Myths swept out of texts

School books in Karnataka 'sanitised' of 'bias'

By K.M. Rakesh in Bangalore
  • Published 10.02.17
The Class 9 science text that describes Dronacharya as the first test-tube baby

Bangalore, Feb. 9: Congress-ruled Karnataka has launched an exercise to "sanitise" school textbooks of "religious, political and mythological" content introduced when the BJP was in power.

The new books will be ready for distribution in 55,000-odd schools that follow the state syllabus when the next academic year starts in June. "We are not for saffronisation or Congressisation of textbooks as we believe political ideologies should have no place in school books," B. Ramachandrappa, chairman of the panel of experts who reworked the textbooks, said today.

The Ramachandrappa-led panel, helped by 27 sub-committees that examined and then rewrote the books, has made significant changes in social sciences, language and science texts that the experts claimed were replete with mythological stories. One example was the description of Dronacharya as a "test-tube baby".

"We have included lessons to promote secularism, gender equality, the importance of following the Constitution and national integration. Removing all kinds of biases was our main aim," Ramachandrappa, a well-known Kannada writer himself, said.

To begin with, pictures of mosques and churches will be back. The BJP government had revised the books to include only photos of temples. "We received a lot of complaints about only temples being featured. The new books will have images of all places of worship," Ramachandrappa said.

"Gender equality is another aspect we have focused on by including a lesson on Savithribhai Phule," Ramachandrappa added, referring to the 19th century reformer and poet who fought for women's rights.

While a lesson on human rights has been introduced in the Class VIII social sciences textbook, Class VII students will now learn about public administration and the Sufi and the Bhakti movements. "Ours is a secular country with rich contributions by people of all communities, not just Hindus. That's why students must learn about all these aspects of our culture," Ramachandrappa said.

Among those dropped is the "Blade Runner", the South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius. A Class VI English book had a lesson on Pistorius, who has since been convicted of murdering his girlfriend. "He is no more a motivational character," Ramachandrappa said, justifying the move.

According to the experts, the BJP government had injected so much from Hindu mythology that Class IX students read in their science text that Dronacharya was the first "test-tube baby".

"We have sanitised everything and included only scientifically proven discoveries. Let students learn what's backed by empirical evidence," Ramachandrappa said.

The Class VIII Kannada history book was re-written in 2012 with an additional chapter titled Hosa Dharmagala Udaya (Rise of new religions) in which the notion of "Dharma" is separated from "religion". Indian religions such as Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism were classified as "dharma" - a broader concept signifying the right way of living. Christainity and Islam were categorised under "religion", a restrictive faith-oriented term.

While secular history portrays the Deccan Sultans of the Adilshahi Dynasty (1489-1685 AD) who ruled Bidar, in north Karnataka, as patrons of education and art among Hindus and Muslims, the textbooks revised during the BJP years have nothing of this. Chapters on Muslim rulers and their contributions were dropped.

All these will revert to "historically accepted positions" in the new books, the experts said.

When schools had expressed concern over the delay in replacing the textbooks, the education department in the Congress-led government had instructed them to ignore Vedic shlokas and references to the "test-tube baby" inventions, among others.

But that was easier said than done. D. Shashi Kumar, general secretary of Associated Managements of English Medium Schools in Karnataka which represents around 17,000 private institutions, said replacing the books was the only way out.

"Such unscientific material shouldn't have entered the books. I hope the new books are free of bias," Kumar added.