Chapter I – Introduction

Report of the CABE Committee on 'Regulatory Mechanisms for Textbooks and Parallel Textbooks Taught in Schools Outside the Government System

Chapter I

This report focuses on the critical issue of textbooks and the processes of selection and prescription of curriculum, textbooks and supplementary textual materials in different types of schools. Two recent events had a significant impact on the issue and underlined the necessity of regulatory mechanisms for selection and prescription of textual materials. Also underscored was the need to improve the already existing mechanisms for the selection and prescription of textbooks in schools within and outside the government system. One was the controversy regarding the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT)’s National Curriculum Framework (NCF) for school education in 2000 and the extensive shift in educational policy and the process of formulating the national programme of education that it occasioned. Second, the NCF was adopted without consulting the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE), in effect disregarding the highest body in place to advise the central and state governments in the matter of education. The NCF was implemented without its approval. As a federal forum, the CABE represents the sole interface between the central and state governments on this Concurrent List subject. The CABE also includes educational officers, scholars and citizens’ representatives from different walks of life. From its inception, it has played an important role in shaping education and evolving a national consensus on education policy.

Curricula and textbooks had already been an issue of controversy in several states before the NCF 2000 but the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s attempt to introduce major curricular changes triggered fresh and intense public criticism of the perspective adopted in the NCF, especially the wholesale revamping of the curriculum and textbooks in the social sciences. Both academics and educationists have urged the restoration of the primacy of the progressive discourse in curricular policy. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s response has focused on taking a series of corrective steps to rectify the problems in the curriculum. One of the first actions of the UPA in the field of education was the reconstitution of the CABE which in turn constituted several subcommittees, of which this Subcommittee has been entrusted with the task of suggesting measures in regard to the regulation of curricula and textbooks. The NCERT has been asked to review the NCF 2000. But the NCERT’s review will not address the larger issue of textbooks and supplementary material used in schools not affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), including the state government and non-government schools. The recommendation of regulatory mechanisms for these schools is the main task entrusted to this Committee.

Although the NCERT texts are used all over India, these are however limited to schools affiliated to the CBSE and the number of schools which accept this scheme remains small. Out of a total number of around 1,25,000 recognised secondary and higher secondary schools in the country, about 6,200 are at present under the CBSE. Changing the NCERT books may be necessary but this clearly will not be enough, as the bulk of schools do not use the CBSE syllabus. Even those that use the CBSE syllabus do so largely for the higher classes for the purpose of board exams. The textbooks prepared and approved through well-established official mechanisms in the states have also been found to be not free of prejudice and preconceived notions. In addition, there are a large number of schools run by social and religious organisations where, for quite some time now, studies and reports have shown that children are being socialised into a communal imagination orientation not at all in consonance with the secular and democratic consensus.1

Education that inculcates a critical faculty and an emphasis on reasoning is by its very nature secular education. Whether state-supported, autonomous or privately financed, education should be committed to free inquiry and the inculcation of an open mind. This requires that textbooks are open-ended and encourage among children creative processes of inquiry, dissent and debate. Textbooks can help children to develop and absorb the ideals and values of equal citizenship, an appreciation of diversity, and imbibe the grammar of national identity, culture and scientific temper. Indian school textbooks for quite some time had attempted to inculcate these principles in order to portray and uphold the values and traditions of a plural, equitable and democratic society. The recent attempt to rewrite textbooks sharply and disturbingly unsettled and eroded these values.

The rewriting of curricula and textbooks in the past few years has caused widespread concern. Never before had curricula and textbooks been subjected to such close scrutiny and public debate. The recent attempts to use education for narrow politically partisan purposes to reflect the ideologies propounded by certain organisations and political parties have met with disapproval on the part of concerned parents and caused dismay and consternation among educationists and academics. The major concern is the introduction of a non-secular tone in the curriculum and textbooks that reflect narrow and partisan points of view. The NCERT books prepared under the NCF 2000 had been criticised widely for what they represent, with all their implications for the disadvantaged – the minorities, tribals, Dalits and women – especially the inherent consequences of perpetuating and reinforcing inequalities. As earlier reports have pointed out, even before the NCF this trend of introducing sectarian thinking was found in state-level textbooks but the NCF gave a new impetus to these trends and legitimacy to their efforts. Quite apart from the obvious communalisation of history, issues of serious concern are those of gender and the status of women, class, caste-based discriminations, community-driven stereotypes, environment, etc.

The attempt to rewrite textbooks sharply unsettled and eroded the values and traditions of a plural, equitable and democratic society

There is an urgent need to ensure that the education system reflects the secular-nationalistic discourse; it must remain free of communalism; it must reflect the cultural diversity of our nation and the multicultural nature of our society; and it must not exacerbate gender, caste and community inequalities. The very diversity and inequality of Indian society is a compelling reason to address with urgency the questions of social equality, multiple identities and national identity and their presentation in educational materials. One of the most important means of promoting equity in a democratic society is to make good critical education available to all. This requires curricular frameworks that reflect these objectives. These then need to be translated into textbooks.

The commitment towards achieving equality through education – a central concern of the national endeavour underlying Indian education – has been unequivocally voiced in all the major policy documents of independent India. The task of translating this vision of equality into a curricular framework and into textbooks is challenging enough and remains not fully realised. In other words, we have not always been able to concretise the conceptions and policy statements and embody these into a democratic curriculum which is reflected in textbooks. The concerted sectarianism and communalist politics of the recent past has made this task doubly difficult.

The Government of India reconstituted the CABE vide Resolution 6.7.2004. The first meeting was held on August 10-11, 2004. After extensive discussions on several critical issues connected with education in this meeting, the Minister for Human Resource Development has set up seven committees to deal with important issues pertaining to different aspects of school, higher and technical education. It was decided to set up a Committee of the CABE on ‘Regulatory Mechanisms for Textbooks and Parallel Textbooks Taught in Schools Outside the Government System’.

The terms of reference (TOR) of the Committee are:

(a) To study and report on textbooks in government schools not using the CBSE syllabus.

(b) To study the textbooks and curriculum of schools outside the government system, including those run by religious and social organisations.

(c) To suggest an appropriate regulatory mechanism for institutionalising the issue of preparation of textbooks and curricular material.2

The Committee decided to review textbooks used in schools affiliated to State Boards, private schools as well as those managed by religious and social organisations which may or may not be affiliated to these Boards. This is largely to bring within the scope of review textbooks other than those published by the NCERT. The review of the NCERT curriculum and textbooks is being done separately. The Committee is aware that private schools affiliated to the CBSE are using textbooks published by private publishers in addition to NCERT books. However, given its terms of reference, the Committee has limited the scope of the review to textbooks used in schools not affiliated to the CBSE, which will include textbooks produced by state governments and any textual material published by non-governmental sources, including private publishers.

The review of textbooks has to be undertaken on the basis of certain identifiable parameters which are clearly spelt out in the educational polices and the Constitution. These are identified as core curricular areas listed in Section 3.4 of the National Policy on Education 1986/92 and Cultural Perspective and Value Education in Sections 8.1 to 8.6. These are identified as: the freedom movement, national identity, promotion of values such as India’s common cultural heritage, egalitarianism, democracy, secularism, equality of the sexes, protection of the environment, removal of social barriers, observance of the small family norm and inculcation of the scientific temper. These values are expected to promote unity and integration of our people and also help eliminate obscurantism, religious fanaticism, violence, superstition and fatalism.

Do states take these into consideration as a criterion for the selection, preparation, prescription and approval of textual materials and how they are presented? What mechanisms do states use? Are they adequate? Do they apply to all types of schools, including those run by social and religious organisations, and textbooks in use? These are some of the major questions the Committee has endeavoured to address. As a first step we need to understand how textbooks and other materials are prescribed and approved for children in different states and union territories.

The Committee decided to examine a selected sample of textbooks in the social sciences and Hindi, regional languages, English and a few moral education books. This choice was also determined by the importance given to social sciences in the educational policies. Almost all aims of education are embodied and are to be realised through the teaching of social sciences and to a lesser extent in the teaching of languages. The states identified for this exercise are: Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. In these states, textbooks used by state government-run schools as well as those produced by private publishers used by religious and social organisations have been taken up. A few cases of textbooks produced by private publishers have also been examined.

This report has been divided into five chapters starting with the introduction. The second chapter provides an overview of education policies and related issues of curriculum and textbooks. The third chapter documents the institutional arrangements for the preparation of textbooks through a mapping of the regulatory mechanisms established by state governments for approval and adoption of textbooks. The fourth chapter presents a review and analysis of the contents of textbooks produced by state governments, private publishers and cultural and social organisations. The fifth and concluding chapter puts forward a series of recommendations for consideration by the CABE on regulatory mechanisms for textbooks and parallel textbooks.

We have tried to undertake this exercise with as wide a consultation as possible. We invited suggestions and responses from governmental and non-governmental organisations, educational institutions and concerned citizens to enable us to do justice to this extremely important task. We were fortunate in receiving inputs and support from various individuals, institutions and government bodies involved in the curricular issues, education and textbook preparation.

We are aware that justice may not have been done in representing and reflecting the great variety of textbooks and textual and supplementary materials and types and managements of schools in India and the range of governmental processes evolved through legislations and other means by different states for the approval of textual materials and, above all, to the variety of textual materials used in schools. Within the limited time available to the Committee we have tried to be as representative as possible of the range and diversity of structures and types of schools and of the textbooks and textual materials used in them.

Members of the Committee
Professor Zoya Hasan, Co-Chairperson
Professor, Gopal Guru, Co-Chairperson
Professor GP Deshpande, Member
Secretary, School Education, Uttar Pradesh, Member
Secretary, School Education, Andhra Pradesh, Member
Secretary, School Education, West Bengal, Member
Secretary, School Education, Kerala, Member
Secretary, School Education, Rajasthan, Member
Ms Teesta Setalvad, Member
Professor Krishna Kumar, Director, NCERT, Member, Secretary


1 NCERT, Report of the National Steering Committee on Textbook Evaluation, Volume 1, 1993, Volume 2, NCERT, New Delhi, 1994.
2 One issue pertains to the TOR itself. The first meeting of the Committee noted the contradiction between the title of the Committee, ‘Regulatory Mechanisms for Textbooks and Parallel Textbooks Taught in Schools Outside the Government System’, and the terms of reference which asked the Committee to study and examine textbooks in schools not affiliated to the CBSE, which would include state government and non-government schools. The Joint Secretary, Shri Sudeep Banerjee, dealing with the CABE in the MHRD, later clarified that the TOR of the Committee included an examination of both government and non-government textbooks. The second issue pertains to the second term of reference i.e. religious and social organisations. Some members raised the issue as to which organisations fall under this category. While this issue is important, it falls outside the purview of the Committee. A view nevertheless was expressed that the government if it so wishes may apply its mind to the matter in the appropriate forum.



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