Dr Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’
“The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.”
The quote by Garry Kasparov has impounded my thoughts lately, and particularly so when never expected that a goodwill action taken by the government towards its CBSE students will become the recipe for malicious propaganda.
Given that every time we make efforts to keep education out of politics, but sadly each time education has fallen prey to frivolous power play where a certain section of people, better categorised as relentless publicity-seekers, seek to deplore and treat the vision and actions of the Government, to the utter horror, confusion and pain of our young learners.
At present, this section of people is looking at education as a tool to arrive at the elusive (for them) position of dominance and power rather than to empower students with critical thinking, scientific temper, analytical power and creativity that can empower them to blossom to their full potential, abundantly equipped with all the 21st-century skills, and with ethics and integrity.
The unprecedented pandemic has thrown a challenge to the Ministry to not only provide quality education to our students while keeping our focus on learning outcomes intact but also to make a stress-free environment for the students. To do so, the Ministry has been working hard to keep abreast of all the issues related to our student community. I take pride in the team at HRD for taking up and supporting exemplary decisions, such as the provision of mid-day meal to the children even during the vacation period, promoting students based on internal assessment, giving ‘Power of Choice’ to class 12 students and boosting the e-learning in India.
However, lately, a web of accusations is being created, regarding revision of syllabus of CBSE board influenced by socio-political needs and aspirations. Despite all the false allegations, we at the Ministry, stand committed to the provision of quality education to the next generation under the esteemed leadership of the Honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. Some vested interests who are criticizing the ‘rationalization of syllabus’ are doing so without bothering to “read and understand” the directions, as available on the public domain.
What and why it has been done
Upon innumerable requests received from students, parents, teachers, CBSE was advised to revise the curriculum and reduce the load for students of classes 9 to 12. Though the ‘Rationalisation of the curriculum by 30%’ has been done, it will the responsibility of the Heads of Schools and Teachers to ensure that the topics that have been reduced are also explained to the students to the extent required to connect different topics. It has been done with the sole purpose of reducing the burden for annual exams in 2021 as there has been a loss of instruction time due to the pandemic. Students will not be tested on these topics for internal assessment and year-end board examination, however, C.B.S.E. has also directed the schools to follow the NCERT Alternate Academic Calendar. This calendar is available in the public domain, and all topics that are being “sensationalized” to catch attention and traction, are covered in this calendar. This calendar has specific learning plans for each topic based on experiential or activity-based learning, with the help of commonly available resources at homes. As I say, ‘Shiksha se phele surakhsa’, therefore, in fact, these measures will help in reducing the hassles and stress faced by the students and is a one-time measure for exams, due to the COVID19 pandemic.
How it was done
The process for rationalization is not straight-jacketed as assumed by the so called publicity seekers. A strenuous exercise was carried out following the advice and recommendations of various experts and considering the suggestions received from educationists through our #SyllabusForStudents2020 campaign; more than 1500 expert suggestions were received. The suggestions and expertise of esteemed educationists have helped us do “just rationalization” while keeping the learning outcomes intact. The rationalization has happened across the subjects as opposed to the misconstrued testimonials of the opposition of exclusion of 3-4 topics like nationalism, local government, federalism, etc. To give a few examples, the topics expected in economics are Measures of Dispersion, Balance of Payments Deficit, etc, while in Physics are Heat Engine & Refrigerator, Heat Transfer, Convection & Radiation among others. Similarly, in Maths, Properties of Determinants, Consistency, Inconsistency, and Number of Solutions of System of Linear Equations by Examples and Binomial Probability Distribution. In Biology, portions of Mineral Nutrition, Digestion & Absorption have been exempted for evaluation.
It can be no one’s argument that these topics have been exempted by malice or some grand design which only partisan minds can decipher. However, the Ministry of Human Resource Development is committed to quality education and taking bold decisions for empowering and aiding the quality learning processes for our young learners. Education cannot be seen as a mere transmission of knowledge; it has to be understood also as the mechanism to empower students to think critically and solve problems, how to be creative, how to innovate, adapt, and learn in novel situations that everyday challenges of life will keep throwing up. We believe in the ‘knowledge of all – for all’ and oppose building mere structures of knowledge to overpower our dominance through the curriculum.
We should value the knowledge system to enable our students with righteous knowledge which is experiential, holistic, integrated, learner-centred, and constructive. The discussion should be on the development and empowerment of students rather than using them as power-play and creating a mockery of the system that empowers young lives. Thereby, I humbly request all to step forward to create India as a Knowledge Hub by having constructive deliberations and actions. Let’s coalesce our efforts for quality education to the students.
The author is Union Minister for Human Resource Development, Government of India