Wednesday, July 22, 2009
The National Curriculum in the State
The news that state board schools will adopt CBSE syllabus from the next session-is indeed welcoming. That they have finally realized Math & Science as universal concepts and not state definitions-is a step ahead.
Last year I was very happy when, our Chief Minister had proposed to convert the government schools into CBSE pattern of teaching-But I was unhappy to see the vehement opposition from the teachers of government schools.
They were worried because they were not trained or suitably equipped and also they do not have the mettle to take up new challenges-because most of them are doing a government job-not teaching! To train themselves to work –that itself is a big challenge to them, now training themselves for new type of teaching is practically unthinkable for most of them. Thus, they opposed!
I wish the Chief Minister had asked help from the existing CBSE schools in the state for training and support. However I am glad that his proposal of last year has materialised in the name of ‘centralisation of education’- from next year.
To make all state schools follow CBSE science and math-mandatory has been a laudable reform our CM has done. Finally a semblance to our education system is falling into place.
My serious concerns
However the same news also says that languages and Social sciences will be developed locally by the SCERT to maintain the importance of local history and culture.
Well, that’s what began to worry me ! Unless we have forward looking curriculum framers in SCERT we cannot make social studies relevant. The fact that SSC text books have not been updated in the last 30 yrs speaks about the disinterest in making curriculum relevant for our students.
I have been teaching Social Sciences and English in CBSE schools across the country for the last 15yrs. I have been a witness to the gradual upliftment of curriculum there. However, there is still scope for relevance there too.
Now that I am in Andhra for the last 5 years, I am also seeing the SSC textbooks which are like dinosaurs. I will talk more about Social Sciences & English b’coz I am a passionate teacher of these .
In SSC books we still teach history as a record of dates and events. The questions asked in the boards are also seeking the memory of names, dates and events and not the relevance of those events.
Make History a Heritage subject-mandatory, but not for a 3 hr written exam
While it is important to know our history and culture, it is certainly irrelevant to make it an exam oriented subject. Arts, culture and local history, should be made as compulsory heritage subjects and not exam oriented topics.
If USA can make community service as a compulsory credit to clear year level exams, we can also make projects and presentations on local or national history as mandatory credits-not a 3 hr written exam which does not ensure any respect or interest in our history.
Local history..can it ensure Unity in Diversity?
In my opinion teaching local history has created one major disadvantage, alienation and demands for separation of states. Encashing upon local history and pride, vested political parties are seeking political mileage.
If in AP if we create social sciences, we might have to make sure that all ‘volatile regions’ are covered or else, we might have another agitation like the one in 70s-asking for separate Andhra or rayalseema or telengana ! It is important to know the local heroes, legends, culture and folklore-for the sake of a cultural identity, but it should not be stretched to the point of examining them.
If we have to grow up as one country and make everyone grow equally well I feel that we should grow out of this local and regional feelings. Why groom students with such separatist ideas?
For the last 60 years we have been learning world history and Indian history mandatorily in all schools of India. If learning about history gives us all pride and glory, why are we having such regional animosities? Why do we have communal wars if our students have learnt the sanctity of secularism? When we have studied Gandhism and Buddhism as a way of life, why do we have terrorism?
Just by having lessons on these topics and making students mug up irrelevant data, we cannot ensure knowledge of history. It is the connection to the present that will evoke interest in them.
The relevance of teaching History
If French Revolution is a lesson, a student has to memorise the names, dates and who marched to where! The same French revolution is taught in CBSE with a relevant interpretation on revolutions that ushered in the rights and equalities for human beings.
Though I wonder, if in France, they ever learn about Indian history and the freedom struggle that has created world’s largest democracy. I also wonder if European countries learn about each others’ history. We in India have still not grown out of our fancy for foreigners and their history.
Personally I would want everyone to know about the world history in terms of political, social, cultural and economic structures that have evolved in each country because we are living in a global village now and the days of island living are over. We need to grow out of our cocoon and see the big world.
Today’s generations of students are growing up in a globalised world and what is more relevant is the political and economic priorities of different countries which are generally based on their social structures.
For example: we teach the tenets of Communism with examples from USSR & China-the former has ceased to exist and the later has flourished after discreetly adopting Capitalism. Similarly we teach Socialism which has not ushered in much economic progress in our country. Students grow up with the idea that socialism has been successful in making equitable justice happen-which is not exactly true. Privatisation and open economy are not discovered by them until they go to graduation level.
God forbid, if the student takes up engineering or medicine, he learns the nitty gritty of his science but not about the socio-political economy that he has to work in.
We need to leave Bismarck alone-we have many more diplomats from whom our students can learn the art of diplomacy in bringing nations together.
With all due regards to Napolean, I think he should be remembered for his courage to make it big in spite of humble background –not just for how many territories he conquered and how he came to be the ‘great’.
Neither Asoka nor Chandra Gupta Maurya ever feature in French history or German history but we in India learn about Henry the XIV or Freiderich or Peter The Great .
We learn about Catherine the Great, but no one talks about Jhansi ki Rani in Russia.
It is good that a system of administration has been started by the Guptas, Mauryas and Mughals according to the social and political conditions then. A system has been evolved by our parliamentarians too, after Independence! Against all odds of partition, poverty, population growth, security threats from China & Pakistan, they still evolved an administrative structure.
Why don’t we teach that to our students instead of teaching the insignificant details on janapadas and stupas throughout their 6th to 10th?
Ironically they are oblivious to their immediate past but made to learn facts from remote past. They don’t even know why India Gate in Delhi is built but they have to learn about structures built 1000 years ago.
The students just mug up the tenets of Communism or Marxism or Socialism without any orientation towards how different ideologies have evolved to make equity and justice happen.
Curriculum framing after 1947
When we got independence and education was framed as basic literacy programme, the curriculum framers then, felt that it is important to teach our historical growth over thousands of years and freedom struggles in different countries, because it was recent history then.
That was more than 60yrs ago.
A Time Cap Please !
I think we need to put a time cap and say that all that happened 75 years ago is remote history and the rest as recent history. Remote history can be taught as a heritage subject which is mandatory but not for a written exam.
For the present generation, recent history is- how India is making it big against economic and political adversities! How USA has assumed the big brother role when it is European countries that have modernised first with industrial revolution!
Why should our students still learn that outdated dialogue of— ‘the sun never sets in the British empire’? While the fact is that Indians have spread so far and wide that writer Parag Khanna, commented ‘the sun never sets on the Indian diaspora’.
Why are they still learning about super powers, when the fact is that there are no longer super powers!
Seismic political shifts are happening and even a small country like Israel has a strategic importance.
Cold War !!! Where?
Congress of Vienna for restoration of royal rule-why ?
We don’t study about the war of the royals against joining the Indian Union during 1947 but we study something that happened in 1800s, that too in Europe.
How can remote past be called contemporary?
Moreover it is called as contemporary world history !
How can League of Nations, Russian revolution and its course be contemporary?
Even the dictionary says contemporary means-up to date, current, modern, present, living! What happened in 1905 cannot be contemporary in 2009 !
We focus so much on Freedom Movement in India that starting from Grade VII we teach them through Grade X.
We create such an image that starting from 15th August 1947-it had been a bed of roses.
We just can’t teach them history till 1947 and make them believe that from henceforth we lived happily ever after!
For this generation, what is more relevant is history from 1947!
For this generation contemporary world is G8 Summits/SAARC Meets/nuclear Pacts/sanctions/IT revolution/Growth of Private Sector/civil movements etc., etc.,
All the king’s men and all the king’s horses could not put humpty dumpty together again!
Bismarck’s lessons on diplomacy may come of use for us perhaps when our states are being divided but it did not come of any use when our country was being divided. Partition needs a more serious mention than unification of Germany-because all diplomacy of Nehru, tact of Patel or silent strength of Gandhi could not stop the country from being divided
In fact more than during continental shifts, countries have assumed new shapes after the 2nd world war. I see how students struggle to remember the years and names of people and places, whereas, what they should actually learn is that with little technology or no technology how the progress of civilizations have taken place.
Instead of teaching what vessels and jewellery have been used in Indus Valley civilization, or how the constructions were done during Roman empire, we should categorise the entire history into progress of mankind through...
The ages of
• Agrarian workers
• Industrial workers
• Information/knowledge workers
• And finally the need for workers with wisdom.
There could be more constructive suggestions and meaningful approaches to teaching social sciences from progressive educators. This is purely my personal feeling and I am proud that I could teach all my Board batches of X & XII in the last 15 years with my convictions and yet made them laudable achievers in the exams. Reforms or no reforms, I have seen many educators making their own paths to educate their students.
Exams are not constraints of time if we truly want to educate!