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India: In BJP ruled Rajasthan textbooks rewritten to serve Hindutva propaganda of the RSS - A three part article

25 November 2018

print version of this article print version, 14 November 2018


BJP’s major achievement in Rajasthan: Rewriting school textbooks to reflect RSS worldview

The new textbooks are not part of the election conversation but their impact could be long-lasting. The first in a three-part series.

by Shreya Roy Chowdhury

Gurmeet arrives in Ajmer on a crowded train. His friend Razzak picks him up and takes him to the dargah of Moinuddin Chisti, where he describes the festival of Urs held annually at the shrine. At Adhai din ka jhopda, the two friends discuss whether the monument could indeed have been built within two-and-a-half days, as its name suggests. Next, they go to Taragarh fort, where they see the memorial to the Rajput king Prithviraj Chauhan. By the time they wrap up the visit to Ana Sagar lake, they are too tired to go anywhere else.

This is “Ajmer ki Sair”, a story of two boys sightseeing in the city of Ajmer, which Class 3 students in Rajasthan read in their Hindi textbooks until 2016. In July that year, the state introduced new school textbooks in all classes.

The new Hindi textbook for Class 3 still features the story of the two boys. Gurmeet still arrives on a crowded train. Razzak still lives close to the dargah. They still tour Ajmer. But the Urs is no longer described in detail. Prithviraj Chauhan is called the king “who defeated Bharat’s invader, Mohammad Ghori several times”. The tour spills over into the Hindu pilgrimage town of Pushkar, where Razzak shows Gurmeet the “world famous” Brahma temple and the Panchkund or five reservoirs “that the five Pandavas had built” – a reference to the heroes of the epic Mahabharata.

From “Ajmer ki Sair”, the story has been renamed “Ajmer ki Yatra”.

As Devyani Bharadwaj, an educationist who lives in Jaipur, said, “The one chapter that could have positively represented Muslims has been butchered.”

Educationists in Rajasthan say these changes are in keeping with the larger trend of textbook revisions made under the Bharatiya Janata Party government. Not only do the new textbooks reinforce the Hindu majoritarian worldview, they all but erase minority identities. Science is explained through stories from Indian mythology and every maths textbook has a chapter on Vedic maths. The banned practice of sati is described in glowing terms, as are government schemes and initiatives. Books of practically every subject seek to instil nationalism and an unquestioning respect for the armed forces.

Rajasthan goes to election on December 7. The rewriting of the textbooks is not part of the political conversation. But educationists say its effects could be serious and long-term.

For the majority of children in Rajasthan who study in government schools, these free textbooks “are the only ones they will ever be exposed to”, said Rajiv Gupta, a retired sociology professor from Rajasthan University. “Most are not even in contact with modern tools such as newspapers.”

What led to the change

These revisions were unexpected. Rajasthan had just rewritten textbooks for Classes 1 to 5 and had started on Classes 6 to 8.

In 2005, the Central Advisory Board of Education had passed the National Curriculum Framework, a set of guidelines on designing school curriculum, including the writing of textbooks. The document privileged “understanding” over “memory-based, short-term information accumulation”, to enable children to “learn and create their own versions of knowledge”.

To realign its curriculum to these principles, Rajasthan’s State Institute for Educational Research and Training began the process of revising textbooks in 2011. A “steering committee” of educationists and academics was assembled from organisations and institutions across India, in partnership with the ICICI Foundation, the philanthropic arm of ICICI Bank. The committee met over two years and the new textbooks were approved after multiple rounds of review. Starting 2013, new books for Classes 1 to 5 were introduced in phases, followed by social science books for Class 6 and 8.

In December 2013, the BJP defeated the Congress in state assembly elections, forming the government under Vasundhara Raje. Within months, the committee had been disbanded. In July 2015, a new textbook-writing committee was appointed, with participants drawn entirely from Rajasthan. One participant, himself a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, told that “where the previous group had included some Sangh members by accident, this time they picked only Sangh’s people”. (The next story in this series takes a closer look at this process.)

Less than a year later, in July 2016, new textbooks were introduced for Classes 1 to 8, all in one go.

A primary school in Jaipur’s Haji Colony in 2017. Photo: Shreya Roy Chowdhury

Assessing the changes

A group of educationists and academics, including Bharadwaj and Gupta, analysed the new textbooks, not just for their representation of minorities but also their value as essential tools for learning. They checked to see if the textbooks equipped children to build knowledge independently or just broadcast information, whether the information itself was correct and the approach scientific, and whether they were sensitive to issues of gender, diversity and marginalisation.

On all counts, the books did not measure up, as the analyses, published in the August 2016 edition of the education journal, Shiksha Vimarsh, showed.


To illustrate the problem with the treatment of gender, Bhardwaj, who studied the Hindi textbooks, pointed to “Mundmaal”, a story for Class 6 students, which offers a ringing endorsement of the banned practice of Sati. In the story, a minor ruler named Churavat prepares to intercept an invading Badshah from Delhi. “Prannath, you must remember this,” the queen addresses him, “A small child can touch the sky, an oyster may swallow an ocean, even the Himalayas may shake, but Bharat’s Sati goddesses cannot deviate from their vows.” Churavat sets out for battle, but soon sends home a messenger seeking a “sign of hope and faith” to help bolster his courage. The queen chops off her head, “purifying the temple’s marble floor with the Sati’s blood”. Churavat proceeds to battle, with the queen’s long hair tied around his neck, the head dangling like a grotesque pendant – the “mundmaal” or skull/head-necklace.

Textbooks of practically all classes and subjects reinforce gender stereotypes. Educationist Ambika Nag, studying the environmental science textbooks of Class 3 and 4, pointed out that girls are barely visible in the illustrations in the chapters on games and sports. They are more often seen filling water and cooking.

Most visuals and illustrations in the textbooks reinforce gender stereotypes.


Minority identities – Muslims, Christians and others – are nearly missing from the textbooks. Students are carefully guided to view their country and community from the “Hindu majoritarian perspective”, said Pramod Kumar, editor of Shiksha Vimarsh.

For instance, the Class 1 Hindi textbook teaches the alphabet by drawing a large number of words from the Hindu religious lexicon. These include “rishi” (an ascetic), “rath” (a chariot), “yajna” (sacrificial offering), “trishul” (a trident) and “gyaani” (a knowledgeable person).

The Hindi textbook for Class 1 introduces letters of the alphabet by using words drawn from the Hindu religious lexicon. In addition, it reinforces caste stereotypes by using the image of a Brahmin man as visual representation of learning.

The Class 5 Hindi textbook contains a letter in which the cow declares herself a purveyor of “strength, wisdom, longevity, health, happiness, prosperity and glory”, enjoins children to serve and protect her, and signs off with “Yours, Kamdhenu Gaumata”.

The Class 8 Hindi textbook includes a chapter on “Village Development with Cow Protection”. The same textbook notes that the reconstruction of Somnath Temple was Indian freedom fighter and first deputy prime minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s greatest contribution.

In fact, the selection of notable Indians in the “Hamare Gaurav” (Our Pride) sections of the environmental science textbooks itself is a giveaway. There’s not a single Muslim among 15 notable Indians featured.

The 15 personalities listed in the "Hamare Gaurav" sections of environmental science textbooks for Classes 3, 4 and 5 do not include a single Muslim. In the textbooks, the image used for Nagarjuna was also incorrect.

Dalits and Adivasis

BR Ambedkar and Birsa Munda are acknowledged as notable Indians, but the representation of Dalit and Adivasi identities is distorted. Nivedita Vijay Bedadur, who analysed English textbooks for Shiksha Vimarsh, noted that the stories presented tribal and rural communities as self-sacrificing. “There are three lessons on tribals, marginalised peoples in the textbooks [for Classes 6, 7 and 8] and all three require the tribals to sacrifice themselves and their children or put themselves in grave danger for the sake of the rich or powerful.”

The Class 6 social science textbook whitewashes the history of the caste system. “The initial nature of the caste system was very good,” it says. “It was based on professions. It was not linked to birth…Between the castes there was no bar on sharing food or drink or on matrimonial relations, nor was there untouchability.”

As Gupta pointed out, there is no critique of the caste system. “Endogamy is upheld because it leads to the purity of blood,” he said. “The joint family tradition has not been analysed as a structure born of patriarchy and feudalism.” The Class 8 textbook describes tribal people as “Adivasi jaati”, co-opting them into the caste-system.


If the textbooks engender any type of mindset at all, it is one of surrender. “The Class 3 textbook has 15 lessons out of which seven treat the child as if she were an unformed creature, likely to be swayed to do wrong and has to be taught morals through a hammering of the ‘right behaviour’,” Bedadur said.

And nowhere are the texts more hectoring than when instilling nationalist pride.

From Class 3 to Class 8, every Hindi textbook begins with a “desh bhakti” text or poem – in a few, the nation is depicted as “Bharat mata” (Mother India), as imagined by Hindus.

Patriotism has been conflated with respect for the armed forces and is frequently associated with the willingness to die a violent death for the nation. In the Class 3 Hindi textbook, “Sahasi Balika” – brave girl – seven year-old Maina, introduced as Nana Fadnavis’ daughter, is burnt to death by the British because she wanted “independence for the country”. She went to her death “laughing”. Fadnavis was a historical figure, an 18th century Maratha minister who resisted the advance of the East India Company but the historicity of the episode described is questionable.

Government propaganda

In the Class 3 Hindi textbook, “conspiracy” is “an act or plan against government or rulers”. Gupta pointed out that while loyalty to the government is emphasised, the notion of “state responsibility or accountability does not exist”. What is featured instead are government schemes and activities.

Thus, the Class 7 English textbook casually inserts Narendra Modi’s weekly radio show, Mann Ki Baat, into a discussion on the use of modern technology in communication. The Class 4 environmental science book’s chapter on water says “Indian government’s Namami Gange scheme will have good, permanent outcomes and [the] Ganga will be clean again”.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, a cleanliness campaign, and Beti Bachao Beti Padhao dedicated to the welfare and education of young girls, are both prominently featured in an illustration on urban India in the Class 1 Hindi textbook.
Fact, fiction, faith

Fact and fiction, myth and history are mixed up in not just the social science textbooks, but even in the science textbooks.

The Class 3 environmental science book describes the nomadic community of Gadoliya Lohars – ironsmiths who live on carts. It says when the Mughals attacked Chittor in Mewar region of Rajasthan, their forefathers abandoned the place with its fleeing ruler and vowed to not return till “Mewar is completely free”. “It is a “total fabrication”, said Gupta. “Can you name one caste that has been displaced by Mughal attacks? Texts construct narratives without mentioning a single fact.”

The history text for Class 6 contains a section on the river Saraswati that “flowed through Haryana and Rajasthan”, on whose banks the ancient Vedas were composed. The same textbook treats Mahabharata and Ramayana as accounts of historical events. Listing 16 mahajanapadas – or great kingdoms of ancient India – it claims the Pandavas spent their years in exile in the Matsya mahajanapada, while “Shri Ram and other Suryavanshi rulers” ruled over the Kaushal Mahajanapada.

The Class 7 textbook presents the outcome of the Battle of Haldighati, in which Mughal emperor Akbar defeated Rana Pratap of Mewar, as the exact opposite of known facts.

“These are ahistorical texts where lines between religious scripture and historical facts are blurred,” summed up Gupta, “and the narratives give legitimacy to cultural imperialism by depicting one culture and one religion as the best there is.”

Similarly, science textbooks draw on mythical texts that “cannot be understood or confirmed scientifically,” said Ambika Nag. In the Class 4 lesson on flowers, the lotus has been linked to the Hindu goddess, Saraswati. A Class 6 geography lesson on the cosmos, while referring to the Pole Star, includes a story on the Dhruva Tara from Hindu religious scriptures. The Class 7 lessons on water and Earth start on the same note, with their significance in scriptures and Hindu rites and practices elaborated first.

“Children must start understanding the science behind what they see around them in schools,” said Komal Srivastava from education non-profit Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti in Rajasthan. “Outside, they are not allowed to question. The entire community is superstitious and plagued by fears of ghosts.”

Every mathematics textbook has a chapter on “Vedic mathematics” that Ravi Kant, an educationist who has analysed them, described as essentially “calculation tricks”. The introduction of the actual discipline is flawed with diagrams that do not clarify mathematic concepts. The lessons do not offer enough examples to help children recognise patterns and generalise on their own.

The ‘exercises’

The myriad flaws of the books and the misinformation get cemented by the suggested exercises and activities at the end of each chapter. At the end of “Sahasi Balika”, children are asked what they would do if they were in Maina’s place and were asked to plunge into fire. “The point of nationalism is driven home with such images of violence and aggression,” said Bharadwaj.

Most questions test memory, encouraging rote-learning, and in some cases, the text does not contain the answer to the question being asked. When the Class 3 story in the old books, “Ajmer ki sair” was revised into “Ajmer ki yatra” in the new ones, the part on flowers and Urs were deleted. But the question section with the new version still asks children why homes around the Dargah fill up with flowers during Ramzan.

This is the first part in a three-part series.

o o, 15 November 2018

Inspired by the RSS, dictated by BJP minister: The inside story of Rajasthan’s textbook revisions

Books published by the RSS’s education wing were held up as a role model in a government meeting.

Vasudev Devnani is the education minister of Rajasthan. | Design | Anand Katakam

by Shreya Roy Chowdhury

On the morning of July 20, 2015, Rajasthan’s education minister Vasudev Devnani held a meeting with education officials in Jaipur and laid out a roadmap: he wanted new textbooks for Classes 1 to 8 within three months. And by the same evening, he wanted a list of experts who could write them.

The rewriting took longer than what the minister wanted – the new textbooks were introduced in schools in July 2016. But all other objectives laid down in the meeting were achieved.

Minutes of the meeting, accessed by, list precise instructions and decisions about what the textbooks should contain: a chapter on Vedic mathematics for every class, a focus on “Indian culture” in the teaching of history, and primacy to “new contexts and concerns at the state and national level”. The suggested list of topics included two government schemes introduced by the BJP-led Central government: the cleanliness campaign Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and the girl child programme Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao.

The new textbooks have all these features, as reported in this first part of this series. Education experts have criticised them for their unscientific worldview, the mixing of myth with facts, and the peddling of religious hatred, caste prejudice and gender stereotypes. The textbooks essentially serve as Hindutva propaganda, said Rajiv Gupta, retired professor of sociology from Rajasthan University.

The Hindutva stamp is not accidental. At the July 2015 meeting, it was suggested that the textbooks could be modelled on “Vidya Bharati books” – a reference to the Vidya Bharati Akhil Bharatiya Shiksha Sansthan, the education arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological parent of the BJP.

The Sangh’s influence even extended to the selection of textbook writers. Most of the 160-odd writers were its associates and supporters, said a member of the RSS.

The BJP’s success in Rajasthan at rewriting school textbooks to mirror a majoritarian worldview has serious implications. With the party ruling the Centre and 14 Indian states, this could be a precursor to similar changes nationally.

Minutes of the meeting held on July 20, 2015.

Undoing textbook reforms

The BJP government came to power in Rajasthan in December 2013, months after a set of fresh textbooks had been introduced in schools. In 2011, the previous Congress government had appointed a committee to supervise textbook revisions to ensure the state was in line with major educational reforms introduced in India over the previous decade.

One of these reforms was the National Curriculum Framework 2005, which aimed to promote understanding rather than memorisation in schools, encouraging children to “construct” knowledge on their own. The other was the Right to Education Act 2009, which made elementary education from Class 1 to 8 free in public schools and set a range of standards for schools and teachers.

In step with these changes, in 2011, the State Institute of Educational Research and Training, Udaipur, and ICICI Bank’s philanthropic arm, ICICI Foundation for Inclusive Growth, jointly launched the “Programme on School and Teacher Education Reform” in Rajasthan. One of its main aims was textbook development. The other was training teachers.

Several rounds of orientations and workshops were held that year and experts from institutions around India were selected as part of a “steering committee”. A former director of Kerala’s State Council for Education Research and Training, MA Khadar, who had also served as advisor to the National Council for Educational Research and Training, was invited to be the chairperson of the committee.

Over the next two years, the committee sought the assistance of experts from institutions across the country, including the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Hyderabad, the District Institute for Education and Training in Delhi, the Gujarat Council of Educational Research and Training, the University of Punjab, and educational non-profits.

While subject experts wrote the textbook drafts, the committee assessed them for their sensitivity to gender, disability, multilingualism and marginalisation. The drafts went through multiple rounds of testing and revision before they were approved, said a former official.

New textbooks were introduced for Classes 1, 3 and 5 in the 2013-’14 academic session, followed by Classes 2 and 4 the next year. The committee had turned its attention to restructuring the diploma in elementary education when the process was brought to an abrupt halt.

“There was a twist – the government had changed,” said an official who was part of the textbook revision process.

Khadar chaired his last meeting in Rajasthan in the summer of 2014. His committee was disbanded with no notice. “Nobody informed me,” he said. “They just did not call again and I let it be.”

Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat at the inauguration of a new building of Sewa Bharati in Jaipur in November 2017.

A new order takes shape

Education officials say they anticipated a change when they heard the new minister’s views on textbooks. “In every meeting and platform, Devnani would comment on the textbooks and say they had to be changed again,” said an official. “He must have mentioned it 50 times.”

After the disbanding of Khadar’s committee, the State Institute cobbled together another committee of advisors – mostly education department officials, teachers and the staff of non-profit groups. The committee met twice during March and April 2015. In the first meeting, recalled an educationist, someone mooted the idea “to have every Sanskrit book start with a mangalacharan mantra [a prayer]”. “I objected to this and was called a Leftist,” she said. In the second meeting, the participants decided the books required minimal changes. This group did not meet again.

In July, an entirely new committee was created with participants drawn entirely from state institutions within Rajasthan. “Devnani did not want anyone from outside [Rajasthan],” said an official. “We were told the non-profits would be called in later, if required.” This was in sync with another of the minister’s directions: he wanted at least 50% of content in all textbooks to be focused on Rajasthan.

The government refused to share the records of the meetings and notifications that sought under the Right to Information Act 2005. It did not respond to an appeal under the Act.

However, records accessed independently show that the State Institute nominated 165 members to the textbook-writing teams on July 20, 2015. Less than 30 members were women. All were former teachers, teacher-trainers or other experts from government institutions in Rajasthan. Some of the participants had been part of the older textbook revision team.

One participant, himself a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, told that “where the previous group had included some Sangh members by accident, this time they picked only Sangh’s people”.

Undemocratic process

Some of those who served in both rounds of textbook revisions took a dim view of the new team. “Among those who said they could complete the process in three months, there was not a single person who had written textbooks for children before,” said a former education department official. “They may have written research theses, papers on specific topics or guide books and one-week series [for passing public examinations] but not textbooks for children.”

Unlike the textbook revisions under the previous government, which involved deliberations over two years, this round of rewriting was compressed into three months. An official said the books were published with “no experts, no field testing, no multiple rounds of review”.

As an example of the quality of deliberations, he cited the frequent discussions among the textbook writers on Jawaharlal Nehru University’s former students’ union president, Kanhaiya Kumar. Arrested and jailed for a few weeks in February 2016 on allegations of sedition – the Delhi Police could not follow through with a charge – Kumar’s criticism of the Sangh and the BJP had drawn Devnani’s attention. He remarked in Rajasthan Assembly in March 2016 that the textbooks were being changed so “no one like Kanhaiya Kumar is born” in the state.

Even a member of the RSS found the team’s narrow focus on meeting the objectives laid down by the minister irksome. He quit the Hindi textbook team after the first few meetings, which he described as chaotic and “undemocratic”. “The mantri wanted the new government’s vichardhara [ideology] to shine through,” he said. “But children in Classes 1 and 2 do not understand vichardhara. They have to learn how to learn.”

After the first two-three meetings, “the fights began”, he recalled. “They wanted every book to begin with some item on desh-bhakti [patriotism],” he said. “I objected. Can a poem make children patriotic? Will they be less patriotic if the chapter comes sixth instead of first?”

He continued: “I kept arguing and after some time, [the others] started called me a Communist. After three workshops, I left. Your ideology can be anything, but your process has to be democratic, which this was not.”
Silence from the government

The textbooks identify the international non-profit, United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund as partner and source of “financial support for textbook development”. Questions about its role in developing the textbooks and whether it paid attention to their quality were emailed to the organisation in Rajasthan. It did not respond.

At the State Institute for Educational Research and Training at Udaipur, both director Dinesh Kothari and deputy director Subhash Sharma said they joined after the books had already been changed.

Questions were also emailed to Devnani and the education secretary. Neither responded.

This is the second part in a three-part series on the rewriting of school textbooks in Rajasthan.

o o, 16 November 2018

Rajasthan teachers tried – and failed – to counter textbooks rewritten to serve Hindutva propaganda

Even though they recognised the dangers of the new textbooks, the resource-starved school system left teachers with few options.

by Shreya Roy Chowdhury

Saddled with new school textbooks introduced in July 2016 that educationists criticised as narrow, sectarian and unscientific, some teachers in Rajasthan made an effort to limit the damage.

Vakil Singh, former principal of Government Senior Secondary School in Kaliyan in Sri Ganganagar district, for instance, stocked the school library with magazines and other reading material for even the junior classes. He made weekly library visits mandatory for all children.

During his time as senior-most teacher in a Bikaner school, Sanjay Yadav (name changed on request) introduced the practice of sharing items of news and general knowledge every day on a common board. He modified the morning prayers to go beyond the overtly religious Saraswati Vandana.

Vinay Godara, a primary teacher at the Adarsh school in Sri Ganganagar, encouraged his students to ask questions and even challenge the content of their textbooks. “I remind children that all animals, and not just the cow, should be appreciated and that no one religion is better than another. I explain with examples and children usually trust teachers.”

But such efforts are rare. For one, such teachers are in a minority, said Mahaveer Sihag of the Rajasthan Shikshak Sangh (Shekhawat), the only government teachers’ organisation that publicly opposed the introduction of hastily-revised school textbooks. The state has seen growing religious polarisation since the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2013, followed by a thumping victory in the 2014 national elections. A large number of teachers, particularly those aligned to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological parent of the BJP, said Sihag, support the Hindu majoritarian view of the textbooks.

When Upendra Sharma, a teacher at a school in Sikar, raised questions about the textbooks at a recent workshop, other teachers stood up and accused him of playing politics. “Two of them even left the hall and later complained about me being invited.” Sharma, however, considers himself better off than Muslim teachers and students, who he said are “too afraid to speak”.

Ameen Kayamkhani, a primary school teacher in Jaipur, is fully alive to the problems in the textbooks, but thinks it is best to avoid friction. “We will teach whatever is in the textbooks,” he said. “If we try to teach them sati is wrong and against the law, they will say this is an internal matter for their communities. There is rozaana lafda [daily conflict] over Surya Namaskar and Vande Mataram already.”

Beyond religious conflict are other problems like the shortage of resources in schools. Even enlightened teachers say it is difficult to go beyond the textbooks in the classroom. Most teachers are not properly trained, having earned dubious qualifications from private teacher-training colleges. The additional training that happens in the course of their jobs is rarely attuned to the ground reality of classrooms. “To be able to counter impressions created by textbooks takes a lot of training that is missing,” said Singh.

The last straw is the pressure of public exams. Held at the end of Class 5 and 8, these exams are based entirely on the prescribed school textbooks, which makes covering the syllabus the first priority for teachers.

No training for teachers

At the Adarsh school in Sri Ganganagar district, 85 students from Classes 1 to 5 are packed into a conference hall. “We have two whiteboards,” said Godara. “Classes 1 to 3 sit in one group and Classes 4 and 5 in another.” The five classes have two teachers between them. Godara teaches maths and English, while the other teacher handles environmental science and Hindi.

Such a situation, where children of different age groups and learning levels sit together, is described as “multi-grade teaching”. It is common in schools because of a shortage of space and teachers.

In the Adarsh school, for instance, Godara also teaches the higher classes science and geography. Despite a shortage of teachers, Mahaveer Sihag pointed out, the government routinely assigns non-teaching responsibilities, including election work, to them. Many teachers also serve as clerical staff for schools. “You have teachers spending at least three hours daily on office work,” he said. “They boil milk for students, supervise mid-day meal distribution and maintain all records.”

Teachers say training does not prepare them for these realities. “There are colleges that don’t require attendance and will call students in just for the exams,” he said. “Teachers from there may not even realise how bad the textbooks are and cannot function without them.”

In-service training, through short-term courses, isn’t helpful either. “Whenever this is raised in training, they are told it will be discussed later,” said Vakil Singh.

Training through support material is not a real option. The education department sends a monthly journal called Shivira, but Singh described it as an unhelpful “department mouthpiece”.

No resources other than textbooks

There are no alternatives to textbooks. Libraries are all but defunct everywhere. “Most librarian posts are vacant,” said Sihag. “The head of school may choose to appoint a teacher to go sit there when they are not teaching. But two almirahs with locks also pass for a library in many places.”

Sanjay Yadav said his school has a full-fledged library but it contains “no material for primary classes”.

All the teachers spoke to agreed that practically no student they teach would have access to reading material other than the freely-distributed textbooks at home. Theoretically, teachers can supplement textbooks with learning outside the classroom. But the system is deeply conservative. “Sports and reading in the library are seen as a waste of time,” said Yadav. Field trips are frowned upon, added Singh.

Yadav reminded that the school system is deficient in every type of resource – there is no furniture for primary classes, students sit on rugs on the floors. While children from Classes 1 to 5 get new books every year, the government does not send the complete set for Class 6 and beyond. Many children have to make do with used books.

Kayamkhani said every teacher gets Rs 500 to spend on teaching-learning material annually. It is barely enough to buy charts, maps, globes and science kits, he said.

The tyranny of public exams

New methods of teaching are thwarted by public examinations at the end of Class 5 and Class 8. Often, the questions are directly from the textbooks, said Kayamkhani. Godara added: “If we correct the information, our answers won’t match the ones demanded in the exam.”

Results of the public exams, good and bad, are reflected in the annual confidential reports of teachers. If the number of children failing a class is high, a teacher may even be served a show cause notice, asking them to explain why they should not be punished.

“We are being forced to teach this syllabus,” agreed Sharma, who believes the ‘errors’ have been deliberately introduced to subvert secular education and present the Hindutva version of social sciences and even the sciences. “Stories children hear at their grandmother’s knees – folk legends – are being fed to them as history.”
Fighting prejudice

Prejudices and stereotypes expressed in the textbooks translate easily in the classroom. “Each teacher uses a particular kind of pedagogy and that is based upon their social background,” said Rajeev Gupta, a retired professor of sociology from Rajasthan University and a former member of Kerala’s Textbook Commission. “They can silently convey aggression, through body language, such that the content of the textbooks is cemented by pedagogy.”

For instance, teachers admit many of their colleagues are capable of being insensitive towards children in class – a behaviour children themselves pick up.

Similarly, the combination of new textbooks which reflect a majoritarian worldview with teachers who harbour anti-Muslim prejudice has serious implications. “Muslim students are seen as Pakistani, as poor and debased,” said Sajid Sehrai, an Islamic scholar who lives in Jaipur. He had challenged Rajasthan government’s instructions on compulsory yoga, Surya Namaskar and Vande Mataram in schools in the Rajasthan High Court in March 2015. In response to his petition, the government had said in an affidavit that yoga would be made optional but never implemented its own decision.

“The schools are now instilling hatred,” said Sehrai. “Even private schools insist on Hindu rituals so we [Muslim community leaders] are holding meetings to discuss the possibility of starting or developing our own schools.”

This is the final part in a three part series on the rewriting of school textbooks in Rajasthan.


The above series appeared in and is reproduced here for educational and non commercial use