Pruning textbooks: AAP govt in a hurry

Pruning textbooks: AAP govt in a hurry

Delhi seems to be a fertile ground for experiments with education. Take Delhi University. In the last couple of years, its students have moved from the plain vanilla three-year undergraduate course to the controversial four-year undergraduate programme (FYUP) and now to the Choice Based Credit System (CBCS). Technically, the last is being implemented at Central universities across the nation on University Grants Commission’s directives. But the impact was possibly most felt at Delhi University as it was just about getting used to the FYUP. In the capital, and elsewhere, schoolchildren are similarly being put through the consequences of second thoughts on educational reforms. In the last few years, school kids have had welcome relief from the class 10 board exams. But now there is talk of reintroducing them, and scrapping the no-detention policy under which children up to Class 8 are not stopped from moving to the next grade.

Add to this back and forth, a recent move by the Aam Aadmi Party government to introduce its own reforms. Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia has declared that since Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) were not doing a bad job, Delhi needed an education board of its very own. That would be later. But Sisodia has already set in motion a plan to lighten the burden of school students by 25 per cent. Sisodia plans to cut down their syllabus to make space for pursuits like music and sports.

It is difficult to find fault with this intention. A lot of opposition to reforms is knee-jerk in any case, by textbook writers and teachers too set in their ways: this was apparent during the protests over the FYUP as well. But as with the short-lived FYUP, changing things without taking everyone on board and without thinking the changes through, is a bad idea. While the pruning of the syllabus for class 9 and above will be done next year, the Delhi government is set to slash the curriculum for the younger children in mid-session itself. Reports say it has sought immediate feedback on its suggestions on what should be excised. And the apparent haste has raised concerns. It’s perhaps okay to delete the lesson on Maria Sharapova since Sania Mirza is an Indian tennis player, but surely getting rid of the chapter on Panchayati Raj on the grounds that this is “not related” to Delhi needs some more discussion. The old NCERT syllabus need not be set in stone, but neither should it be cut to size in such tearing hurry.
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