A group of academics and intellectuals have written a petition to the Central Board of Secondary Education against its decision to drop several chapters from the Political Science curricula for Class 11 and Class 10 for the academic year 2020-’21.

The CBSE had on July 7 deleted chapters on federalism, citizenship, nationalism, and secularism from the Class 11 Political Science syllabus, and restructured the subject’s curriculum for Class 10 to remove chapters on democracy and diversity; gender, religion and caste, popular struggles and movement, among other sections. The deletions were made on the direction of the Ministry of Human Resource Development after it asked the CBSE to reduce the syllabus for Class 9 to Class 12 for the academic year 2020-’21 by up to 30% to make up for the academic loss caused by the pandemic.

In their petition, the signatories said deleting these topics will prevent the youth from developing critical thinking and scientific temper, and urged that they be reintroduced. The petition was started by Jawaharlal Nehru University Centre for Historical Studies professor Kumkum Roy, and signed by others, including Centre for Women’s Studies professor G Arunima.

“Avoiding formal and academic engagement with these issues would mean depriving future young citizens of the resources to develop critical thinking and a scientific temper, the basic equipment required for citizens in a rapidly changing world,” the petition said. “We urge that these themes be restored immediately, and, if required, certain details/ examples be pruned from chapters...” The signatories contended that “hasty and arbitrary decisions” like the deletion of the said chapters will have “long-term repercussions”.

Schools and colleges in India were closed about a week before the imposition of the countrywide lockdown on March 25. While some educational institutions in India have switched to online classes amid a surge in coronavirus cases, all of them will remain closed till July 31.

CBSE had said that the syllabus for schools has been revised and “rationalised” because of the “extraordinary situation” prevailing in India and other parts of the world.

Union Minister of Human Resource Development Ramesh Pokhriyal “Nishank”, responding to the controversy, had on July 9 accused unidentified elements of trying to create a “false narrative”. He also referred to the CBSE statement, which had emphasised that this was a one-time measure only for the 2020-’21 academic year.