Competitive Exams: Current Affairs 2012: Thorat Committee Recommendations

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  • The six-member panel constituted to review the cartoons used in social sciences textbooks of the National Council for Educational Research & Training (NCERT) has ordered deletion of several cartoons and words that it says are either “ambiguous” negative or show politicians and bureaucrats in an “incorrect” way.

  • Justifying the proposed deletions, the panel majority headed by S. K. Thorat says in its report: “They may have reasons to believe that the cartoons used were not offensive but only reflected commonly perceived notions. In a society as vast and as diverse as India is, there can always be room for different understanding of the text and interpretation of visuals, and especially cartoons could be viewed differently by different segment of society. It is more so when multiple sensitivities get involved. The sensitivities, genuine or perceived, have to be taken note of and addressed carefully.”

  • With a mandate to review the social and political science textbooks and identify educationally inappropriate material, the panel constituted by NCERT and headed by S. K. Thorat, was expected to take a detailed look at all visual material with the help of subject experts.

  • But the number of cartoons asked to be erased from the textbooks and the flimsy and even bizarre reasons given, mark the whole exercise as politically coloured from beginning to end.

  • Many of the changes seem to have been recommended with the interest of the political and bureaucratic classes in mind, and not on pedagogic grounds. Some cartoons are to be removed because they convey a “negative message” about politicians and bureaucrats, others because they are politically “sensitive” A few cartoons were seen as too “ambiguous.”

  • Surely, these cannot be grounds for exclusion while preparing instruction material to develop critical thinking among students in Classes XI and XII.

  • What is perceived as “politically incorrect” need not be “educationally inappropriate” for students being initiated into critical thinking.

  • The National Curriculum Framework from which the current textbooks sprang broke new ground precisely because they sought to encourage young learners to ask questions for which there may not be a single correct answer.

  • The authors of the textbook may have gone overboard here and there; a sensible, nuanced review could have easily set things right. But the deletions now being ordered defy all reason and commonsense.

  • Agreed, there is nothing sacrosanct about the textbooks and the cartoons they carry. Other cartoons and other textbooks could have served the pedagogic purpose just as well. But inclusion and exclusion of material in textbooks cannot be carried out, as the Thorat committee has done, keeping in mind narrowly defined political sensitivities and imaginary community sensibilities.

Courtesy: The Hindu

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