Dear CBSE, Can India’s Youth Really Do Without Lessons on Democracy, Secularism, Caste?

Social Commentary

Dear CBSE, Can India’s Youth Really Do Without Lessons on Democracy, Secularism, Caste?

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

After disrupting everything from classes being held to exam schedules, the next sphere of education to be impacted by Covid-19 is school syllabuses. Following directions from the Ministry of Human Resource Development, the syllabi for students in Classes 9 to 12 have been cut by 30 per cent. The Central Board of Secondary Education announced its revised syllabus on Tuesday. The changes will affect students in the academic year of 2020-21.

The CBSE issued a statement on the matter, citing the coronavirus pandemic as the reason for the reduced syllabus. The statement said, “The revision of syllabi is a measure taken due to the extraordinary situation prevailing in the country and in different parts of the world. Considering the importance of achieving the level of learning, the syllabus has been rationalised to the extent possible by retaining the core concepts.” Union HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal made a similar announcement on Twitter.

The reduced syllabus in the subject of political science, which falls under Social Sciences, is somewhat controversial. It leaves out several important chapters and topics that are important in developing politically aware students. For Class 10, the “Democracy and Diversity”, “Gender, Religion and Caste”, “Popular Struggles and Movements”, and “Challenges to Democracy” chapters are no longer included. Class 11 students will no longer study the chapters “Citizenship”, “Secularism”, and the topics covering growth of local governments. The Class 12 syllabus has excluded the chapters “Environment and Natural Resources” and “India’s Relations with Its Neighbours”.

The exclusion of these chapters has attracted criticism on social media. However, in its statement, Central Board of Secondary Education said, “The Heads of Schools and Teachers may ensure that the topics that have been reduced are also explained to the students to the extent required to connect different topics.” Regardless, students will no longer have to study these sections for their examinations.

CBSE’s announcement follows the lead of its fellow central board, Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE). Last week, CISCE announced a 25 per cent cut in its syllabus across all subjects.

Sending out well-informed young people into the world should be a school’s ultimate purpose, above merely bestowing students with a degree. Omitting essential topics at such a high level of schooling seems to cater to the latter.