The National Council of Educational Research and Training has dropped chapters on evolution, the periodic table of elements and sources of energy from Class 10 science textbooks.

The education body responsible for formulating school curriculum in the country has also removed chapters Democracy and Diversity, Popular Struggles and Movements, Political Parties and Challenges to Democracy from Class 10 political science textbooks.

The NCERT said the chapters have been deleted as a part of a syllabus “rationalisation” exercise. “In view of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is imperative to reduce content load on students,” it said.

The NCERT had made the decision to remove these chapters from the textbooks last year based on recommendations of experts, PTI reported. The changes have been implemented after the NCERT released textbooks for the new academic year that started in May.

The education body has said that the changes will remain in place for the next two academic years, in line with the National Education Policy that was approved by the Centre in 2020, reported Nature.

The decision to remove the chapter on evolution, including the Darwinian theory on natural selection, was opposed by more than 4,500 scientists, teachers and science communicators in an appeal organised by Kolkata-based Breakthrough Science Society last month.

“The scientific community feels that students will remain seriously handicapped in their thought processes if deprived of exposure to this fundamental discovery of science,” they said. “The fact that the biological world is constantly changing, that evolution is a law-governed process that does not require divine intervention, and that humans have evolved from some species of ape have been the cornerstones of rational thinking ever since Darwin proposed his theory of natural selection.”

Even though the Class 10 science textbook now does not have the chapter that introduces students to the periodic table, it remains part of the syllabus for Class 11. The NCERT’s Class 12 biology textbook also continues to have a full chapter on evolution and Darwinian theory, reported The Indian Express.

Jonathan Osborne, a science-education researcher at Stanford University in California, told Nature, “Anybody who’s trying to teach biology without dealing with evolution is not teaching biology as we currently understand it. It’s that fundamental to biology.”

He added that the periodic table explains how life’s building blocks combine to generate substances with vastly different properties, calling it “one of the great intellectual achievements of chemists”.

Last month, it was reported that paragraphs on attempts by Hindu extremists to assassinate Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and the ban imposed on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh after his killing are among the texts dropped by the NCERT from its new textbooks.

In the new textbook of Class 11 sociology, a paragraph on the 2002 Gujarat riots was also dropped.