On Thursday, the BJP accused that ruling government of trying to impose an Ahinda and Leftist agenda on school children.
The accusation comes following Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s announcement on Wednesday that the printing of new textbooks for 75,000 state board schools incorporating revisions suggested by the Textbook Review Committee should begin before January 15, 2017.
The CM’s announcement came nearly a year after the constitution of the review committee to plug gaps in the state board syllabus and bring it up to par with the CBSE syllabus. Although earlier Karnataka’s Minister for Primary and Secondary Education, Tanveer Sait, had said that the revised textbooks could only be brought in by 2018-2019, the deadline was reportedly revised based on the CM’s insistence.
However, with the deadline being advanced, the opposition BJP is up in arms at what it claims is the government’s attempt to bypass public debate and introduce an ideological bias into the school syllabus.
Interestingly, the review committee itself was formed following complaints of saffronisation of the syllabus among others, Baragur Ramachandrappa, Chairman of the Textbook Review Committee, told The News Minute.
"The government had taken the decision to revise the textbooks as several complaints were received from teachers, women's rights organisations, individuals and experts that there were factual errors, aspects of saffronisation and gender inequity in the existing text books, which is why the decision to revise them was made," said Baragur Ramachandrappa, Chairman of the Textbook Review Committee.
Ramachandrappa said that the Save Education Action Committee had written a 50-page letter to the committee pointing out the factual errors in various chapters in the textbooks.
Chikmagalur BJP MLA and former minister for higher education, CT Ravi, said that the BJP was not insisting that errors in textbooks be retained. "We want to obtain public opinion on the committee's findings. We want to know what changes are being made and why. What are the aspects of saffronisation that were found? We are not contesting that although there are factual errors, the textbooks must remain the same. What is the hurry in printing it so soon? They can wait till there is a public debate on this issue and bring in the changes the year after that," said BJP MLA C T Ravi from Chikkamagalur.
MLA Ravi particularly expressed his doubts on how India will be portrayed in the new textbooks. "Earlier textbooks would say Alexander the Great. How can you inculcate a sense of patriotism in children if you call the ruler of another country great? The Boudhayana Sutras had proved the Pythagoras theorem much before, but this was not made public. All we want to know are the revisions that were recommended and why," he added.
For his part, Ramachandrappa cited pieces of information in the textbooks that the committee found erroneous or problematic. "The science textbook says that the first test tube baby was Dronacharya as he was born in a clay pot and the first airplane was pushpaka vimana. The social studies textbook says that Vardhamana Mahaveera was the first tirthankara when, in fact, he was the 24th. These are factual errors. Most of these textbooks have information suggesting that most of the greatest inventions and discoveries were made in India, when some of it is not true," Ramachandrappa said.
The committee Chairman also said that all revisions were made after consulting experts, teachers, scientists, mathematicians, women's rights activists, language experts and other stakeholders.
"The issue of textbooks cannot be politicised. These are informative books and need to uphold the principals of our Constitution and most importantly must be factually right, must not have gender inequity, should be socially, scientifically and religiously tolerant. The changes were made keeping in mind only these factors," Ramachandrappa added.
One of the questions that the BJP had raised was whether the new textbooks followed guidelines issued by the NCERT. Ramachndrappa told TNM that the committee did not have the authority to change the NCERT structure, but was only given the power to make revisions to chapters within the existing structure.