August 20, 2023

Kerala to Retain Deleted Parts of NCERT Textbooks

KN Ganesh

AS soon as the NCERT announcement regarding the alteration of textbooks under the pretext of 'rationalisation' became public, the Government of Kerala swiftly expressed its opposition to it. The Minister of General Education for Kerala, V Sivankutty, unequivocally stated that the removal of content from the textbooks related to Muslims and their contributions, as well as the distortion of modern Indian history to marginalise Muslims and downplay the role of the RSS, including its involvement in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, is unacceptable. He emphasized that these aspects will remain integral to the curriculum in Kerala and will be presented as supplementary materials.

The LDF government led by Pinarayi Vijayan, on returning to power for the second consecutive term in 2021, had announced that a detailed curriculum revision programme will be undertaken in schools. This initiative was a continuation of the efforts undertaken by the earlier LDF government which focused on enhancing the infrastructural facilities in schools, including the implementation of smart classrooms. The government initiated a detailed revision process, which involved the establishment of 26 focus groups by the SCERT. These focus groups have submitted their findings, and work is currently underway to revise the curriculum and develop textbooks.

This revision process is designed to amalgamate traditional classroom interactions with online resources and modern information technologies. It aims to leverage the resources available within school campuses and the immediate surroundings. A key objective of this curriculum revision is to uphold the principles enshrined in the constitution, such as democracy, secularism, social justice, and gender equality. The overarching goal is to ensure inclusive education that caters to the distinctive educational needs of marginalised communities, including adivasis, coastal populations, dalits, minorities, women, and transgender individuals.

 In the context of this framework, it holds utmost significance to ensure the comprehensive representation of India's multi-cultural, multi-linguistic, and multi-regional features within textbooks. Given that the school-going population of Kerala embodies these very characteristics, the writing of textbooks based scientific and democratic educational materials is important. Therefore, meticulous attention has been devoted to preventing the neglect of historical, social, cultural, and linguistic dimensions pertaining to any of these groups. Their unique requisites have been earnestly integrated to the fullest possible extent.

This approach is rooted in the LDF government's and SCERT's response to the alterations imposed upon the textbooks by the NCERT. The NCERT's thematic approach has been maintained by the SCERT and efforts have been made to ensure that the textbooks do not overburden the learners. SCERT has initiated a rationalisation process of its own, encompassing measures such as the avoidance of overlapping, redundancy, allocation of themes according to varying levels of complexity across different classes, provisions for self learning, and the exclusion of superfluous content. At the same time care is taken to see that the materials selected for each theme are inclusive, and that the learners are not denied the opportunity of gaining access to materials that are essential for comprehensive learning process and to see that no discrimination is made in the acquisition of knowledge and knowledge production, in the name of religion, gender, caste or ethnicity. Such an approach will necessitate inclusion of materials that will represent the ‘unity in diversity’ and the multicultural fabric that are the essential characteristics of Indian culture.

 Hence, it becomes necessary to adequately depict the contributions of Islam and other religions, along with regional and ethnic cultures, to the Indian civilization, including the national movement. Similarly, a comprehensive depiction of all facets pertaining to various episodes in Indian history, including the struggle for independence, the partition of India, and the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, is important. In this endeavour, meticulous care is exercised to ensure the empirical verifiability of all included facts, eschewing elements of mythical narratives and unscientific distortions.

With this perspective in mind, the Government of Kerala is actively engaged in formulating school textbooks. It is evident that these textbooks are meticulously crafted within the parameters of this overarching framework. While ensuring alignment with curricula and textbooks in other regions of India, including the NCERT, it is imperative to underscore the secular, democratic, just, and scientific character of the learning process. Adequate modifications of the textbooks and provision for supplementary material will have to be ensured, when compared with the present rationalisation process undertaken by the NCERT, without in anyway affecting the learning outcomes.

Since the NEP 2020 has already allowed for the incorporation of 20 per cent of the content material in textbooks by state governments, such a process will not be difficult.  In this vein, the Government of Kerala, in collaboration with SCERT, is proceeding with the preparation of textbooks.  The first batch of textbooks designed for classes 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11 is slated for introduction starting in the year 2024 (they are planned for release on August 23, 2023). Subsequently, textbooks for the remaining grade levels will be introduced from 2025 onwards.