ka Parivar and Khel Sandhya and whether Mira Bhargava’s work had been included at all. His response is awaited.

Suniti Sanwal, head of the department of elementary education, NCERT, was contacted over the phone. She could not clarify the discrepancy.

An email was sent to Manjul Bhargava seeking his perspective on the author name mismatches and asking whether he had recused himself from review work if and when his mother’s poem and story were considered for inclusion. His response is awaited.

Credentials query

Rampal and another academic, who asked not to be quoted, said that various panels formed by the education ministry and the NCERT to prepare the school syllabuses and textbooks had as members eminent people who had little expertise in the task at hand.

Both cited the example of Manjul Bhargava, who is a member of four such committees. The panels also include other academics as well as musicians and business leaders whose CVs, as available in the public domain, do not suggest they have any research output in areas of education policy, curriculums or textbooks.

While Manjul Bhargava’s professional work relates to number theory, Wikipedia says he also learnt the tabla and Sanskrit and is an admirer of Sanskrit poetry.

Rampal said Bhargava’s scholarship in mathematics was undoubted, but he lacked expertise in pedagogy and the preparation of syllabuses and school textbooks, which is a professional domain in itself.

“To support and augment the capacities of the NCERT it was important to include people whose contribution to the curricular domain is well known and transparent. Otherwise, the host of committees already announced appear to provide a front for the actual or ‘ghost’ writers who will remain invisible and therefore unquestionable,” Rampal said.

The other academic who spoke to this newspaper said that Bhargava was viewed as someone close to the Prime Minister. “The members on the panels do not question Bhargava,” he said.

However, an NCERT professor said Bhargava was “very good” at providing guidance when sought.

“I have taken his suggestions on some issues. They are precise and very helpful. His suggestions are about how to make things easily comprehensible for the target groups. I find his suggestions really relevant to the issues of schoolchildren,” the faculty member said.

NCERT sources said that NCERT faculty members had a minimal contribution to the preparation of the NCF for school education.

They said that while Ranjana Arora, an NCERT professor, coordinated with the steering committee and mandate group, faculty members of science, social science and other departments were not involved in the preparation of the syllabuses.

However, when the NCF, syllabuses and textbooks were prepared in 2005, the external experts involved consulted the NCERT faculty members, they added.

Responses are awaited to emails sent to NCERT director Saklani and school education secretary Sanjay Kumar seeking their comments on the allegation that some of the panel members lacked the required expertise.

The email to Bhargava, not yet answered, sought his response to these allegations too.

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Last updated on 02 Jan 2024
14:03 PM
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