NCERT Curriculum Plan Draws Flak From Educationists

Is the NCERT bringing in Hindutva through the backdoor? The organisation’s new curriculum framework has sparked off a fierce debate. While the NCERT Director J S Rajput defends it saying it is a professional body with no ulterior agenda, eminent educationists have argued otherwise. What has evoked consternation is the document’s stress on spirituality. Introduction of a spiritual quotient, education about religions, value based education, teaching of Sanskrit and an emphasis on the ‘traditional’ social order and its values have been in the eye of the storm.

Critical of the new curriculum, eminent educationist Anil Sadgopal – who is also the dean and head of the Department of Education, University of Delhi says that while Sanskrit is important and should be taught to those pursuing subjects where knowledge of Sanskrit is relevant, it should not be made compulsory. Not only would that mean overburdening the schoolchild but it also wrongly assumes Sanskrit is the root of all Indian languages. “India is larger than the NCERT concedes it to be”, he says. NCERT Director Rajput however says there is no harm in learning the language.

Responding to charges that the new curriculum was attempting to introduce religiosity into education, Rajput says a distinction must be made between religious education and education about religion. “We are not recommending religious education but basic awareness about values of religions. Education about basic philosophy of all religions is needed to foster under standing. This is not against secularism. Incidentally, the Indian state is secular but the Indian society is religious.” Sanjiv Kaura, the national coordinator of the National Alliance for the Fundamental Right to Education, however, says “linking values to religion and keeping if as the centre stage of the curriculum framework is dangerous, especially when overzealous subordinates begin to implement the government’s well-meaning intentions The values inherent in all religions can be easily imparted by appropriately devising courses on ethics”.

Sadgopal points out that there is no agreement amongst educationists on how to teach this sensitive subject. “Has the NCERT discovered a pedagogy? If teachers with their biases teach this they will ere ate further biases and in the existing ambience this is likely to lead to greater communalisation”. Sadgopal also attacks the NCERT’s attempt to introduce spiritual values and value education, saying it is a tactful manner of introducing the Brahminical value system. Values are derived from humanism, ‘insaniyat’, whereas the assumption of the NCERT is that all values are derived from religion. Values are being posited as some esoteric concept devoid of context, he says, as a means of escaping from social reality rather than understanding it. “The criticality of values has to be seen in a context. What was wrong with the value education being taught so far? The NCERT has not done any study to suggest this needed change so far”.

Rejecting this criticism, Rajput says value education is not an amorphous quantity that can be utilised. He argues that the concept of spiritual quotient will help in the personality development of the child, since spirituality leads to values. There is a serious erosion of values that cannot be ignored. In an increasingly materialistic society it is necessary to inculcate values, he says. “We have indicated significance of spirituality I life. Can anyone deny it?”

Arguing that the NCERT has been functioning for several decades and that he has been associated with the body since 1974 in the capacity of a professor of NCERT, Rajput asks “why should the NCERT, a professional body, suddenly adopt a Hindutvada agenda? “. For writing textbooks, he says the NCERT would invite experts who have professional standing as teachers and educators. “We ask experts to show us their identity cards or membership cards indicating whether they belong to the RSS or some political parties or are wedded to an ideology.”

By Aunohita Mojumdar, The Times of India, December 15, 2000, New Delhi

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