July 18, 2008

Kerala Textbook: Curriculum committee decides to modify title

(The Hindu, July 18, 2008)

Curriculum committee decides to change title of controversial lesson

Staff Reporter

English version of Class VII Social Science textbook to be rewritten

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The curriculum committee of the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) has resolved to change the title of the controversial lesson Mathamillatha Jeevan in the Social Science textbook for Class VII, and do away with the names of the boy and his parents in the lesson and the portion of Jawaharlal Nehru’s Will that appears alongside the lesson.

The new title will be ‘Viswasa Swathantriyam’ (Freedom of Belief). Instead of the portion of Nehru’s Will, a portion of a speech on secularism made by Nehru in 1961 will be included in the lesson. These will be printed afresh as a booklet and distributed to schools.

The names Jeevan, Lakshmikutty and Anwar Rasheed — the name of the boy who comes to take admission in school, his mother and father respectively — will give way to ‘boy’ and ‘parents’ in the revised lesson, which will have a pointer to what the Constitution says about secularism. The revised lesson will also feature the sayings of Sree Narayana Guru on religion and harmony.

The English version of the textbook will be rewritten and published soon.

These decisions of the curriculum committee were announced by Education Minister M.A. Baby here on Thursday.

The decisions of the curriculum committee were, for the most part, based on the recommendations in the interim report of the K.N. Panikkar Committee appointed to look into complaints against newly introduced textbooks in the State’s schools.

The curriculum committee had decided that there was no need to withdraw either the textbook or the lesson in question and resolved that there was nothing that was anti-religion or anti-god in them, Mr. Baby added.

Along with the 1924 admission register of the Panthalloor government lower primary school given in the textbook, a copy of the admission register of either 2004 or 2005 will be given so that students can make a comparative analysis of the changes that have taken place in Kerala vis-À-vis access to education.

Two committee members — owning allegiance to teachers’ organisations affiliated to the United Democratic Front — recorded their dissent on the decisions of the curriculum committee insisting that the textbook be withdrawn right away.

Later, they told presspersons that the curriculum committee’s solution to the controversial lesson was only skin-deep. C.P. Cheriamohammed, curriculum committee member and leader of the Kerala School Teachers Union, said the K.N. Panikkar Committee had not gone into the problems in the teacher’s handbook pertaining to the textbook.

The history of the freedom struggle was being taught from the perspective of the Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad, he charged.

This textbook should be withdrawn and schools should be asked to teach last year’s textbook, he added.