Wednesday, November 23, 2005

NCERT redefined?

With the new school syllabus approved after long-drawn controversies, the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has speeded up the preparation of textbooks.
Textbook writing committees for all subjects were already in place even as the curriculum framework was being hotly debated.
The school textbooks will be replaced in three phases—Classes I, III, VI, IX and XI will have new text books next academic year, Classes II, IV, VII, X and XII in 2007-08, Classes V and VIII, in 2008-09.

The NCERT said the approach of the new syllabus and textbooks are to make the learner an active participant in learning rather than being a mere recipient of knowledge as a finished product. The new syllabus, therefore, has proposed text books in an innovative format.

For instance, the section on nationalism in Class XI political science course will discuss questions such as ‘‘How are the boundaries of a nation defined? Must every nation have a state? What demands can a nation make on its citizens? What is the basis of the right to self-determination?’’

The one on secularism will even ask the question—‘‘Is secularism suitable for India?’’ besides elaborating ‘‘why do we need secular state in modern times?’’

A departure from the previous pattern in which textbooks talked in definitive terms, the new format that intends to raise curiosity among students is bound to raise some controversies too.

However, NCERT’s biggest challenge is to ensure objectivity and impartiality in treating some of the most controversial political issues in the course ‘‘Politics in India since Independence,’’ for Class XII.

This deals with Mandal commission, rise of the BJP and backward caste politics, anti-Sikh riots, JP movement and the Emergency, rise of NDA and UPA, Gujarat riots, India’s relations with the US, globalisation and the opposition to it, planned economy and the new economic policies—virtually everything that has been controversial in Indian politics is in the syllabus. Only the textbooks will show how the NCERT manages to stay clear of controversies.

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