Sunday, July 21, 2013

Shivam Vij on Class XII History Text from NCERT

In What I learned about Partition in The Tribune, he writes:

I had to wait till college to satiate my curiosity about Partition because the history textbooks in school told me so little about it, such as that Jinnah was the villain of the event and so on. I was thus surprised that India’s new history textbooks for Class 12 (last year in school) that were made in 2005, spend 29 pages on Partition.

So, what is the new narrative? The chapter begins not with politics but three short oral testimonies written by an unnamed Indian historian doing research in Lahore in 1992. [...]

He has posted the pdf of this chapter at Kafila, and adds:

I wrote recently about the surprising political maturity with which NCERT textbooks teach Indian students about the Partition. These textbooks were prepared under the National Curriculum Framework of 2005. This is of course not limited to the Partition chapter or indeed just the history textbooks. But I was particularly moved to see the Partition chapter. As you read it you realise what school textbooks can do in shaping how future generations see themselves, their own history and identity. I think a lot of people in both India and Pakistan would like to read it.

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I share Shivam's appreciation of NCERT textbooks, all of which are available online for free. Back in April 2008, I had a chance to look at what these textbooks had to say about the reservation policy, and I came away quite impressed. [The direct links to the specific chapters in that post don't work, though].


  1. Anonymous said...

    Though I have only heard mostly good things about NCERT textbooks for History (use of cartoons and other media from the era being talked about being one of the highlights), what I have seen of some of their science textbooks leaves much to be desired.

    A case in point is the chapter on evolution in the Class 12 textbook on Biology. It has the following to say on the question of theories about the origin of life:

    "Conventional religious literature tells us about the theory of special
    creation. This theory has three connotations. One, that all living organisms
    (species or types) that we see today were created as such. Two, that the
    diversity was always the same since creation and will be the same in future
    also. Three, that earth is about 4000 years old"

    Firstly, there is no point paying any kind of lip service to "religious" theories in a class on science. Secondly, the implication that "conventional religious literature" stipulates that the "earth is 4000 years old" is manifestly false in the Indian context; the 4000 years is a figure is a product of certain specific Christian sects, none of which are mainstream enough in India to be considered "conventional". This part looks like it was copied verbatim from some American textbook (where lip service must have been paid to "conventional" figure of 4000 years is done for purposes of political expediency) without the slightest amount of change.