Suresh has problems in his marital life, so he decides to approach a godman for a quick-fix solution.
“Swamiji,” he says, “My wife troubles me a lot. Please suggest a solution.”
The godman rolls his eyes and answers: “If I knew the answer to that one, why would I turn into a sadhu?”
Now, before you dismiss this as just another sexist Whatsapp joke, consider this – it appears in a Rajasthan board Hindi textbook for Class 6 students. Even more disturbing is the fact that this is just one of several such jokes that find mention in the state’s new school syllabi.
The new textbooks, which were earlier criticised for omitting all references to India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, are now in the eye of another academic storm. There are sexist jokes in the board’s Class 6 Hindi textbook, irreverent references to Sufi saint Nizamuddin Auliya and mystic poet-saint Guru Ravidas in the Class 7 social sciences textbook, and grammatical errors scattered across its various academic offerings.
The biggest error, however, is the mistaken use of a Gautam Buddha image in a section dwelling on Mahavir Jain, the founder of the Jainism, on page 89 of the Class 3 environment studies textbook.
Jains across Rajasthan – quite understandably – have raised objections to this incorrect depiction of the spiritual figure, and written to the State Institute of Educational Research and Training (SIERT) as well as the Rajasthan State Textbook Board to register their protest.
SIERT is the academic body that worked on the new curriculum for schools under the Rajasthan education board.
“These books should be withdrawn from schools,” said Mahendra Patni, secretary of the Digambar Jain Atishay Shetra Shri Mahavirji, a religious body.
Moving on, chapter 20 of the Class 7 social sciences textbook – titled Bhakti Evam Sufi Andolan – “praises” Auliya for not being a fundamentalist despite hailing from a certain religion, and reveals the caste credentials of Bhakti movement poet Ravidas.
The new textbooks were reviewed by a team of educationists – under the banner of Shiksha Ka Adhikar – on the basis of content, knowledge acquisition, pedagogy and scientific temper. The team was led by prof Apoorvanand of the Delhi University, and prof Rajiv Gupta of the Rajasthan University.
At the time of the review, Apoorvanand had questioned the haste with which the textbooks were prepared. “These books were prepared in 45 days. Nowhere in the world are textbooks brought out in such a short time. This is why these textbooks have completely failed to achieve their pedagogical objectives. They help neither children nor teachers. They are not useful for developing analytical skills too,” he said.
The professor alleged that the textbooks introduced by the BJP government in 2016 were nothing but edited versions of their 2015 counterparts – modified to suit the framework of the Hindutva ideology. For instance, a reference to the Sindhu Ghati Culture (Indus Valley Civilisation) in the Class 9 social studies textbook has now been changed to ‘Sindhu Saraswati Culture’ in accordance with the RSS’s version of history.
Gupta, for his part, termed the books as “shallow, preachy and full of bloopers”.
However, SIERT deputy director Kanti Lal Damor said he hadn’t received any complaints regarding the content. “The textbooks have been distributed to all the schools. We will act when we receive complaints from teachers or anyone else,” he said.