CBSE drops chapters on Islamic empires from board syllabus
Class XI students of CBSE schools will not be required to study chapters on the rise of Islam or Mughal-era manuscripts in history this year, nor will Class XII pupils be needed to take up “poverty and infrastructure” at a time the pandemic has pushed millions into penury.
The changes, ostensibly prompted by learning setbacks during the pandemic, have been announced by the CBSE, the country’s largest school board, following recommendations by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), the government body that decides on curriculum and textbooks.
Teachers are worried that students will be deprived of knowledge on key historical developments, and some academics suspect that the move is in sync with the views of the current dispensation.
In Class XI history, the chapter “The Central Islamic Lands” has been removed. It deals with the rise of Islam and its expansion over a vast territory stretching from Egypt to Afghanistan, the core area of the Islamic civilisation from 600 AD to 1200 AD.
The introduction to the chapter says: “The term Islamic is used here not only in its pure religious sense but also for the overall society and culture historically associated with Islam. In this society, not everything that was happening originated directly from religion, but it took place in a society where Muslims and their faith were recognised as socially dominant. Non-Muslims always formed an integral, if subordinate, part of this society as did Jews in Christendom.”
A teacher of history rued that students would miss out on an opportunity to learn about Islam in detail.
“In no other class are students exposed to the rise of Islam in Arabia, the Islamic calendar, the Caliphate, the break up of the Caliphate and the rise of Sultanates, the Quran, and so many important phenomena of that time. The students should know these developments. In my opinion, the deletion of the chapter will deprive students of an idea of Islam,” said the teacher who did not wish to be quoted.
The chapter is crucial also because the world’s Muslim population exceeds one billion and the community makes up 14.2 per cent of India’s population, the largest bloc of minorities in the country, the teacher pointed out.
Students of Class XII will not need to study the chapter “Kings and Chronicles: The Mughal Courts”, which provides details on the Akbarnama and the Padshahnama — manuscripts chronicling Mughal-era history through paintings of battles, sieges, hunting expeditions, building constructions and court scenes, among others.
However, the chapter in Class XII history titled “Peasants, Zamindars and the State: Agrarian Society and the Mughal Empire”, which had been dropped by the CBSE in 2020 during a drive to prune the syllabus to reduce the burden on students during the pandemic, has been reinstated.
This chapter deals with Mughal-era taxes, how the rulers derived the bulk of their income from agricultural production and how the agents of the State such as revenue assessors, collectors and record keepers sought to control the rural society to ensure that cultivation took place.
The Class XII economics chapter “Poverty and infrastructure” has also been dropped. The chapter deals with poverty, its causes and alleviation and health infrastructure.
An economics teacher said the topic was crucial in the present context when Covid had aggravated the poverty situation. The “State of Working India Report” by Azim Premji University has found that 230 million Indians were pushed into poverty in 2020 after the first wave of Covid. The central government has discontinued its poverty estimate that the erstwhile Planning Commission used to prepare.
“The students will not be able to comprehend the state of the economy and poverty in India and poverty eradication planning and actions. This chapter should have been retained,” a school principal said.
Another chapter on the industrial revolution is no longer part of the Class XI history syllabus this year. The chapter gives details of major transformative development in Britain between 1780 and 1850. The chapter outlines changes in cotton and iron industries, the advent of steam as a source of power and the new transport system, among other things.
“Industrialisation also led to greater prosperity of some but in the initial stages it was linked with poor living and working conditions of millions of people, including women and children. This sparked off protests which forced the government to enact laws for regulating conditions for work,” the chapter says.
The CBSE has circulated the revised syllabus among schools affiliated to it.
Earlier this year, the education ministry had asked the NCERT to review the syllabus in view of the learning loss suffered over the past two years blighted by the pandemic. A CBSE official said this led to the syllabus revision.