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Updated: July 5, 2012 03:03 IST

Recommendation most unfortunate: Panikkar

G. Krishnakumar
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Against recommendation to delete several cartoons and texts from Political Science books

Historian K.N. Panikkar has said the S.K. Thorat panel, constituted to review the use of cartoons in the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) textbooks, had undone an academically commendable effort.

Terming the majority panel recommendation to delete several cartoons and texts of some others from the political science textbooks “most unfortunate,” Dr. Panikkar told The Hindu it is pardonable if politicians err on a matter like this, as they did in Parliament, demanding the removal of the cartoons, withdrawal of the textbooks and the punishment for the authors.

“… for their awareness about the academic and pedagogic reasons which govern the preparation of a textbook is at best very superficial. That is precisely the reason why the textbooks were referred to a committee of experts. The political leaders objecting to a particular cartoon is understandable, because they have to worry about their support base. The academic experts are not constrained by any such consideration,” he said.

Dr. Panikkar, a former Professor of History at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, pointed out that the responsibility that devolved upon the committee, therefore, required a very careful academic consideration of the criteria adopted for either deleting or retaining the cartoons and texts.

“Unfortunately, the committee appears to have been carried away by the extra academic argument about the prevalence of multiple sensitivities in Indian society. It is entirely true that in a society as vast and diverse as India is, there can always be room for different understanding of the text and interpretation of visuals. That is precisely the reason why the students should be exposed to such texts and interpretations and their different understanding so that they overcome the in-built prejudices in society,” he said.

Perpetuating prejudices

Explaining that attempts to hide different perceptions about social realities would only help to perpetuate the prejudices, Dr. Panikkar said cartoons with their humorous intent were perhaps one of the most effective media to sensitise students on such situations. “This is not to suggest that injury to the feelings of any section of society by representation or interpretation be overlooked.”

Dr. Panikkar said the committee did not appear to have given much thought to the pedagogic requirements of the National Curriculum Frame work (NCF).

Paradigm shift

“The NCF suggested a fundamental change in pedagogical practices by adopting a student-centred system. The new textbooks prepared under this scheme substantially differed from the earlier textbooks. Understandably, there were reservations about these textbooks, as they shifted the ‘burden of teaching’ to the ‘pleasure of learning.’ The cartoons, newspaper reports etc., are part of the resources necessary for this new pedagogic practice. Some time before there was a hue and cry about the history textbooks prepared under this scheme,” he said.

While welcoming the suggestion for wider consultations and pre-testing of texts, Dr. Panikkar reminded that the discussion with various types of schools and different religious and ethnic minorities should not be confused with their approval. “That would lead to serious academic compromises.”

Consult first

Dr. Panikkar said the NCERT should desist from implementing the recommendations of the committee and organise wider consultations with educational experts and scholars of political science especially in the light of the adverse academic opinion the report has attracted along with the dissenting note of one of the committee members. “In the process, let us ensure that the textbooks are so prepared that the children are able to look critically at themselves and their society,” he said.

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The people who selected Thorat to head the panel knew that he would do their bidding. They not wrong.

from:  krishna
Posted on: Jul 5, 2012 at 21:15 IST

I completely agree with Mr. Pannikar.
Everything has different perceptions. But to know what is the truth we must have all options and/or at least we must be critical in our views. If we not, we cant weigh-out the truth.So as per me, we have a strong enough voice against such kind of report.

from:  G. Mannu
Posted on: Jul 5, 2012 at 19:53 IST

I would whole heartedly agree with all of Mr Panikkar's submissions. Most importantly, he has put forward a perspective from the student's point of view. Is there any study that shows any negative impact in the minds of the students? Is education only about learning and disgorging facts, but also to shape the mind of the student? I entirely agree with the author, that we need a bolder approach in education especially in the context of our great diversity of language, culture, religions and so on. The student has to come to terms with and form opinions on so many contentious issues that society is grappling with. Take for example, the topic of sex education. Today, it is no longer taboo, to address this in schools. Cartoons are but part of our lives and part of the way society sees itself. Why subject cartoons in textbooks, to such a controversy?

from:  varadarajan raman
Posted on: Jul 5, 2012 at 12:05 IST

Professor Pannikar's views deserve careful consideration before any changes are made to the text books. An often cited and widely agreed purpose of education is to develop thinking and critical analysis skills in students. Feeding pablum to our young minds will not help them in developing such skills. As KN Pannikar says " the textbooks are so prepared that the children are able to look critically at themselves and their society". Let us expose our children's minds to the fact that there are differences among us in how we look at things. When I was in Grade school, we were taught that Indian constitution embodies " strength through diversity". Let us follow the framers our basic national document and give diversity of views a chance.

from:  Virendra Gupta
Posted on: Jul 5, 2012 at 07:39 IST
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