As schools reopened in Karnataka on Wednesday, 31 May, teachers, educationists and students were a confused and anxious lot — thanks to the new state education minister hinting at textbook revisions to undo the changes made by the previous government,
“Schools are starting now. Lesson plans are being made by teachers. At this juncture, why are we thinking of revising the textbooks?” asked D Sashikumar, general secretary of the Karnataka Association of English Medium Schools (KAMS).
“Instead, the government must just put the changes made by the previous government on hold. And immediately send out a circular regarding this to all schools,” Sashikumar told South First.
What is the new government saying?
On Tuesday, speaking to reporters, Karnataka’s new Primary and Secondary Education Minister Madhu Bangarappa indicated the possibility of revising school textbooks in the days ahead, in the interest of students and to ensure that their minds are not “polluted”.
The Congress had, in its election manifesto, promised to undo the changes made to school textbooks when the BJP was in power, and had also said it would scrap the New Education Policy (NEP).
However, the minister clarified that the challenge before the government was to make the changes with care, and without affecting the students and their studies.
“We have already said that students come to schools to get educated and we don’t want it to be disturbed, and there should be no mistake on part of the government or me or officials or the system in this regard,” he said.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah also announced that “as the academic year has started, we will discuss and take action so that the education of the children is not disturbed”.
Hinting at setting up a new committee to look into the textbook revisions, Madhu Bangarappa said he has already held one round of discussions with the chief minister and he will be creating a team to take things forward.
However, he said this can happen only after the Cabinet meeting scheduled to take place on 1 June, and on that day things might take shape for the chief minister to share more information.
What did the BJP do?
A Textbook Review Committee set up by the previous BJP government — headed by controversial writer Rohith Chakrathirtha — had added several chapters and dropped others, which the Opposition had contended amounted to “saffronisation” of the textbooks.
For instance, a chapter on KB Hedgewar, founder of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the BJP, was added in the Class 10 Kannada textbook, as also one penned by the right wing writer Chakravarti Sulibele.
Several academicians, led by Niranjan Aradhya, have demanded that these chapters be removed from the textbook.
Why create confusion now?
Meanwhile, the government’s indecisive statements on revising textbooks has created confusion among teachers, students, and education experts.
Speaking to South First, Rajendra Nagraj, a banker from South Bengaluru said: “My daughter is now going to Class 9. I am worried about what changes will come. Why cant they just tell teachers not to teach those chapters that seem to be creating controversy ‘politically’?”
Shashikumar of KAMS said the government can instead return to the textbooks of 2017-18, prior to the BJP revision, and inform teachers to ignore additions.
He suggested that a new textbook committee could then look into all aspects of books and come up with suggestions on what to do, taking the teacher fraternity, experts and other stakeholders into confidence — instead of leaving it to some “literary” figure.
Meanwhile, educationist Niranjan Aradhya recently met Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and submitted a letter with a detailed view regarding the textbook revisions and the NEP.
Speaking to South First, he said: “It is my insistence that the idea of equal school in the neighborhood should be implemented by making education, especially school education, a matter of priority.”
The reason is that the previous government not only spoiled education by using it for politics, but also created a lot of confusion and poisoned the minds of children in the name of nationalism, he said.
“In a way, they have destroyed the process of education itself,” he added.
‘Revert to 2017 syllabus’
In his letter to the chief minister he explained: “Until the State Education Policy, formulated as per the wish of the Constitution, is debated and passed in both houses, the syllabus, textbooks and textbooks implemented in 2017-18 should be continued for 2024-25.”
For this year, as the textbooks have already reached the students, it would be better to issue clear guidelines to teach only what was in the syllabus of 2017-18, and leave out all that has been included after that.
“Already 98.21 percent of textbooks have been printed this year, the books have even reached the schools and students. Hence we are demanding that at least some of the chapters, like on Hedgewar, and the chapter written by Chakravarti Sulibele, be removed.
“We are demanding that these chapters should not be used for teaching or evaluation. They tried to create hatred in the minds of children,” Niranjan Aradhya said.
He also added that several freedom fighters were insulted after chapters on their work were removed from the textbooks last year.
Now, parents, schools and the teaching community are awaiting the final guidelines on this.