‘It did not seem to be too happy with recommendations’

The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) on Wednesday decided to hold further consultations on the S.K. Thorat Committee report that recommended the removal of 21 cartoons and words, which, it said, were “ambiguous,” negative or showed politicians and bureaucrats in an ‘incorrect’ way, from the Social Science and Political Science textbooks for Classes IX-XII.

Sources in the NCERT told The Hindu that the Council did not seem to be too happy with the report and, if it had its way, it could implement the report partially by removing just two cartoons – one on Dr. Ambedkar and another on the anti-Hindi movement in Tamil Nadu.

NMC to decide

While the NCERT has left it to the National Monitoring Committee (NMC) to take the final call on the fate of the review committee’s report, it would like to see things settled down before the Monsoon session of Parliament, where the issue is likely to be raised again, begins.

The NMC, comprising Mrinal Miri and G.B. Deshpande, will decide on the fate of the report after consultations on the submissions that could not make it to the final report. This includes Professor S.S. Pandian’s note that was not in line with the report.

The review committee report was discussed at a meeting here in which experts involved in the preparation of the textbooks were invited to give their opinions. Chairperson of the textbook advisory committee Professor Hari Vasudevan; the former chief advisor for the textbooks, Professor Yogendra Yadav; and the former NCERT director, Professor Krishna Kumar; were present at the meeting.

Professor Yadav submitted an exhaustive clarification on the issues raised in the report on behalf of the team that was involved in finalising the contents of the textbooks.

Professor Yadav and Suhas Palshikar were the chief advisors of the textbook advisory committee, but both stepped down after the controversy.

They made a submission before the review committee, saying it was through an unprecedented exercise in collective deliberation that the textbooks were developed in 2006-2007.

“The final outcome of a collective exercise for this kind does not have an ‘author,’ however, as chief advisors we were responsible for the final versions that was submitted to the NMC and then accepted by the NCERT.’’

The letter further said the textbook development team had simply shared and followed the spirit of the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) 2005 that had invited them to bridge the gap between bookish learning and the world outside classrooms.

Broadly, they pointed out that since the review committee takes the NCF as its starting point, its criteria (of selections) did not seem to be in conformity with the NCF. Further, it points out that the committee has picked selectively from the available literature on use of cartoons in pedagogy.

They also pointed out that while the Thorat Committee has freely gone beyond its mandate of identifying educationally “inappropriate” material and made many substantive suggestions for improvement of books, it does not appear to have paid equal attention to its second mandate to suggest alternative material, which can be immediately made available to students.

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