On August 12, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) took a significant step by forming an expert committee to develop school textbooks for students ranging from class III to XII. This committee, named the ‘National Curriculum and Teaching Learning Material Committee’ (NSTC), comprises 19 distinguished professionals hailing from various fields.
Notable members of this committee include Sudha Murthy, who serves as the chairperson of the Infosys Foundation, Bibek Devroy, as well as Sanjeev Sanyal, both esteemed members of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council. Renowned musician and singer Shankar Mahadevan, along with Chamu Krishna Shastri, the chairman of the Bhartiya Bhasha Samiti, are also part of this esteemed group.
Other esteemed members include Dr Shekhar Mande, former Director General of CSIR, Professor of the University of British Columbia, Canada Padmashree Sujatha Ramadorai and U. Vimal Kumar, the Director of Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy in Bengaluru.
Contributors such as Michael Danino, who holds the position of Visiting Professor at IIT Gandhinagar, the former Director General of Haryana Public Administration and former Chief Education Secretary Surina Rajan, President of Center for Policy Studies, Chennai Dr MD Srinivas, Head Program Office NSTC, Gajanan Londhe, SCERT Sikkim Director Rabin Chhetri, NCERT Professor Dinesh Kumar, Professor Pratyusha Kumar Mandal, Professor Kirti Kapoor, and Professor Ranjana Arora.
Heading this committee is the Vice-Chancellor of the National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA), Mahesh Chandra Pant, while the role of co-chairperson has been assigned to Professor Manjul Bhargava from Princeton University.
The primary objective of this committee is to harmonize the curriculum with the National Curriculum Framework for School Education (NCF-SE), which was devised by the steering committee led by K. Kasturirangan. This alignment is a crucial aspect of the overall implementation of the National Education Policy – 2020.
As outlined in the NCERT notification, the creation of textbooks for various classes will be firmly rooted in the National Education Policy 2020 and the National Curriculum Framework (NCF-SE). The ‘National Curriculum and Teaching Learning Material Committee’ (NSTC) will operate with autonomy, having the flexibility to engage additional subject experts for guidance and support whenever necessary.
Comprised of domain experts, this committee’s chair will establish distinct Curriculum Area Groups (CAGs), each composed of subject specialists. Chamu Krishna Shastri, a member of this committee and the chairman of the Indian Language Committee, has revealed that the plan involves forming 11 CAGs to address the 11 subject areas (domains) delineated in the National Curriculum Framework. These areas encompass subjects such as Mathematics, Science, Physical Education, and Social Science.
The collaborative efforts of over 1000 subject experts will play a crucial role in shaping the curriculum and crafting textbooks, ensuring a comprehensive development process.
The committee is committed to finalizing the textbooks ahead of the current academic year’s conclusion, ensuring timely accessibility for students before the commencement of the upcoming session. In addition to this, the committee will dedicate efforts to appropriately revising the existing textbooks for classes 1 and 2. This endeavour aims to ensure a seamless transition in alignment with the principles of the National Curriculum Framework.
Notably, historical precedent suggests that prior attempts at curriculum reform have often been marred by controversies. This could be a driving factor behind the inclusion of professionals and distinguished figures from diverse fields in the committee established by the NCERT. Acknowledging the impossibility for a single individual to possess expertise across all domains, it’s apparent that proficiency in one area does not necessarily translate to expertise in another. For instance, mastery in subjects like science, mathematics, and technology doesn’t inherently qualify one in domains like art, dance, music, literature, culture, humanities, or physical education. In light of these diverse interests, subjects, and multifaceted needs, the decision to enlist experts from various fields for the textbook preparation committee is both fitting and principled.
Members such as Shankar Mahadevan for Indian dance music and Sudha Murthy for women’s empowerment, alongside Bibek Devroy and Sanjeev Sanyal, are poised to enhance the curriculum’s comprehension of India’s independent and historical economic structures.
Similarly, other members can make meaningful contributions to their respective subjects during the textbook formulation process. The overarching goal of this committee is to design forward-looking courses and curriculum that align with the vision of a new and developed India. This curriculum is envisioned to fulfil the aspirations of the youth, equipping them to tackle global challenges effectively.
As India commemorates its enduring independence, it becomes imperative to incorporate a multitude of contexts, struggles, achievements, ideals, and inspirations into the curriculum, spanning both pre- and post-independence eras. But unfortunately, the vested greedy groups have dominated the education sector for years. A few ideological groups that patronise and support the status quo in the guise of progress—have made undue noise on every proposed change.
It is hoped that, in line with national sentiment, these forces will embrace the alterations being introduced to the syllabus and textbooks. It’s crucial to understand that the passage of time cannot be restrained or halted. The evolving demands of time, society, nation, and global humanity necessitate appropriate modifications in the curriculum, fostering holistic development among students, generating youth employment, and addressing present-day needs.
It’s worth noting that the syllabus and textbooks have remained relatively static since 2006, with minimal alterations involving additions or subtractions. It’s a widely accepted principle that generational shifts occur approximately every 10 to 15 years, accompanied by shifts in interests, trends, and needs. In the contemporary era of burgeoning information, knowledge, and technology, the pace of change is even swifter.
Consequently, curriculum and textbook adaptations are imperative to ensure that the process of teaching and learning remains engaging, practical, pertinent, and applicable to real-life scenarios. Importantly, the revamping of the curriculum serves as a pivotal means to cultivate self-respect, nationalism, civic consciousness, and responsibility among students.
Simultaneously, it fosters a sense of attachment to nature, environment, and culture. In essence, meaningful curriculum reform stands as the most viable avenue for nurturing holistic development while catering to the evolving needs and aspirations of the students.
Following revisions to the syllabus and textbooks, it is advisable to establish a framework ensuring that students across all educational boards study the same materials. Such an arrangement would effectively eliminate disparities and inequalities in education that currently exist due to varying board standards. The foundational principle of the National Education Policy advocates for the development of a unified education system encompassing uniform curriculum and standardised examination procedures across the entire nation.
If concepts like “One Nation – One Tax,” “One Nation – One Ration Card,” “One Nation – One Grid,” and “One Nation – One Exam” can be successfully implemented, then the question naturally arises: Why not adopt a similar approach for curriculum design?
While acknowledging potential linguistic and instructional differences, states might introduce slight adjustments in subjects such as literature and social science to reflect regional considerations. Nonetheless, the ultimate objective is to ensure equitable education and equal opportunities for every student. A nationwide, uniform curriculum is a rational aspiration. This initiative would alleviate the challenges students often face during competitive exams due to the divergent syllabi followed by various boards.
Moreover, it holds the promise of reducing the heavy burden of textbooks borne by students. Instances abound where private schools, often in collusion with publishers, compel students and parents to purchase costly books arbitrarily.
Adopting a “One Nation, One Curriculum” model can serve as a deterrent to such practices. Additionally, the pursuit of immediate gains and vested political interests frequently perpetuates a cycle of division within society, perpetuating fractures along lines of caste, language, region, religion, and identity. The concept of ‘One nation – One Curriculum’ stands to counter such divisive tendencies and separatist ideologies, promoting a sense of national unity and cohesion. This unified approach has the potential to transcend and strengthen the very fabric of our nation.