Amid the uproar over a Class 12 sociology textbook mentioning “ugliness of a girl” as one of the reasons for her family being asked for dowry, teachers on the board of studies for the subject said such mistakes creep in because they don’t get sufficient time to review books before publishing.
The board of studies, which consists of subject experts, are responsible for bringing out the books in Marathi and English (in some cases other regional languages as well).
“Many people don’t understand the enormity of writing identical textbooks in two languages and cater to the need of students in tribal, rural and urban areas,” said Ivan John, teacher of sociology at Sophia College for Women and member of the current board of studies or Abhyas Mandal, the body in-charge of developing syllabus and textbooks.
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.
Although a review panel is set up before publishing it, the panelists barely have a week’s time to check the book for errors and suggest changes. “Chasing deadlines and working under so much strain compromises the quality of the book. Writers must be given due time to prepare the books,” said John.
However, John admitted there are no excuses for the insensitive language used in the book. “Using words like ugly is in bad taste, they could’ve easily replaced the term with physical attributes,” said John.
Teachers said that the board must rewrite the paragraph. “Changing the entire textbook is a costly exercise and not needed as the new syllabus will come in a couple of years,” added John.
“There is a huge emphasis on uniformity between Marathi and English books and they are translated word by word but large percentage of people on the board are from rural areas and may not be proficient in English,” said Amrita Nadkarni, another member of the board of studies and retired professor of sociology, St Xavier’s College, Fort.