ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Unburdening the Child

The deletion of three chapters of the history textbook of Class 9 has been carried out in the name of reducing the burden on children. Quantifying burden in this manner and equating it with “bulk” alone reflects a myopic view of the problem of academic load and its relationship with textbooks, and is an attempt to invisiblise interconnections between time, place and ideas/events, intersectionalities between caste, class, andgender, and issues of conflict and social injustice.

The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) textbooks are being revised again. Three chapters from NCERT’s Class 9 social science textbook, India and the Contemporary World-I, will be dropped from the new academic session. This revision is more in the nature of tinkering with the existing books, which were developed in accordance with the National Curriculum Framework of 2005. The objective as stated by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) is to reduce the “curriculum load” on students by 15% this year and 50% by 2021. It is also said that social studies will be subjected to greater cuts and the textbooks will be made “thinner” and their language more “concise” and “crisp.” While the earlier review was based on feedback received by an internal review committee in total disregard of children’s experiences (Nawani 2018), the latest exercise1 is a follow-up of around 37,000 complaints received by MHRD from parents, teachers and educationists, requesting it to reduce the school syllabus and unburden the child (PTI 2018).

It is difficult to disagree with the concern that the Indian schoolgoing child is burdened and that this is not a new problem. “Heavy syllabus”/“bulky content,” among many other things have made children’s lives miserable, leaving them with little time to engage in other activities. For instance, even a cursory look at the Class 7 history syllabus of West Bengal in the early 1990s, will indicate its “burdensome” nature:

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