Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on October 30, 1948. Japan mounted a nuclear attack on the United States during World War II. After Partition, a new country called ‘Islamic Islamabad’ came into being with its capital Khyber Ghat in the Hindukush mountains. All south Indians are “Madrasis.”
These are among factual mistakes and historical half-truths galore in the Social Science textbooks for classes 8, 7 and 6, let alone grammatical and spelling errors, produced by the Gujarat government.
Still the Gujarat State Board for School Textbooks will not withdraw thousands of copies being fed to as many as 50,000 English medium primary school children. It will at best release errata on the Internet.
GSBST Executive President Nitin Pethani told The Hindu : “There is no question of withdrawing the textbooks. There is no major issue but only mistakes of translation. A two-member committee of Gujarat Children’s University Vice-Chancellor Harshad Shah and Babasaheb Ambedkar Open University Vice-Chancellor Manoj Soni will study the books. Once the committee’s report comes, we will release the errata.”
‘Intellectual poverty’ “The books reflect the intellectual poverty of the authors,” asserts social and political scientist Achyut Yagnik. “This is not new with the present set of textbooks, the situation was similar with even the earlier versions,” he told The Hindu .
The class 7 book clubs the Rath Yatra of Puri among south Indian festivals. In the same breath, it has been included with Onam and Diwali in Kerala, Bharatanatyam of Tamil Nadu and Kuchipudi of Andhra Pradesh.
The book has even more interesting descriptions of life in eastern India. “People in east India wear clothes above ankle as there is more rainfall. Ladies wear sari in a peculiar manner.”
According to the textbook, most people in eastern India reside in “houses made of wood and bamboo.”
Samir Barua, former director of Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, who was engaged by the Gujarat government in 2001 to review textbooks after he wrote articles pointing to glaring mistakes, says, “The authors of these books are not competent at all.”
Poor translation The reason why these textbooks are full of errors is that the base material is in Gujarati and it is translated into English. Even a cursory reading shows that the translations are very bad, he says.
Mr. Barua may not be wrong. Here is a sample: “You might have heared, read and seen that the Earth is round. Whereas, you stay on the Earth, you cannot come to know the shape of Earth; because the Earth is too much vast. Why we do not feel that the Earth is round? Is the Earth really To whom it is like? Just imagine, round? The Moon-uncle is telling. ‘Come on to my surface and see from the edge. The travellers of the space had taken the photographs of the Earth from the space — see it”
This is from the class 6 textbook. One more instance: “The man found grains like wheat, jav etc. automatically in the various part of India’s soil. So the people of India [in that time] collected and preserved that grains for food. They met each other often and often and often, and so ‘Socialism’ increased. We are getting the residues of premature mankind since 20 lakhs years ago in India.”
Says Mr. Barua: “It is unfortunate that after one year of effort I put in, nothing of what I suggested was implemented. The entire exercise seemed to be to pacify me so that I don’t make more noise about the mistakes. I entrusted physics and chemistry books to subject experts, while I myself edited the entire maths textbook. I did it honorary for, I was appalled at the quality of the books.”
Analysing the situation, Mr. Yagnik said, “The Gujarat government never bothered to implement the National Curriculum Framework of 2005 and there is a clear-cut political bias in the textbooks.” He says the GCERT books have only a paragraph on 350 years of Mughal rule in India, while they wax eloquent on the Solanki and Vaghela dynasties in Gujarat.
The first semester textbook of class seven has a chapter on the medieval age but only one paragraph on Mughal rule. And that too speaks of how Mahmud of Ghazni plundered “India and Saurashtra.” His name has been spelt as Mohammad.