April 2009 
Year 15    No.139

Chapter V

Recommendations on Regulatory Mechanisms for Textbooks
and Parallel Textbooks

1.1 The state has a duty to provide a meaningful quality education for all as part of its duty to provide school education for all, as part of the latterís fundamental right. It is obvious that textbooks are a fulcrum of any system which seeks to provide quality education. We have now an enormous variety of textbooks in the country and the content analysis undertaken for this report shows that there are many problems with textbooks in use in different types of schools. The provision of textbooks in our country is largely governed by a laissez-faire approach. While the plurality in the textbooks and textual materials so produced is and can be fruitful, it is important that these textbooks have to be informed by the philosophy of liberal, secular and democratic education. They need to keep the Constitution and its provisions in view. It is important that textbooks and textual materials are written and produced within this framework and the country must be satisfied that these processes are transparent.

1.2 There is an urgent need to set up an institutional facility to keep an eye on textbooks. Research on textbooks is an essential feature of a healthy education system but in the context of the challenges we face, research must take the form of inquiry into specific problems relating to the quality of textbooks and the values they convey. An institutional structure to perform this task needs to be independent of any organisation which is involved in textbook preparation. This would imply that the institutional facility we are recommending for exercising vigilance on textbooks cannot be associated with the NCERT at the national level and SCERTs at the state level. The NCERT is a major player in the textbook industry and is likely to remain involved in it in the foreseeable future. Therefore, while the NCERTís and SCERTís role as a research organisation must extend to research on textbooks, independent institutional structures need to be set up to exercise vigilance on textbooks published by both government organisations as well as by others. The structure can be called the National Textbook Council. The state governments may be encouraged to set up their own State Textbook Councils. Both the National Textbook Council and State Textbook Council should be fully autonomous and representing genuine voices in civil society and the academia so that the monitoring of textbooks can be performed with intellectual rigour, sensitivity and commitment to constitutional values. The primary role of these Councils would be to review the contents of textbooks to ensure compliance with the constitutional values and national policies on education. The National Textbook Council may devise its own procedures for review. Given the fact that ordinary citizens do not have a forum where they can complain about the content and quality of textbooks, even though their own children are involved, these Councils may especially respond to complaints received from the public about the quality and value perspective of school textbooks by conducting specific inquiries.

2.1 The CABE may set up a Standing Committee. The Standing Committee will inform the CABE from time to time about textbook-related matters and seek guidance from the National Textbook Council. The Committee will from time to time review and examine standards and relevance of textual materials for the educational enterprise and assess the social content of textbooks and textual materials and examine whether they are consistent with the vision of the Constitution and the values of the national policy on education and in terms appropriate for children at different stages of development. It will submit its report to the government and this should be made public.

2.2 It is extremely important that the principle of periodic review of textual materials be accepted and review undertaken on a regular basis. The CABE Standing Committee can decide the periodicity of such reviews.

2.3 Guidelines should be laid down for the periodic review of textual materials of all kinds so that textbooks are consistent with the secular fabric of Indian governance. The Standing Committee would be empowered to prepare the guidelines and outline the parameters for review. It is important that the criteria for approval of textual materials must include a proper analysis of content to assess its adherence to the core principles before the textbooks are approved and prescribed. This will need to be conducted by academic experts who can judge departures from core principles of egalitarianism, democracy, secularism and removal of social barriers, which define the national endeavour of education for all and nation building. These guidelines must be strictly adhered to.

2.4 The Standing Committee should make these periodic reviews and reports public. This should be widely publicised through the media and other means to increase public awareness of the social content of textbooks and the importance of using textual materials that are in keeping with the values and spirit of egalitarianism, secularism and democracy.

2.5 The review process must be initiated without inconveniencing parents and children and be completed within six months of the beginning of the new academic session.

3.1 It is a matter of concern that the NCERT and SCERT have so far not taken up research on textbooks as a major area of research and this needs to be strengthened. The NCERT and SCERTs can be asked to set up units dedicated to research on textbook preparation and evaluation. Academic autonomy required for undertaking this function in an objective manner should be provided to the NCERT and SCERTs.

3.2 Adequate funding must be made available to concerned agencies for engaging in research on social content of textbooks. Adequate staff must be provided so that it could function in conjunction with and provide support to the CABE Standing Committee for Curricular Review. The MHRD, State Education Departments and State Directorates of Education should earmark funds for this purpose and all institutions of higher learning should support research in school textbooks.

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