In 2015, Rajasthan’s Bharatiya Janata Party government appointed a new committee to write the state’s textbooks. The next year, new books for classes one to eight were introduced. A rigorous investigation by Scroll.in (read all three parts here, here and here) into the new material has found that it contained disturbing flaws, exposing the children of Rajasthan to communal ideas and denying them the rationalist education that is their right.
The books are filled with majoritarian ideas. Muslims and Christians are airbrushed out of India’s past and present. Many of the ideas being taught are regressive. For instance, there is a glorification of sati, the practice by which a widow immolates herself on her husband’s funeral pyre. Gender stereotypes are reinforced, with illustrations featuring girls who are mostly doing domestic chores. Caste is whitewashed. Adivasis are presented in subservient roles.
In addition, myth is often presented as history, science is mixed in with religion and even mathematics is distorted with the introduction of questionable pedagogical methods.
The communal, majoritarian point of view in such material will alienate children from their own past, distorting the image of the India in which they live. Indians do not need to look very far to see the disastrous results of such thought control. In Pakistan, which shares a border with Rajasthan, communal propaganda about Pakistani society has been spread via its textbooks since the 1970s. This is one reason why the country is in the grip of religious fanaticism today.
Indian education is already seized by crisis. One 2018 survey of Indian schools found that three out of five 18-year olds were unable to reduce a number by 10%. India’s education spending as a proportion of its gross domestic product is significantly below its global peers. To divert meagre resources to teach children things that actually harm their intellectual development is unforgivable.
This misguided system of education could hardly have come at a worse time. More than a 100 million people are to join India’s workforce by 2022. If, like Rajasthan, the rest of India allows such an anti-rationalist system of pedagogy to take root, future generations will be left unequipped to face the future indeed.