08 May 2013

In our school textbooks

In my time the lessons and questions in our prescribed English books in school were dull and boring. Almost all lessons lectured the students on morality or on good behaviour. I was happy to note that things have changed a bit from then. Lessons in the prescribed CBSE English books have become really interesting and fun. For example, here is a question from grammar in the current CBSE prescribed book. This question does bring a smile on our faces.

On Page 114 of English Course (Communicative) Work Book (Class X) of Central Board Secondary Education (CBSE) is this Grammar Question:

6. In the passage given below, one word has been omitted in each line. In

your answer sheet write the missing word along with the word that comes

before and the word that comes after it against the correct blank number.

Ensure that the word that forms your answer is underlined.

When the Class IX examinations over, the Deputy (a) ___________________

Commissioner asked his son he had done his (b) ___________________

English paper well. The boy told him that was easy (c) ___________________

and that for one question had written that his (d) ___________________

father was washerman. The boy's father shouted (e) ___________________

angrily but son replied, "I did not know the (f) ___________________

spelling Deputy commissioner and I did not want (g) ___________________

to one mark." (h) ___________________

But wait a minute. Is this question really funny? 

Some of us may not even notice that what the question is actually saying—perhaps inadvertently—is that the job of a Deputy Commissioner is superior to that of  the washerman. Remember dignity of labour? And remember Right to Education? It is quite likely that today a washerman’s son would sit alongside a Deputy Commissioner’s son in the same class. The washerman’s son would grow with the knowledge that his father is a lesser man. Not good.

I acknowledge that it is difficult to bring out textbooks that are completely politically correct. But we have to start purging books of hidden prejudice. We have to design our children’s books very carefully; books that have well thought out content. Classroom is a place for integration, not for disaggregation.

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