When it comes to making headlines for the wrong reasons, the Maharashtra State Board of Secondary & Higher Secondary Education board does it quite regularly.
The textbooks provided by the board make news for goof ups - for mistakes in maps, gaps in information and insensitive statements about social problems.
After publishing maps showing Arunachal Pradesh as part of China and a part of Kashmir as Pakistan territory in Class 10 geography books, the board recently courted another controversy over the insensitive writing in the class 12 sociology textbook, which lists ugliness among brides as a reason for dowry. This has brought to light the flaws in the production of the books.
Following this, professors and educators from across the state have vociferously criticised the textbook writing and production process. Ask them, and they unanimously say that one of the major problems is the lack of bilingual people on the board of studies, which is a panel of subject experts and educationists appointed to design the syllabus and books.
Offering both English and Marathi as a medium of instruction, the board produces books in both the languages. The emphasis is on the uniformity of the text in both the books. But this puts an added strain on the writers, who are asked to translate from Marathi to English or vice versa.
“Producing identical textbooks in both English and Marathi is an enormous task,” said Ivan John, member of the sociology board of studies and a teacher at Sophia College for Women, Grant Road.
Often translators are only required to have a working knowledge of the matter, and fluency in the language to be translated is not mandatory. “A teacher proficient in Marathi might not be equally good at English. But the board doesn’t look at such factors while selecting the writers,” said John.
As a result, the textbooks are laced with errors, typos and even factually incorrect information. A Class 10 textbook of social studies-history and geography-written in English consisted of 55 glaring errors such as: Bikaner is the largest wool market in the world, and that Chilka (in Odisha) is the largest saline lake in the country.
Another problem is the tight deadlines that the writers have to meet. The board gives barely a year or two for the textbooks to be written and produced. This means that the writers are under tremendous strain to write the books in two languages. Adding to their woes, the entire manuscript is hand written and then typed out. “When we were asked to write a textbook, we requested the board to allow us to type out the book instead of submitting handwritten pages,” said John.
On the other hand, the board authorities said that such errors are to be expected as it caters to over 17 lakh students in Class 10 and 12 each. “It’s unfair to compare Maharashtra state board with others,” said Gangadhar Mamane, chairperson of the board. Adding that CBSE and other private boards don’t have their own textbooks, Mamane said, “We have one of the largest number of students in the country and unlike CBSE, we provide students with our own textbooks.”
Mamane said that whenever mistakes are pointed out, the board corrects them through its fortnightly magazine, Shikshan Sankraman.
But teachers complained that despite sending feedback to the board frequently, corrections are not always done. Geography and history teachers in Mumbai have been pointing out mistakes in the books since the last three years but to no avail. “Even today, most of the mistakes in the books have not been corrected. It is a difficult to teach students from such factually inaccurate books,” said Ravi D, a former school teacher from Bhandup.