Chapter III – Institutional Mechanisms for Preparation of Textbooks in the States

Textbooks have always been an integral part of the Indian school education system. As the school education programme acquired a mass character in the post-independence period, the absence of good quality textbooks began to be acutely felt. Yet the period immediately after independence saw no major effort to mass-produce textbooks. As the system expanded, the textbook industry became one of the very profitable fields for investment which also led to a proliferation of low quality, substandard and badly produced textbooks. Thus the availability of textbooks at affordable prices for the poor also became an important issue. The Education Commission (1964-66) points out that textbook writing and production did not receive the attention they deserved. The Commission also identified several factors contributing to the problem, such as the lack of interest shown by top-ranking scholars, malpractices in the selection and prescription of textbooks, unscrupulous tactics adopted by several publishers, lack of research in the preparation and production of textbooks and the almost total disregard of the need for bringing out ancillary books such as teachers’ guides and supplementary material. It is in this context that many state governments took over the production of textbooks.1

The establishment of the Central Bureau of Textbook Research in 1954 and its subsequent merger into the NCERT in 1961 gave a new direction to textbook development and production. The NCERT launched a comprehensive programme of textbook production from the late 1960s. The National Board of School Textbooks in its first meeting in 1969 suggested that the NCERT should work out a general framework in the form of principles and criteria for preparing textbooks for different school subjects by actively involving state authorities, subject specialists, teachers and other educators.


Emergence of State Agencies: NCERT, SCERTs and Textbook Bureaus

Efforts to institutionalise textbook preparation and production began with state production of textbooks in the post-independence period. Uttar Pradesh, for instance, was one of the first states to do so. The State Institutes of Education (SIEs) and State Institutes of Science Education in the mid-1960s took up this task. Both structures were integrally part of the State Directorates of Education. The NCERT had also begun preparing textbooks at the national level. Particularly with respect to social sciences, the writing of history became tied to the elaboration of the nationalist project to build a democratic, liberal, socialist, humanistic vision. Moved by the optimism of the age and the urge to provide the children of new India with a history of India’s past, many reputed academics were invited to write textbooks when the NCERT was set up in the mid-1960s.

During this time, state governments, faced with the task of providing textbooks in schools which then were predominantly government-run, established Textbook Bureaus and State Boards of Examination. While the Textbook Bureaus focused on the printing and distribution of textbooks and the Boards had the task of prescribing syllabi and conducting examinations, the states used several methods for the actual preparation of textual materials.

A few state governments established Textbook Corporations for the production of textbooks. In most states, the function of textbook preparation, particularly for primary and upper primary classes, was taken over by SCERTs which subsumed the SIEs organisationally as well as functionally. For instance, the Maharashtra government combined the task of textbook production and related research by the creation of the Maharashtra State Board of Textbook Production and Curriculum Research. Based on the recommendations of the NPE 1986 to decentralise curricula and textbook writing, states began to establish SCERTs, either closing down the older SIEs or amalgamating them with the SCERTs. However, there existed a tension with regard to their functioning. While states were prepared to allow the SCERTs to prescribe the function of textbook preparation for primary and upper primary classes, they were reluctant to hand over a similar role to the SCERTs in respect of secondary education.

Textbook preparation at the secondary level was assigned either to the wholly state-controlled Board of Education or the state’s Directorate of Education. However, neither structure had the professional wherewithal to undertake the academic task of textbook writing, the former being an examining body and the latter an administrative one. They relied upon ‘established’ academics chosen by a committee constituted to choose writers. In effect, textbook preparation was left to the discretion of handpicked academics. This is not to give the impression that in contrast to the situation as regards secondary education all was well with regard to primary and middle schools. This does not imply that the tasks, even for primary and middle sections, were fully streamlined and that all the SCERTs carried them out systematically. For one, some of the SCERTs, as in case of the north-eastern states, came into existence much later and the responsibility for textbook preparation and production in some of them is still quite fluid.

There is hardly any regulation or regulatory mechanism for the textbooks and textual materials used in schools outside the government system

The textbooks for the secondary and higher secondary stages are generally adopted from the NCERT in most of the states. Textbooks at the secondary stage are not prepared in Delhi, as all schools are affiliated to the CBSE. CBSE-prescribed textbooks are used at the higher secondary/PUC stage in Delhi. The Himachal Pradesh Board does not prepare textbooks for Classes XI and XII; instead, books of the NCERT are recommended in the schools. In Haryana also, textbooks published by the NCERT have been introduced in the state at the secondary and higher secondary/PUC stage. In Orissa, at the secondary stage (for Classes VIII, IX and X) the Board of Secondary Education, Orissa – which is an autonomous organisation – prepares textbooks. At higher secondary education (for Classes XI and XII) the State Bureau of Textbook Preparation and Publication, Bhubaneswar, is responsible for preparing textbooks. But, as already mentioned, very few states directly intervene in private unaided schools with regard to the nature of teaching-learning material and books being used. Once recognition is given to such private self-financing schools, public examinations are the only link between the schools and the state government authorities.2

The role of the NCERT as a textbook producer at the central level has expanded enormously with the publication of NCFs and the collaborative arrangement between the CBSE and NCERT.

With the huge expansion of the private unaided sector at both the elementary and secondary levels, divergence in the use of textbooks by government and private schools has acquired considerable importance as described in the ensuing sections. Given this diversity of textbooks in all types of schools, what goes into the textbooks is a matter of national importance and merits the highest attention.


Textbook Preparation Mechanisms for Schools in the Government System in the States

What processes do the SCERTs/other agencies adopt in preparing textbooks? If private publishers are involved, how are the books approved and prescribed by the state government bodies? Are private schools free to use any textbook? The CABE Subcommittee explored these questions with state agencies through quick questionnaire-based surveys. Eighteen states responded. In addition, the Subcommittee studied the responses to questionnaires sent out by the National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA).3 The Committee has also looked into the state studies series undertaken by the NIEPA between 1994 and 2004.

Based on these studies plus information available from state reports commissioned by the Committee, state mechanisms can be broadly categorised as:

1. States which relied on the NCERT textbooks and de facto accepted the presumed institutional mechanisms of the central agency to approve textbooks. Examples are Arunachal Pradesh and the union territories.

2. States which permit textbook preparation up to Class VIII by the centrally funded and controlled DPEP/SSA and, for the secondary stage, use their own State Boards. In Himachal Pradesh, textbooks are prepared by DPEP/SSA and printed by the Himachal Pradesh Board of School Education. In Orissa, the responsibility for preparing the textbooks for different streams of education rests with the different organisations/institutions of the state. At the elementary stage the Directorate of Teacher Education and SCERT and the Orissa Primary Education Programme Authority (OPEPA), Bhubaneswar, prepare textbooks.

3. States which took on the responsibility of preparing their own textbooks but entrusted this task to their own, wholly controlled state agencies. States like Karnataka and Gujarat have the Directorate of Textbooks which is a wing of the SCERT. The SCERT itself is very strongly state-controlled. In Mizoram and West Bengal, the Board of School Education prepares the textbooks for the elementary stage. In Mizoram, the Mizoram Board of School Education Act l975 empowers the Board to prescribe, prepare, publish and select textbooks for the various examinations conducted by the Board. Under the Board, the Statutory Committee of the Mizoram Board of School Education selects textbook writers and editors for textbook and syllabus preparation. In Gujarat, the Gujarat School Textbook Board is the regulatory authority. The GCERT only provides technical support to the Textbook Development Board which is fully responsible for the preparation, publication and distribution of textbooks. In Madhya Pradesh, for example, the SCERT prepares the textbooks and their printing, publication and distribution is done entirely by the Madhya Pradesh State Textbook Corporation.

4. Among the states which permit SCERTs to prepare textbooks up to Class VIII, which rely on the CBSE/NCERT for the secondary stage, are Delhi, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Haryana and, of course, the union territories. In Haryana, the Board of School Education assigns the work of material development to the SCERT which in turn accomplishes the work by organising workshops with schoolteachers and subject experts and subject specialists working in the SCERT. While the SCERT produces/develops textbooks for primary classes (I to V), for Classes VI to VIII, textbooks published by the NCERT have been adopted by the state. In Delhi, teams comprising senior university teachers, professionals from the NGO sector, college teachers, SCERT and DIET (District Institute of Education and Training) teacher educators and schoolteachers prepare the textbooks in a collaborative mode for Classes I to VIII. In Rajasthan, textbooks for Classes I to VIII are prepared by the SCERT, approved by the state government and published by the Textbook Board. Before publication, computerised manuscripts of all textbooks in the form of hard copy are presented to the Secretary (Education) and to the Education Minister for approval. Similarly, in the schools run by the state government or recognised and aided by the state government of Uttar Pradesh, it is compulsory to use only those textbooks which are approved by the Uttar Pradesh Basic Shiksha Parishad and Uttar Pradesh Madhyamik Shiksha Parishad. But the two Boards (Parishads) of the state government sometimes only approve a panel of authors and not the precise books and the schools are free to choose books written by any of the empanelled authors. From Class IX to XII this practice is quite often followed.

Institutional structures and mechanisms, including legislative measures, exist in several states. In Orissa, legislative measures have recently been taken for the adoption of a language textbook (Oriya) in English medium schools affiliated to the ICSE and CBSE. In Madhya Pradesh, the state government has formulated an Act, the Madhya Pradesh Prathamik Tatha Madhyamik Shiksha (Pathya Pustakon Sambandhi Vyavastha) Adhiniyam 1973 and 1974, which approves the textbooks of the state. These approved books are to be adopted essentially by government primary and upper primary schools.4

While in most cases textbooks are printed in state government establishments, some states use private facilities also for the purpose. In Karnataka, the Directorate of Textbooks as a wing of the Department of State Educational Research and Training (DSERT) prepares all the textbooks for Classes I to X. After preparation, 60 per cent of the textbooks are given for printing to the government press and 40 per cent are printed by private printers/publishers. Management of printing and publication is an important issue, as it involves large amounts of investment and substantial profit-making wherever private publishers are involved.

Gujarat follows a three-tier try-out system in three phases before introducing textbooks. Try-out: Phase I involves try-out in 400 randomly selected primary schools; Try-out: Phase II involves try-out in selected schools of low literacy rate districts; and Phase III involves implementation of the modified textbooks all over the state. In West Bengal also, a periodic try-out process is adopted before finalisation of the manuscripts. In Mizoram, the Mizoram Board of School Education (MBSE) as a first step examines the curriculum and syllabi of other Boards and the NCERT and formulates a suitable curriculum and syllabi for Mizoram state. Editors are also appointed to edit the textbooks written by local experts. The Mizoram Board of School Education regulates textbook publication through private publishers. The State Board prints all the textbooks, as the Board is empowered by the Mizoram Board of School Education Act 1975, passed by the Mizoram Legislative Assembly.

In Karnataka, Textbook Committees are formed for every subject/class, consisting of subject experts and classroom teachers. The manuscripts prepared are scrutinised by another group of experts and introduced for one year in selected blocks of the state. The textbooks are again revised, based on the feedback, and introduced in the entire state.

The Madhya Pradesh State Board-affiliated schools, both government and private, are all supposed to use only the books produced by the State Government Education Department i.e. developed by the Madhya Pradesh SCERT and printed by the Madhya Pradesh State Textbook Corporation. The Madhya Pradesh Textbook Act mandates this. Even the books or magazines provided to the libraries are supposed to be approved by the state government. The mechanism of textbook writing is done in a workshop mode. Resource persons for these workshops are identified from various fields of education – schoolteachers, subject experts, persons from Regional Institutes of Education (RIEs), DIETs, Colleges of Teacher Education (CTEs), Institutes of Advanced Study in Education (IASEs) and retired persons. A Textbook Standing Committee approves the textbooks and the state government notifies the approved textbooks.

In Bihar, the institutional mechanisms for regulating school education are fully in place but there is a total lack of coordination between agencies entrusted with the preparation and publication of textbooks in Bihar. This is largely because of the failure of the SCERT to carry out its responsibility with regard to the production of textbooks owing to an absence of coordination between the different organisations involved in the supervision and preparation of books. They are neither well organised nor adequately prepared to carry out this work. The inefficiency of government departments has led directly to the emergence of parallel textbook centres in the state, weakening the existing institutions to a point where there is hardly any publication of textbooks by government institutions and the textbooks which are published do not reach the student. As a result, the responsibility for production of books has gone out of the hands of the government. For all practical purposes the production and distribution of textbooks is happening outside the state structures. Even though they are supposed to use textbooks produced by the government, the private schools are not doing so because government agencies have not been able to cater to the huge requirement of textbooks for schools in Bihar. Shortages and delays in production have thus legitimised the production of textbooks by private organisations. There is very little attempt to remedy the complete mismanagement in the preparation and production of textbooks, in the political as well as administrative spheres.5

The free space permitted in the system is often abused for partisan purposes by sectarian organisations and schools affiliated to them

Very few states approve textbooks written and produced by other individuals or organisations. Even in the states where such a provision exists, it is done only after the books are examined first by a group of experts in a workshop and the opinion is taken to the state-level Textbook and Syllabus Committee for final perusal and approval. It is only in the states of Delhi, Haryana, West Bengal, Nagaland and Himachal Pradesh that private unaided schools are free to adopt textbooks of their choice though there is no particular procedure for regulating the adoption of books. In all other states, the schools have to adopt the state-approved textbooks. But to some extent this prescription is only notional, as it is linked to the syllabus prescribed for the final board examination. Beyond the use of the state-prescribed textbooks, private unaided schools are free to adopt additional or supplementary books.


Mechanisms for Textbooks Used by Schools Outside the Government System

The non-government schools are of a wide variety. Some are run by private managements which have a chain of schools. These chains are sometimes citywide or statewide and sometimes countrywide. Besides, there are schools run by various religious and social organisations. Some schools are run by Christian missionary groups of different denominations. Then there are madrassas run by different Muslim councils or groups and there are Saraswati Shishu Mandirs run by Vidya Bharati, the education wing of the RSS. This variety is made even more complex by those chains of schools which focus on a particular language or subject, like Sanskrit Pathshalas. The method of selecting textbooks in these schools is as varied as their management. Those schools which fall under any council or board or trust choose books as per the directions of the latter. But these councils/boards/trusts do not have a uniform method. Some of them prescribe specific books for various subjects whereas some others just adopt the government-approved books and yet some others choose a combination of the two, that is, they adopt government-approved books for some subjects but for other subjects they prescribe specific books of their choice. Some boards/councils do not prescribe to schools any specific books but give them a syllabus or curriculum framework in the form of guidelines and the school principals, in consultation with teachers, decide upon the prescription of textbooks for their respective schools. There are several chains of schools run by private trusts which adopt government-approved books. Vidya Bharati/Saraswati Shishu Mandirs, Darul Uloom Deoband, Nadwatul Ulama, etc not only prescribe specific books for their schools, they also publish them. The Deeni Taleemi Council prescribes and publishes some specific books, mainly for religious education, but for the other subjects it prescribes the books approved by the Uttar Pradesh Basic Shiksha Parishad and Uttar Pradesh Madhyamik Shiksha Parishad. The Council of Anglo-Indian Schools provides a curriculum and leaves the choice of textbooks to the schools supported by it.

There is hardly any regulation or regulatory mechanism for the textbooks and textual materials used in schools outside the government system.6

In all the states except Gujarat, non-government schools have private publishers providing teaching and learning aids for teachers and students. There is a flourishing private industry that thrives on the prescribed textbooks of the centre and state. Textbooks prepared by private publishers range all the way from being shadow books of the NCERT/states’ books to kunjis, workbooks and guidebooks. Private publishers visit the schools with their books, teachers judge the books and on the basis of consensus books are selected. Private publishers informally visit the faculty members and inform them about the books, place specimen copies before them and request them to suggest books to the students. Students generally for examination purposes purchase these books.7

In actual practice, many private schools use books published by private agencies either as supplementary materials or even as substitutes. These books have not gone through any process of government approval. Many schools use private books along with the state government textbooks, others use them as substitutes while still others use private publishers’ books only where government textbooks are not available for that particular subject at that level – for example, Environmental Studies for Classes I and II or Moral Science, General Knowledge, Drawing, etc.

Supplementary workbooks and kunjis are freely available as are dictionaries, question banks, answer banks, guess papers printed by a host of publishers from Nai Sadak which has emerged as a parallel textbook centre. These kunjis/supplementary workbooks are available on sale for each of these books, which may or may not be prescribed by the school but publishers market these through the tuition routes.8 Teachers are also known to unofficially nudge children towards a particular set of kunjis. Some of these books are at least twice as expensive as the government textbooks. There is a flourishing market for kunjis in the states as well. These are generally of poor quality, unregulated and expensive. In Maharashtra, for instance, while the prescribed social sciences textbooks in History, Geography and Civics separately are priced between Rs 10-12 each, the kunjis cost Rs 30-40 each. The majority of children buy both. This publishing usually begins from Class VI but of late there are kunjis from Class IV.

Some schools run by religious and social organisations, such as Vidya Bharati schools, are affiliated to the CBSE or their local State Boards. For instance, in Rajasthan, the school authorities say that they recommend NCERT or SCERT books to the students. Value education books are written by some of the authors who have been identified by the parental organisations of the schools, like the DAV College Management Committee, Delhi, Bharatiya Vidya Samiti, Rajasthan, Vidya Bharati Sanskriti Shiksha Sansthan and Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai. School authorities also argue that [the selection of] books of private publishers which they suggest or recommend to the students is based upon decisions taken by faculty members.

There are a large number of madrassas all over India. At present there are official Boards of Madrassa Education in Assam, Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh. A large number of madrassas come within their jurisdiction and subsist on government funds. But in the rest of the country, they are being run on private charity. The NCERT has no provision for a Board administering the curriculum of madrassas in India. State governments like Uttar Pradesh do appoint such Boards but Delhi, for instance, does not.9

Delhi contains around 40 madrassas, of which a handful, like Rabiya Madrassa, is open to girls.10 There are two types of madrassas, those that follow the NCERT syllabus (Urdu medium) and those teaching only manqulat (religious education).

Madrassas following the NCERT syllabus have to teach with translations of English textbooks.11 Those teaching religious education follow a curriculum dating back to the 18th century. It includes the Koran, Fiqh (Jurisprudence), Sarf and Nahw (Arabic Literature and Grammar) and Tarikh (History from the Prophet to Khilafat-e-Rashida, 610-661 CE). As the qualifications provided by these madrassas are not recognised elsewhere, they prepare students only to become teachers themselves in these schools or to become imams, muezzins, khatibs, kazis and muftis.12


Some Important Issues

It is important to recognise that the states have come a long way in improving the practices related to printing and production of textbooks. But there is no proper direction in the policies and practices related to preparation and use of textbooks in schools. All the states have established mechanisms for the selection, publication and approval of textual materials. But the mechanisms and processes vary from state to state. It is a mixed picture with regard to which body will approve the textbooks. Almost every state has, through legislation, created state agencies/bodies for syllabus preparation and textbooks.

What is important to note is that these processes and mechanisms are all rather mechanically followed by the state agencies without much regard for the substance and content of textbooks. What is of real concern is that there is no way of assessing whether the textbooks actually adhere to the aims of education policy. Also, there appears to be very little application of mind with regard to the selection of material. The State Boards or SCERTs appoint expert committees to prepare the curriculum. The processes are all in place but the content is not of good quality or even always agreeable. This is partly because of the overwhelming emphasis on form with very little attention being devoted to content of textbooks and supplementary materials.

Another disturbing fact is that the free space permitted in the system is often abused for partisan purposes by sectarian organisations and schools affiliated to them. Such organisations exploit the fact of the palpable lack of critical scrutiny of the substance to smuggle in textual materials that dangerously undermine the aims of education and even vitiate the constitutional framework.

It appears necessary to issue a set of national guidelines to ensure that the core reading and learning material made available to children and teachers in schools scrupulously conform to constitutional values and educational policies and ideals. However, it must continue to be the responsibility of state governments to ensure that they are not flouted by cultural and social organisations which have established their schools and use privately published books within the state or by private educational establishments. n




1 This section on institutional arrangements and regulatory mechanisms has gained much from a Note prepared by R. Govinda and Mona Sedwal, ‘Preparation, Production and Prescription of Textbooks for School Education in India’, NIEPA.
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid.
5 Bihar Report.
6 Some of this information is based on responses of SCERTs, SIEs, SIETs (State Institutes of Educational Technology) to the questionnaire sent by the CABE Subcommittee to elicit information on regulatory mechanisms in the states, 2005.
7 Information from Janaki Rajan’s Note submitted to the CABE Committee.
8 Ibid.
9 Report on Delhi Madrassas.10 Ibid, p. 2. 11 Ibid, p. 6. 12 Ibid.

Archived from Communalism Combat,  April 2009 Year 15    No.139, Report of the CABE Committee, Institutional Mechanisms for Preparation of  Textbooks in the States




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