NEW DELHI: ‘Dadi Maa’, a story taught in grade VI Hindi has been judged “very long and uninteresting”, ‘Khan-pan ki badalti tasveer’ apparently “lacks succulence”; the tone of “The Old Clock Shop” from the English syllabus is “too dark and morose.” Lesson 8 from the Class VIII history textbook “contains only factual information and over emphasis and justification of colonialism which is unnecessary.”

These are some of the sections that an internal committee of the Directorate of Education, Delhi, has recommended for culling from the syllabus to reduce it by 25%. The detailed plan for reduction of syllabi for classes VI to VIII has now been posted online for public comment. The plan for Classes IX and X have been posted too but those will have to be approved by the Central Board of Secondary Education before they’re implemented. The final list of topics being axed will be compiled once another committee goes through in incorporates comments received. The DoE is giving teacher just six days to respond.

“All concerned subject teachers must thoroughly go through the details ….of their respective subjects/classes,” directs the circular issued on September 10 to heads of school, “Arrange faculty meetings to discuss the proposed reductions. Compile the opinion of the faculty…[and] submit… by 16.09.2015.” Teachers of government and private schools – the second group is not yet required to reduce – have been asked to respond too.

The comments thus gathered will be studied by another committee that, says Manish Sisodia, will include principals and teachers of private and government schools, department and SCERT (State Council for Educational Research and Training) officials and likely some Teach for India volunteers. Questions are already being raised about the composition of the committee that’s put this report together.

Asked if education and curriculum experts from the education departments of Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University or the National University of Educational Planning and Administration, are to be involved, Sisodia says they may be but “only those who can give time.” “We have to make it soon,” he says.

Educationists are already alarmed about the involvement of Teach for India in policy-making. As one says, “their parent organization has done much damage to public education in the US and such an organization has differentiated vision of minimalistic education for the poor.” The reason cited for many of the topics — especially for senior classes — is that they are too challenging for “first generation learners.” The committee has also recommended the culling of lessons that’ll be repeated later.

Changes will be made first to syllabi of grades VI to VIII – primary sections that are squarely within the jurisdiction of the Delhi Government. For lower classes, the municipal corporations have to be brought on board.For higher classes, CBSE will have to be involved. The most common reason for trimming lessons for the senior classes is that it’s “very difficult” or “confusing.” The committee has proposed removing Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s travels – “The language and vocabulary is old English. It is a difficult text for an average 14 year old first generation learner” — and Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat. Its humour is apparently “too subtle.”

Educationist Anita Rampal is extremely critical of the changes being proposed. “The reasons given show a complete lack of understanding of the discipline and of children and the way they learn – it even claims there is no history in some of the best chapters. In maths it says this topic has been done – clearly not understanding the progression in the concepts required over the years,” she says.

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