An insensitive remark in the Class 12 sociology textbook — that parents of ‘ugly’ girls pay dowry — has prompted the Maharashtra government to be more careful while publishing books for the new academic session.
The state’s education department has decided to scrap most of the existing boards of studies or Abhyas Mandals, the body in-charge of developing syllabus and textbooks, and replace them with new members.
Every subject has a board of studies consisting of academicians proficient in it.
Their job is to find authors to write textbooks, produce and proof-read content. They bring out books in English and Marathi.
For the past five years, the boards have drawn flak for repeatedly making glaring and embarrassing gaffes in the social studies textbooks.
In February, academicians pointed out that the sociology textbook of the Maharashtra state board, which students use to prepare for the Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) exam, lists ‘ugliness of the girl’ as one of the reasons for dowry, a major social problem in India.
As a result, the department is planning to suspend the existing panels and appoint new members.
“We are going to change these bodies partly so that there is continuous improvement in the systems,” said Nand Kumar, principal secretary of the education department.
But teachers are worried if this will delay the introduction of a new syllabus and textbooks for Classes 8 and 10 scheduled for next year. “We support the move to change the study panels, but the department should appoint new members soon so that it doesn’t affect the timetable,” said Uday Nare, senior teacher, Hansraj Morarji Public School, Andheri.
Members of the existing panels said errors occur because they are under tremendous pressure to bring out the books. “Many people don’t understand the enormity of writing identical textbooks in two languages ,” said Ivan John, professor of sociology at Sophia College for Women and member of the current board of studies or Abhyas Mandal, John said once the board of studies appoints authors for the book, they are expected to submit handwritten manuscripts of the entire book, which are then typewritten. Often, writers only get a year or two to write the book.