CBSE’s move to remove lessons on Periyar, Ma Po Si draws flak

CBSE had decided to rationalise 30% of the syllabus as schools are not functioning in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The topics on life of Periyar was removed from the CBSE Class 9 syllabus
The topics on life of Periyar was removed from the CBSE Class 9 syllabus
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In a move to rationalise the syllabus for students amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has removed lessons on two eminent leaders from Tamil Nadu from the Class 9 Tamil textbook. However, the CBSE’s move has evoked criticism from educationists and political parties in the state. The portions removed by CBSE include lessons on Dravidian leader and rationalist thinker EV Ramasamy, better known as Periyar, and Tamil scholar and freedom fighter MP Sivagnanam, popularly called Ma Po Si. 

The criticism comes on the back of CBSE’s decision to rationalise 30% of the syllabus as schools are not functioning. CBSE has also faced flak for removing lessons on secularism, citizenship, gender, religions and caste, nationalism, demonetization, challenges to democracy and democratic rights from Class 9 to Class 12 textbooks.

While educationists welcomed the move to reduce syllabus amid the pandemic, they vehemently opposed the decision to remove the lessons on the two leaders from the Tamil subject.

Arguing for retaining the portions, PB Prince Gajendra Babu, General Secretary of State Platform for Common School System, said, “The question here is which portions have to be deleted? There are two things: Fundamental portions and application portions. We cannot reduce anything from the fundamental syllabus. You can argue that the students have learned the basics in primary sections but the same fundamentals will come with discussion and depth as per age group in high and higher secondary classes. So for all classes fundamentals are necessary.”

He said, “Evolution is basic in biology and we cannot remove that portion. Likewise, language is directly connected to culture and we need to be careful with rationalizing the syllabus. If two stories in non-detail have the same content or the lessons just have facts which can be taught later, then we can delete the portion. However, certain lessons are directly connected with the culture and history of Tamil Nadu that we cannot delete.”

Stating that the lesson on Periyar and Ma Po Si are among the most fundamental lessons that cannot be deleted, he further explained the role played by both leaders in shaping the history of the state.

Prince said, “Periyar is directly connected to the social history of Tamil Nadu. The early Tamil society did not have a social division called caste but later the caste system came into the picture. Various kinds of discrimination came into picture and Periyar stood for socially equitable society. Periyar created a scenario where dignity for all the people will be upheld. So, Periyar cannot be seen as a chapter or one person. Periyar brought about the social transformation that happened in Tamil Nadu.”

Similarly, the formation of Tamil Nadu is also equally important for the learning of the students. Prince said, “Ma Po Si is connected with the state’s reorganization. This is an important topic that the child should know and if they do not study at this age, the child will study only when he/she gets the interest to go to the library and read history. There are linguistic divisions of state, state boundaries, areas where people speak mixed languages which resulted in disputes and the struggle is important for the children to learn.”

Nedunchezhian, the founder of Technocrats India College Finder, said removing select lessons from the portions reveals the agenda of the Centre. He said, “Removing the portions on Periyar and Ma Po Si clearly shows their agenda. Already there is no clarity on online education and by removing the essential lessons we know what they are planning to teach. Telling a child in Tamil Nadu to not study about Periyar is very wrong.  They may argue that they are doing this only for a year but students of this year will not know about the leaders.”

CPI(M) protests against CBSE

Left parties have also condemned the move to omit portions on Periyar and Ma Po Si. The CPI(M) began a protest on Monday by reading the omitted portions of the syllabus at public places. 

“The lessons on Periyar and Ma Po Si are basics and everyone in Tamil Nadu should learn these basics. If that is the case then why did the government remove the syllabus, the state government has not said anything on the portions removed from the textbook,” said Selva, a CPI(M) member.

The decision to reduce the Tamil syllabus should have been taken by Tamil Nadu government since CBSE students study Tamil from the state board textbooks, he said.

However, “The decision was taken by the Centre to remove the portions which went against the usual norm. We don’t find any need for the Centre to decide on the matter. Hence, we started the initiative Oor Kudi Vasipom (Let us congregate to read). From Monday to Friday, we have decided to go to places where people congregate and read the omitted syllabus. We also think these are lessons that everyone must know.”

Selva said the CPI(M) demands that CBSE revoke its decision and consult the state government before removing other portions from the Tamil syllabus.   

Prince Gajendra Babu also said, “The Central Board said that they consulted 1500 member before coming to this decision. However, I did not see any advertisements in the newspaper seeking opinion. So at least now the board should consult with the domain experts and release a fresh set of rationalized portions. The government should also revoke the decision on the current rationalising of lessons.”

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