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Coming,law to set up monitor body for school textbooks

As it nears the end of its tenure,the UPA government is pushing for a law to create a National Textbook Council (NTC) — a first-of-its-kind body that will monitor the content of school textbooks.....

Anubhuti Vishnoi & Maneesh Chhibbernew Delhi |
February 5, 2009 2:08:56 am

As it nears the end of its tenure,the UPA government is pushing for a law to create a National Textbook Council (NTC) — a first-of-its-kind body that will monitor the content of school textbooks produced outside the government system,including those taught at schools run by religious and social organizations.

The move is aimed at desaffronising — or prevent the saffronising of — school education,and is targeted especially at some of the things taught at the RSS-affiliated Saraswati Shishu Mandirs,and in madrasas.

There is significant political interest in the creation of the NTC,and the law is likely to see light of day soon,highly placed sources told The Indian Express. The move got extra ballast recently after Lok Janshakti chief Ram Vilas Paswan wrote to HRD Minister Arjun Singh in the context of the Malegaon arrests alleging RSS-run institutions were “fabricating and distorting history”,and called for their books to be brought under a regulatory mechanism.

The NTC envisaged by the HRD Ministry will keep an eye on textbooks so that “a standard of education could be maintained and (the) student community could be saved from (the) ill effect of inferior quality textbooks”. It will be incumbent on publishers to submit three copies of every school textbook to an NTC-controlled repository within 30 days of their publication,says the draft Cabinet note on the Bill.

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According to the Cabinet note,the textbooks must not have content that conflicts with values enshrined in the Constitution,or “which may be prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India and the security of the State and dignity of the democratic order,or incite contempt for law or lawfully established authority,or defame any community or group,or incite hatred or prejudice against such community or group”.

The NTC will have jurisdiction over all textbooks published in India. It will be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court nominated by the Chief Justice of India. It will have six member-officials picked from the Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL),IITs,reputed social science research institutes,and academics from the fields of languages,science and mathematics,social sciences and humanities. Two of the members will be women.

All ministries have already sent in their comments on the legislation,which is currently under Law Ministry scrutiny. The Ministry is understood to be largely in agreement with the contents of the draft Bill — however,there is a question mark over the legality of a provision empowering the NTC to jail and/or fine an erring publisher. Legal experts say the clause is not supported by the Indian Penal Code; it may,as a result,be altered to allow the NTC to at best advise or counsel the publisher or school,sources said.

The Planning Commission and the Ministry of Finance have argued for the creation of a special cell within the NCERT instead of an altogether new body. Arjun Singh’s ministry is,however,pressing for an independent NTC,it is learnt. The proposal for an NTC is based on the recommendations of the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE)’s committee on ‘Regulatory Mechanism for Textbooks and Parallel Textbooks Taught in Schools Outside the Government System’. The panel,co-chaired by Professors Zoya Hasan and Gopal Guru,was mandated to study and report on textbooks in government schools not using the CBSE syllabus,and those outside the government system including schools run by religious and social organizations,and suggest an appropriate regulatory mechanism for monitoring curricula content.

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