Removing bias

The Karnataka government has done well to set up a committee to look into complaints about religious content in the state’s school text books and to ensure that such content, which is not in accordance with secular ideas and ideals, is removed from the books.

There have been complaints that some lessons in the text books for Classes V to IX prepared  for the state’s schools during the previous BJP government’s term had a saffron content. Many examples of a saffron bias in lessons have been cited by individuals and organisations. These complaints had arisen even during the time of the previous government but no action was taken for obvious reasons.

BJP governments have tried to introduce a religious, specifically Hindutva bias, into teaching materials, especially at the school level. During the NDA government’s term, the then human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi’s attempt to change the NCERT syllabus had become controversial. The idea is to present a view of Indian traditions and Hinduism which often turn out to be misrepresentations. In such a view the Indian tradition becomes identified with  a single Hindu tradition. Myths and history are mixed up, certain events and personalities are overemphasised,  unscientific ideas are sometimes promoted and the contributions of groups like minorities are understated or ignored.  Ideas and their presentation in school text books are very important because the children who study them are at an impressionable age. If biases are created  at an early age they become entrenched. It may hurt communal and social harmony.

In fact all political systems and governments try to present and interpret history to their liking. Even scientific ideas are sometimes presented wrongly or even blacked out.  This has happened in other countries also, as seen by debate about teaching the theory of evolution in American schools. There is much more scope and danger of misrepresentation of history in India.  It must be ensured that educational texts are free from political and ideological plans of governments, not only of the BJP but of other parties too.  Indoctrination can be of different kinds. The step promised by the primary and secondary education minister in the state should lead to the removal of objectionable content from the school  text books. It must also be ensured that text books do not become ideological tools in future too.

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