The Central Board of Secondary Education announced up to a 30% cut in the syllabus from Classes 9 to 12. The HRD Minister Ramesh Nishank declared this to be a one time move, for the academic year 2020-21. Clarifying further, he mentioned that the syllabus cuts are only for the Internal Assessment and Final/Board exam evaluation, and deleted syllabus must be taught by the teachers.

This move comes due to the ongoing pandemic which is only seeing an upward turn in the number of cases now. Since mid-March when schools first shut down, there has been uncertainty about the fate of students across schools and colleges. CBSE has been advised to follow an ‘Alternate Academic Calendar’ to prevent gaps in the syllabus. These cuts have been made with suggestions from the NCERT and aim to ‘retain core concepts’ for students.

Various stakeholders express their concerns

Some of the main reductions are removal of ‘Democratic Rights’ from class 9, chapters on Gender, Religion and Caste; Democracy and Diversity and Forest and Wildlife. Across class 11 and 12 various important topics like ‘Food security’, Why do we need local governments’, ‘regional aspirations’ and ‘Goods and Services Tax and Demonetization’ have been removed. Perhaps the most opposed deletion is that of the topics Nationalism, Secularism and Federalism from Class 12 political science syllabus. This has been called out by opposition parties as well.

West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee tweeted “Shocked to know that the Central Government has dropped topics like citizenship, federalism, secularism and partition in the name of reducing CBSE course during the COVID crisis”.

Sharad Yadav went on to call this move a ‘unilateral’ and ‘undemocratic step’. This criticism comes after a system of additions and deletion in the syllabus in the past decades that has often been the reduction of diversity and alternative schools of thought from the syllabus.

The syllabus cuts are a cause of worry because they leave several students with biased views of various important political happenings. There is also the undermining of diversity, as the syllabus excludes many chapters about these issues. Schools are miniature societies and these conversations if excluded from school may never find their way back for many people. Most students may not enrol in a gender studies degree or pursue political science at higher education, and these cuts deter them from seeking the only opportunity they have to be acquainted with these topics. While on Thursday, the HRD minister clarified that these topics will be taught and the deletion is only for the examination, Indian schools are notorious for being exam-focused. Thus, only time will tell how these deletions fare out.

Yamini, a writer based in Pune said “As the HRD minister has clarified, 30 percent of portion has been excluded for the academic year 20-21, from all subjects, one does wonder how parents and students will tackle the effect of these portions on their studies in higher classes. As for the exclusion of topics such as secularism, local government, etc, it is high time that we as parents stop being dependent entirely on schools to teach civics to children. COVID-19 or not, parents can teach wards topics they feel are important to their overall development as future citizens of this country. Learning cannot be limited to what textbooks prescribe”.

Several teachers have reportedly expressed concerns for the deleted science syllabus including topics like ‘Laws of Motion’, ‘Doppler effect’, ‘Kepler’s Law of Planetary Motion’ and some topics on anatomy. These topics are central to competitive exams like JEE and NEET, thus for aspirants in these fields, the onus of teaching and learning now falls on the students itself.

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Anureet is an Intern with SheThePeople TV

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