Govt to scrap regulator for textbook contents

Plan panel disapproval, states resistance force move

The Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry has decided to drop its nine-year old proposal to set up a statutory body to monitor and regulate contents of the textbooks taught in schools including those run by private entities across the country following stiff resistance by many states and Planning Commission’s disapproval.

HRD Minister M M Pallam Raju has decided to scrap the draft National Textbook Council Bill, finding the proposed legislation “no longer necessary” as the Right to Education (RTE) Act has provisions to ensure that school textbooks are in conformity with the values enshrined in the Constitution, sources said.

The RTE Act stipulates for setting up of an academic authority by each state. These authorities are mandated to ensure conformity with the values enshrined in the Constitution while laying down the curriculum including syllabus, textbooks and teacher training as well as the evaluation procedure, sources added.

The decision of the ministry will be placed before the Central Advisory Board on Education (CABE) meeting, scheduled to be held on April 2, for its clearance, as the proposal to create a regulatory mechanism for school textbooks had got CABE’s clearance in 2005. The idea was mooted by then HRD Minister Arjun Singh in 2004.

“The CABE’s decision to consider an institutional regulatory mechanism for preparing guidelines and parameters for review of textbooks was taken in July, 2005,” sources said.

The draft bill, that sought to set up a National Textbook Council with a retired judge of the Supreme Court as its chairman, was prepared in consultation with the National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT). This was approved by the ministry in 2007.

Many states including Gujarat, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Lakshadweep opposed the proposed legislation.

Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Kerala, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Uttar Pradesh and Chandigarh initially favoured the proposal with some reservations, but never sent their comments on the issue to the HRD Ministry.

The Planning Commission too did not support the bill. It underlined that there was need for an “in-depth review” of the proposal. It had also pointed out certain deficiencies in the contents of the proposed legislation.

When a Cabinet note was circulated to concerned ministries, the department of expenditure disfavoured the draft bill, saying the establishment of the NTC was a “knee-jerk approach” and the mandate proposed for it overlapped that of NCERT and other bodies, sources said.

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