On July 7th HRD minister Ramesh Pokriyal announced that there would be a 30% reduction of the CBSE Syllabus only for the year 2020-21 for classes 9-12 due to the impact of the pandemic and the lack of time to cover every topic. For those who do not know, CBSE stands for Central Board of Secondary Education. It is a board of education in India for public and private schools managed by the Union Government of India.
There were many reports criticizing this reduction especially in subjects like Social Science. Some people even said that this was a deliberate move by the government. The big question was: is this move political or Academic?
There was backlash from certain media houses and the opposition party on the removal of chapters like – Democracy, Federalism, Secularism, Nationalism and India’s relationship with its neighbors because removal of Trigonometric Functions from Mathematics (Congratulations class of 2021!) wouldn’t have sounded sensational enough.
Firstly, the academic year usually starts in the month of May/June. Considering that most schools are conducting their classes online and there is no certainty about when schools will re-open, the fact that there has been a reduction is great news for the students. It is an absolute relief for the students as they can finally stop stressing about examinations during a god-damn pandemic!
Since when did we start bothering about what’s part of the syllabus and what isn’t? If we are really criticizing what’s being taught at schools, then let’s talk about the topics that have conveniently been left out for years now. Pandemic or no pandemic, there’s not one day in most schools where sex education, mental health or even filing of taxes are covered. Who decides what is important and what isn’t?
The claim made by the CBSE is that the reductions were made after a long process and upon considering multiple suggestions. They also stated that repetitive topics were removed in order to reduce the academic burden. What they failed to present was the reasoning behind removal of these topics which fuelled speculations and controversies from the public, opposition parties and news agencies. What the CBSE could have done is defined what the core concepts and the non-core concepts are and the reasoning behind it.
I think its time we leave politics out of education. This move gives us a great opportunity to challenge the current education system. Until when are we going to rely solely on textbooks as the only source of truth? Is the duty of the teacher merely to cover topics that are part of examination?
Teachers of subjects like political and social sciences need to be accountable for what is being taught to children. Another thing to note here is the removal of these topics does not mean they have been deleted from the textbooks. They are very much present and are simply not going to be tested during examinations. A topic like Secularism (that has been excluded) can be pushed and taught or at least introduced while teaching the chapter: Equality (that has not been removed). The responsibility now is on the teacher. They now have the power to actually bring about a difference in the way education functions in this country. It is great that the move was questioned. The Indian Education System has a long way to go. However, politicizing the current situation because of some political vendetta is definitely a step back.