NCERT removes the Periodic Table from the Class X textbook

  • NCERT has announced the following changes: In its June 2022 circular, the NCERT announced modifications that included the removal of the Periodic Table from 10th grade textbooks. This has sparked heated controversy in intellectual circles.
  • New textbooks are on the market: The textbooks with the deletions and revisions are currently on the market.

What is the significance of this?

  • NCERT texts as a foundation: NCERT textbooks are regarded as a cornerstone for influencing the publishing of State board textbooks, with an impact on approximately 60 State boards.
  • Concerns for students in the non-science streams: With a large number of kids opting for Arts and Commerce, they may miss out on learning critical foundational Chemistry principles that are now only available in Class XI.

NCERT’s Controversial Deletions and Omissions

  • Experts say that excluding the periodic table and the logical organisation of elements from textbooks impairs students’ learning of essential chemical concepts.
  • Content rationalisation in response to the pandemic: According to the NCERT, the exercise of decreasing the content load on pupils is being carried out across all classrooms in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Previous contentious deletions: Previously, NCERT removed Darwin’s theory of evolution from Class X textbooks, as well as chapters from Political Science textbooks such as Democracy and Diversity, Popular Struggles and Movements, Political Parties, and Challenges to Democracy.

Several other contentious omissions

  • Exclusion of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad: All references to Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, India’s first Education Minister, have been removed from textbooks.
  • J&K’s admission to India was omitted: The fact that Jammu and Kashmir gained independence from India has been deleted from the updated Class XI textbook.
  • Other gaps in the CBSE curriculum: The history of Mughal courts, references to the Gujarat communal riots in 2002, the Naxalite movement, and mention of Dalit writers were also dropped from the CBSE curriculum.

Reasons for Curriculum Revision

  • There are several authors: Textbooks have evolved over time as different groups of historians wrote them. There have been no disagreements over these adjustments.
  • Diversity and integration are celebrated: Having only one set of textbooks is antithetical to the spirit of a society that values diversity and assimilation.
  • NCF’s efforts to promote inclusive representations include: The National Curriculum Framework (NCF) strives to introduce a diversity of viewpoints and more inclusive portrayals of historically marginalised and excluded groups into the classroom.

History textbook allegations of distortion

  • Deliberate distortions: Some elements of the media claim that the NCERT history textbook revisions and improvements are deliberate distortions or rewriting of history.
  • The charge of rewriting history under a specific ideology displays a sense of entitlement, implying that only one group of historians has the knowledge to choose what should be taught.
  • Infringement on autonomy: While autonomy in academic and intellectual pursuits is essential, the concept that institutional autonomy has been eroded and academic freedom has been threatened is a one-sided and futile exercise.

Way forward

  • Logical review: There is an urgent need for a comprehensive revision of NCERT textbooks in all areas, not only history, to include new knowledge and discoveries.
  • Prudent use of current textbooks: NCERT has chosen to employ existing textbooks until a thorough strategy and guidance for a comprehensive revision of books and syllabi is developed.
  • Textbooks should convey facts in a clear manner, allowing students to gain the knowledge they seek.
  • Avoid politicising school textbooks: Academics and politicians should avoid politicising school textbooks and instead focus on presenting pupils the stories of the past without interweaving half-truths or erasing large parts of history.
  • Addressing gaps and ensuring inclusivity: Continuous curriculum revision is required to fix gaps, make texts current, and ensure inclusivity.
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