With the Rajasthan school board’s social science books for classes VIII to X set for an overhaul, students will, from the next session, study a diminished version of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar — as one who filed mercy petitions to the British government after being tortured in jail. They will be introduced to the valuable contributions made by Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi to the nation’s freedom struggle. The Congress government in the state had, in February, set up a review committee of experts to look into the existing text and these are some of the changes it has suggested to ‘correct’ the history taught to the young children. Expectedly, the BJP is crying hoarse over the ‘distortion’ of facts. Just as the Congress had cried ‘saffronisation of education’ in 2016 when the then BJP government in the state had gone on a chopping and churning spree, and rewritten school textbooks to reflect the RSS view. Incidentally, among other revisions, it had stressed on eulogising Savarkar as a great patriot while shrugging off Nehru and Gandhi’s roles.
Troubling as they are, sadly such brazen instances of politics and bias creeping into school curricula have been increasing. In 2017, the Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education dismissed the chapter on Mughal history as ‘irrelevant’ and replaced it with one on Shivaji. Last month, on the pretext of the HRD Ministry’s order to rationalise curriculum, the NCERT sought to whitewash certain ills of society related to caste conflict by deleting those sections.
This seesaw resulting from frequent tinkering with the syllabus to suit a particular political ideology is not desirable. The students, who are at an impressionable age, must be imparted wholesome lessons so that they get a balanced understanding of events. The bodies responsible for devising curricula should be made autonomous so that they are not subject to the whims and fancies of changing governments. This will prevent the children from becoming sitting ducks of a deliberate downplay, or undue championing, of certain aspects of study. The onus of settling this sensitive issue lies with the policymakers.