Tuesday, December 06, 2005

NCERT's Secret!

The National Council for Educational Research and Training seems to be treating the new syllabus like a state secret. It has been more than a year since the council started revamping the syllabus, yet little is known about the changes that have been made so far.

To add to the mystery, the council is keeping the names of the experts who have written the books under wraps. According to the NCERT plan, classes I, III, VI, IX and XI will have new textbooks from next year. Books for the rest of the classes will be made available in different phases in subsequent years.

While NCERT says it is still busy putting final touches to the document, officials refuse to give out a time-frame under which it will be released. "We are preparing a document and that will take its own time," NCERT director J S Rajput said.

Several academicians say the syllabus should be made public once it is formulated. Smarting under allegations that the school curriculum was being given a saffron hue, the council could be trying to delay the process of public scrutiny, NCERT sources said.

Unofficially, the NCERT is trying to buy time in the name of private publishers. "We don't want the private publishers to get their hands on the syllabus. Otherwise they will flood the market with notes and reference material," an NCERT official said.

The statement directly contradicts what the NCERT openly admits."NCERT books are prescribed in only three per cent of the schools, that too government-run," Rajput had earlier told The Times of India.

Most private schools prescribe books by private publishers.

Even the Central Board of Secondary Education, which is said to have been given a draft of the new syllabus, is keeping mum. According to CBSE sources, the director in a meeting had informed other members that though the board had received the syllabus, it was "confidential".

Former head of academic affairs Arjun Dev terms this "secrecy" unprecedented. "Once the council formulates the syllabus, it should become a public document," he said.Rajput claimed that this time the exercise had been wider, involving many more people.

Yet a number of schools denied they were involved in the exercise. "There have been no guidelines or information from NCERT. I do not know of any school which has been invited to take part in the syllabus revision process," said Springdales principal Jyoti Bose, who is also the vice-chairperson of the National Progressive Schools Conference.

The only document that the schools have been able to buy is the national curriculum framework released a year ago, she said.

State Council for Educational Research and Training director Janaki Rajan contradicts what NCERT has to say. "NCERT has conducted no institutional collaboration with state bodies. Individual faculty had been invited by name and their views passed off as the institutional view," Rajan said.Rajan alleged only individuals of a certain orientation were invited to these workshops.

"Even during the preparation of the curriculum draft, which was made public last year, we were not consulted. Textbooks which arrive are fait accompli," Rajan said.


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