Writing SCERT School Text Books
Government school textbooks produced post the NCERT’s National Curriculum Framework of 2000 were critiqued for containing numerous factual errors, for distorting facts and for promoting conservative and at times blatantly right-wing ideology. In September 2004, NCERT constituted expert groups to review and recommend changes in these textbooks. Nirantar was involved in coordinating a team of teachers and educationists to work together on the Civics textbooks for Classes 6 to 8, published by SCERT, Delhi. The aim was to write in a language that would be accessible to the learner as opposed to writing for the teacher, and to bring in concepts through narratives and experiences of the learner. The books were contextualised in order to make them relevant to a child from poor or working-class family living in Delhi, possibly a first-generation learner in her family. This is the group that forms the majority of learners in government schools in Delhi.
The debate around the National Curriculum Framework of 2000 (NCF 2000) mirrored the intense conflict between competing visions of nationhood and national identity that have dominated India’s public and political discourse over the last two decades. Not surprisingly, the authors of the new policy justified their large-scale revisionism by invoking a particular conception of Indian nationalism, and how it must be communicated in school education, even if it implied the deletion of certain historical ‘facts’ and reinterpretation of certain historical ‘events’. Ironically, the question of gender, deeply implicated in the debate of nationalism, remained marginal to the NCF 2000 curriculum debate: there was little systematic effort to critique the NCF from a gendered perspective, whether on the question of history, tradition or religious value education. We felt there was a need to look at gender concerns in mainstream education in a manner that intersected with other concerns related to class, caste and religious identity, in addition to issues related to nation and national identity. It was also evident that Women’s Studies located in Universities were particularly disengaged with children’s education and there was a need to bring it more proactively into the debate.
The year 2005 saw the drafting of the next National Curriculum Framework (NCF). Representatives from academia, the teaching community and NGOs were involved in writing focus group papers on 21 themes. These focus group papers contributed to the formulation of the NCF document. In addition to this, new syllabi based on the NCF 2005 and the first round of changes in textbooks formed part of the initiatives that mainstream education witnessed.