The tough times which the world is facing today, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is not unknown to any one of us. Lockdown had been imposed in almost all the affected countries of the world. In India too, complete lockdown had been imposed in the month of March which is partially continuing even today. Due to the lockdown, the education system suffered a major blow. Because of the vagueness and uncertainty of the situation, the schools and colleges remained closed with the hope of returning to normalcy soon. But as the situation kept worsening, a system of comprehensive E-learning was adopted by schools and schools to continue the education. However, as a lot of time had already been lost earlier, it was found difficult to cover the entire syllabus in a short span of time. Also, some topics requiring practical knowledge could not be effectively covered through online classes. So, as a solution to this problem, the government restructured the syllabus of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) for classes 9th to 12th for the academic session 2020-2021.
Restructuring of Syllabus- The Process
The Human and Resource Development ministry declared in the month of June that the central government is considering to reduce the syllabus and teaching-learning hours of CBSE. For the same, the HRD ministry invited views and suggestions from teachers, students, and other academicians from all over the country. CBSE also sought guidance from the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT). NCERT helped by providing a detailed list of the chapters or topics which were slightly repetitive in nature and also of the ones which are not very essential to be included in the curriculum. The HRD ministry had received an overwhelming response of about 1.5k suggestions from the educationists and academicians. The discussions regarding the reduction in syllabi had become a topic of hot discussion all over social media and even the guardians were in favor of a reduction in syllabus.
After a detailed process of survey, analysis, and discussions, the final decision was made by the board to reduce the syllabus by 30%. The official notification by CBSE read: “The prevailing health emergency in the country and at different parts of the world as well as the efforts to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the loss of classroom teaching due to closure of schools. Therefore, the Board has decided to revise the syllabi for Classes 9 to 12 for the academic session 2020-21.”
The revised scheme of the restructured syllabus was welcomed wholeheartedly by the students, teachers, and guardians. It was considered to be the most rational step taken at these tough times. However, the board faced criticism and repulsion at one take. The reduction in the syllabus of Political Science of class 11th of the Humanities stream raised many questions and faced criticism. The topics such as ‘Citizenship’, ‘Nationalism’, and ‘Secularism’ have been cut off as part of the rationalization process and restructuring of CBSE syllabus to compensate for the academic loss caused by the COVID pandemic.
However, these chapters are considered to be very essential as they introduce the key socio-political constructs to the students. It was decided that the restructuring will be done in a manner so as to retain the ‘core concepts.’ However, people are of the view that the aforementioned topics were very essential and were one of the core concepts. So. By deleting these chapters, there was an obvious violation of the said policy. Some other deleted topics from political science include Federalism and parts of Local Self Government.
A noticeable fact is that ‘citizenship’ is a very hotly debated topic in India presently after the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act. The chapter dealt with contemporary examples and some portions also explored the debates and struggles which are going on regarding the interpretation of the term full and equal membership. Similarly, the chapter on secularism talked about how a democratic state should ensure equality for different cultures and communities that exist within a country and made students understand and appreciate the importance of secularism in a democratic society like India, and learn something about the distinctiveness of Indian secularism.
Through the topic of nationalism, students were encouraged to acknowledge the strengths and limitations of nationalism and appreciate the need for ensuring a link between democracy and nationalism. People accused the HRD ministry and the board to deliberately cut off these chapters in order to refrain the students to be aware of these sensational topics.
However, defending this move, the HRD minister stated this decision has been taken only temporarily keeping in mind the unusual situation existing not only in India but throughout the globe. He stated that only the topics of a particular subject are being connected together and misleading the masses, whereas the same process has been followed for all the subjects either, Biology, Mathematics, English, Economics, or any other subject.
We are all aware that the situation is far from what we call ‘normal.’ The restructuring of the syllabus was the need of the hour. In my personal opinion, nothing mentioned in the syllabi of any subject can be as useless; they were a part of the curriculum because they were important. The restricting process had to eliminate one or the other topic. The fact that it was done in the interest of the learners, only for this particular academic session, and following a detailed procedure after consultation with NCERT ends the discussion regarding whether the topics should have been removed or not. We ought to acknowledge the efforts of the entire team responsible for it and also welcome the changes.