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Communicating Caste and Gender: Understanding Narratives on Systemic Discrimination in Textbooks from CBSE, TN and UP Boards

| Photo Credit: Ranganathan Chellappa

School textbooks, which form the foundation of our education, play a vital role in shaping our understanding of the world around us. This rings truest for social sciences, which describe society and its multiple realities. In the process, social sciences tend to present a version of an issue or an event to young impressionable minds. Therefore, they have educational and sensitisation consequences. This becomes especially important in Indian society, which is rife with discriminatory practices and attempts to justify them, such as ones based on caste and gender. Both these forms of discrimination are systemic malaises and date to ancient times. Textbooks, then, have to be analysed to understand the narratives they adopt, to educate and sensitise students on such issues.

This study aims to look at three social science textbooks-History, Civics and Political Science, used at upper primary and secondary levels from three different educational boards: National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT), taught in Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE) schools; State Council for Educational Research and Training (SCERT), Tamil Nadu (TN), taught in TN board schools; and SCERT, Uttar Pradesh (UP) in conjunction with State Institute of Education (SIE) and the UP board, taught in UP board schools.

The study aims to understand, through a textual analysis, some of the pedagogic, policy, political, historical and social factors that determine the direction and shape of the narratives on gender and caste-based discrimination in these textbooks. This research report also provides examples pointing out the nature of discriminatory references from current textbooks. An attempt is also made to outline merits and demerits of the narrative adopted.

The author hopes that this research report will help in recognising the need to reshape and restructure the content of textbooks, wherever necessary. Such an exercise by policy-makers in education could provide a better frame of reference for young students to enhance their understanding of the systemic discrimination in their immediate socio-political reality.

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