NCERT textbook row: Name withdrawal 'spectacle' disrupting curriculum updation, say experts

Representational image of NCERT textbooks. Source:

New Delhi: The "spectacle" created by some "arrogant and self-interested" people regarding the withdrawal of their names over the NCERT textbook row is disrupting the process of updating the curriculum, a group of academicians, including vice-chancellors of central universities, NIT directors and IIM chairpersons, has said.

A number of academicians as well as political scientists Yogendra Yadav and Suhas Palshikar, who were part of the textbook development committee of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), had asked the council to drop their names from textbooks over "several substantive revisions of the original texts".

A joint statement issued by 73 academicians on Thursday night alleged that there have been deliberate attempts to malign the NCERT in the last three months and this reflects the "intellectual arrogance of academicians who want students to study 17-year-old textbooks".

The signatories to the statement include the vice-chancellors of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Tezpur University, Mahatma Gandhi Central University, The English and Foreign Languages University, Central University of Jharkhand, Ranchi University, Bangalore University, Indira Gandhi National Tribal University, the NIT Jalandhar director, the chairman of the Board of Governors, IIM Kashipur, the ICSSR secretary and the NIOS chairman.

"In the past three months, there have been deliberate attempts to malign the NCERT, a leading public institution, and disrupt the much-needed process for curriculum updation.

"Academicians trying to capture media attention through this name-withdrawal spectacle seem to have forgotten that textbooks are an outcome of collective intellectual engagement and rigorous efforts," the statement said.

"The scholars who have suggested the changes in the textbooks have not suggested any epistemic rupture in the existing domain of knowledge, but just rationalised the course content as per contemporary knowledge need.

"As regards the decision of who decides what is unacceptable and what is desirable it is argued that every new generation has the right to make additions/deletions to the existing knowledge base," it added.

The NCERT, however, has said the withdrawal of anyone's association is out of question as textbooks at the school level are developed on the basis of knowledge and understanding on a given subject and at no stage, individual authorship is claimed.

"Through misinformation, rumours and false allegations, they want to derail the implementation of the National Education Policy (NEP 2020) and disrupt the updation of NCERT textbooks. Their demand that students continue to study from 17-year-old textbooks rather than updated textbooks in sync with contemporary developments and pedagogical advancement reveals intellectual arrogance," the joint statement said.

"In their quest to further their political agenda, they are ready to endanger the future of crores of children across the country. While students are eagerly awaiting updated textbooks, these academicians are continuing to create hurdles and derail the entire process," it said.

The dropping of several topics and portions from NCERT textbooks last month triggered a controversy, with the opposition blaming the BJP-led Centre of "whitewashing with vengeance".

At the heart of the controversy was the fact that while the changes made as part of a rationalisation exercise were notified, some of the controversial deletions were not mentioned. This led to allegations about a bid to delete these portions surreptitiously.

The NCERT had described the omissions as a possible oversight, but refused to undo the deletions, saying they were based on the recommendations of experts.

It had also said the textbooks were anyway headed for a revision in 2024, the year when the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) kicks in. However, it subsequently changed its stand and said "minor changes need not be notified".  

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