A parliamentary committee on education on Tuesday recommended a wide range of changes to history textbooks. Reforms include studying “ancient wisdom and knowledge” from the scriptures, examining how we refer to freedom fighters, mentioning women leaders, and emphasizing “national pride. “. These are all in the service of a “bias-free” education, the panel said.
The main recommendations come as the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) is about to be revised before the implementation of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020. Two months ago, the central government implemented sets up the committee to develop general guidelines, which can then inform changes at the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT).
The Standing Committee on Education, Women, Children, Youth and Sports is chaired by the Minister of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Vinay P. Sahasrabuddhe. The committee has 10 Rajya Sabha members (including 4 BJP members) and 21 Lok Sabha members (12 BJP members). Its report, titled “Textbook Context and Design Reforms” was tabled yesterday at the Rajya Sabha.
Textbooks should incorporate “ancient wisdom, knowledge and teachings about life and society from the Vedas and other great Indian texts,” the panel said. This may include knowledge of the four Vedas and parts of Agam literature (Jainist scriptures).
The conflict with historical representation in textbooks was the site of the recommended changes. The panel noted that many historical figures and freedom fighters have been “wrongly” presented as “delinquents”; representations that must be corrected and leaders must be sufficiently respected. Even contributions from women leaders such as Mahasweta Devi, Kalpana Chawla, Savitribai Phule should feature in the pages, the panel noted.
Along with this, the focus should be on adding stories from the Deccan Empires and Northeast history, and the Sikh and Maratha communities should be included in an equitable manner. The reforms will remove “non-historical” facts and distortions from history, the panel insists.
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Based on the recommendations, NCERT had previously included topics such as Swachh Bharat, Digital India, demonetization, GST, “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” policies – with the aim of also considering “post-independence” stories. . In other modern stories, the panel also recommended textbooks to “warn” children about “ailments” like drug addiction and Internet addiction.
But the idea of updating history and creating the next generation of literature is fraught with ethical considerations. “The recent and past attacks on history textbooks, with those who distort Indian history seeking to use textbooks to advance their political agenda of Hindu nation-building, are a curious reversal of reality,” he said. writes academic R. Mahalakshmi in Frontline.
The question has divided India for decades now. It was only recently, in January, that a former director of NCERT told a committee that current textbooks distort history by “glorifying” Mughal rulers. The “over-representation” can be justified because “the Mughals ruled over large swathes of India, produced remarkable rulers, and left great architectural structures as well as a significant amount of literature,” Firstpost noted. Over the years, some historical facts about the Mughals have faded from the history books.
Instead, officials said the story should have more depictions of different dynasties like the Cholas and Pandyas. “We must glorify our national heroes and give proportionate references to all periods of Indian history,” said one of the ministers. This attempt to glorify and harangue India’s “golden bird” status seems to have its roots only in the ancient Vedic texts. For example, currently one of the recommendations received by the panel stated that “the part that improves self-esteem and national pride and unity should be highlighted and underlined”. That the idea of ”glory” carries with it tints of Hindu nationalism, that is not obvious.
Additionally, when NCERT attempted to introduce modules on transgender inclusion in schools, the manual was withdrawn due to criticism from some right-wing groups. The complaint said these inclusions could “traumatize students in the name of gender awareness.” The national children’s rights body asked him to “rectify the anomalies” in the document. The emphasis on gender justice in the current set of recommendations therefore seems limited in its inclusion.
In July of this year, the Indian History Congress (IHC), one of the largest bodies of historians and scholars, called the parliamentary panel’s initial claims “reprehensible” because they delegitimized the scientific contributions provided. after extensive research. The IHC also said the changes “reflected a bias” that is not based on the research.
Responsible review would mean “not meddling with textbooks in any school board, putting in place more vigorous means of assessing ‘ancient Indian knowledge’, funding more legitimate research and spending less time talking about it, celebrating our story in its proper context, berating government officials for talking nonsense, and ensuring that those engaged in these tasks get the respect they deserve, ”they noted.
It’s no surprise that most stories in the world are written and rewritten with a bias in favor of the dominant winners. But the relentless amalgamation of truth, history, and glory seems to solidify a disturbing narrative – one that is far from accurate.