‘Changes in the syllabus by NCERT are justified’

'Changes in the syllabus by NCERT are justified'

By Prof. Rama Shanker Dubey
The claim that NCERT has removed the Periodic Table and Charles Darwin‘s theory of evolution from science textbooks is being reported recently by several news media, which is factually incorrect and misleading. Education is a dynamic process that keeps on changing and enriching over time to meet the needs of society. Regular review, revision, reorganization, and appropriate changes in the curriculum of the school and higher education are usual and essential steps to keep it updated. In National Education Policy 2020, in Section 4.1 on the restructuring of the school curriculum, it is clearly mentioned that ‘the curricular and pedagogical structure of school education will be reconfigured to make it responsive and relevant to the developmental needs and interests of learners at different stages of their development, corresponding to their age group and interests’.
The National Education Policy 2020 also intends to reduce the content load from school textbooks, promoting experiential learning and activity-based learning, keeping in mind the mental health of students and their age and level of intellectual ability development, so that the development of curiosity and creative mindset can be ensured in the students. In this background, NCERT has taken a meaningful initiative for restructuring the texts to rationalize the textbooks in all school classes.
As far as the periodic table in Chemistry is concerned, in the science books of NCERT it is being taught in great detail in Class 11th. While in class 10, the students are being taught the nature, behaviour and reactions of chemical substances as well as acids, bases and salts, properties of metals and non-metals, basic metallurgical processes and compounds of carbon in detail, in which the compounds of day-to-day use are being taught. The priority is to promote activity-based learning with examples of chemicals routinely used in daily life. Only after understanding the nature, physical properties, and reactions of chemicals, it is appropriate and justified to read and understand their place in the periodic table and their interrelationships. Therefore, considering the periodic table to be more age-appropriate in class 11th, it is quite logical to teach it in detail in Class 11th. Teaching the same subject matter with almost similar content in both classes 10th and 11th was causing unnecessary repetition, which has been rectified at present. This will also reduce the content load of the syllabus in class 10, which is in line with the National Education Policy 2020.
Similarly, a misconception is being spread that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution has been removed from the NCERT textbooks but the fact is that in the Class 12 Biology book, an entire Chapter 7, with 17 pages, is dedicated to ‘Evolution’ where various theories of evolution including Darwinian theories are already being taught in detail. In this Chapter both key concepts of Darwinian Theory of Evolution – ‘Branching Descent’ and ‘Natural Selection’ are being taught apart from the ‘Big Bang Theory’ of evolution and other evolution theories. That is why in order to reduce the material load and to avoid repetition of the material, the chapter on ‘Heredity and Evolution’ has been replaced by the chapter on ‘Heredity’ in class 10th, which is absolutely appropriate. Due to this, students will not have to study almost the same text material unnecessarily in two classes.
It may be noted that NCERT has reduced certain portions of the content from the old syllabus with the aim of making the syllabus more concise, informative, and rationalized in order to provide customized learning experiences to the students and to reduce the content load. The portions of textbooks to be dropped in a particular subject are decided by an expert committee consisting of subject experts participating from different parts of the country, who decide only after developing specific criteria for rationalization of content load. In the present context, a considered opinion emerged based on the feedback received from various stakeholders including practicing teachers, that instead of teaching the children the same concepts at different stages, they should be taught the concepts at the appropriate age level keeping in mind the difficulty level of the subject matter. Therefore, the difficulty level of the subject matter, and appropriate age level are important aspects in deciding the contents of the curriculum. It is undeniable that we always talk about reducing the ‘load of school bag’ of children but when anything is removed from the textbooks, there is an instant hue and cry.
Here it is clear that the periodic table, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution or any other existing text material has not been removed from the NCERT textbooks but the contents have been rationalized judiciously in the textbooks of different classes according to the age of children and difficulty levels of the subject matter and to avoid repetition. Hence the claims that the periodic table and Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution have been removed from NCERT textbooks are completely misleading and factually incorrect.
Prof. Rama Shanker Dubey is the Vice Chancellor of Central University of Gujarat, Gandhinagar. Prior to it, he served as Vice Chancellor in Tilka Manjhi Bhagalpur University, Bhagalpur, Bihar (2014-2017) and also as Vice-Chancellor in Guru Ghasidas University, Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh (2008-2009). He has served as Professor of Biochemistry at Banaras Hindu University for over 20 years.