UGC’s revision of history syllabus for undergraduate course triggers row
New Delhi: The University Grants Commission (UGC) revised the undergraduate history syllabus under the Learning Outcome-based Curriculum Framework (LOCF) this week after receiving suggestions from stakeholders between February and March. The draft prepared by an expert committee of the commission has run into a controversy over objections raised by some members of academia over its increased focus on Vedic literature, fewer topics on Mughal history, and an outdated reading list.
While some teachers said they are concerned over the reduced focus on Mughal history, the introduction of a paper called Idea of Bharat, more focus on religious and Vedic literature, removal of papers on the role of women in ancient Indian society, and an outdated reading list, others welcomed the revised syllabi saying too much focus had been given to Mughal history over the years and an introduction to “Indian society” was a good move as students must learn India’s diverse history.
Jitendra Meena, assistant professor of history at Shyam Lal College, said the exclusion of certain topics hinted at a political agenda. “The Mughal history topics have been reduced and are being seen in comparison to regional powers like the Marathas instead of being studied on their own. Similarly, branding the 1857 revolt as the First War of Independence seems like an endorsement of the Savarkar school of thought whereas many subaltern studies have termed the 1855 Santhal rebellion as the first war of independence. The paper on Inequality and Differences has also been removed which had helped students understand caste, language, and other identity-based issues.”
Despite repeated requests, UGC secretary Rajnish Jain did not comment on the matter on Friday.
Other DU professors also said the syllabus was regressive and did not address the issues of caste and gender. “A paper titled the ‘Idea of Bharat’ has been included as the first paper to set the tone for a certain kind of propaganda. The curriculum framework, which might be implemented across central universities, will move us towards a ‘monolithic’ kind of construction of India. In the ‘Idea of Bharat’, there has been a continuous use of the word ‘eternity’ that means changelessness. It’s making India look like a changeless society and a land of religion. Whereas, historically we are a land of critique of religion. The syllabus also does not address issues of caste and gender. So, overall this curriculum is regressive,” said Maya John, assistant professor of history at Jesus and Mary College.
Not all history teachers agreed with this viewpoint. Monmoyee Basu, who has been teaching history at Hansraj College for over two decades, said, “I appreciate the paper Idea of Bharat because students should have an idea of their country, its geographical area, history, and culture. So studying the concept of India is important. However, the reading list fails to include recent publications or important texts for multiple papers.”
The current syllabus also does not have papers on the history of women in ancient India as compared to the current CBCS syllabus, which has listed “appreciating the ways in which technological changes, commercial developments, and challenges to patriarchy by certain women shaped the times” as a learning outcome in the “history of India” paper.
LOCF is interlinked with the choice-based credit system (CBCS) currently in place in Delhi University colleges. While Jamia Millia Islamia and 44 DU colleges offer undergraduate courses as per the CBCS pattern, Ambedkar University is in the process of aligning with the CBCS pattern. Teachers across universities said the current syllabus had reduced the number of papers from 43 to 37 in addition to either removing or replacing 12 papers.
UGC officials said that the peer-reviewed LOCF syllabus is not binding in nature and is prepared after taking the suggestions of stakeholders into account. “LOCF is advisory in nature and higher educational institutions are requested to take necessary measures for appropriate revision of the curriculum. It is not intended to promote the designing of a national common syllabus for a programme of studies,” a senior UGC official said.