Friday, June 29, 2012

Overuse of political cartoons in school textbooks: Thorat Committee

NEW DELHI: The Thorat Committee constituted to review NCERT's political science textbooks is of the view that there has been an overuse of political cartoons. It has recommended that guidelines be put in place to govern the use of materials like cartoon.

In the aftermath of the controversy over the Ambedkar cartoon during the Budget session of Parliament, the human resource development ministry had asked the NCERT to set up a committee to review the social science and political science textbooks published by the NCERT for classes IX to XII. The Committee headed by SK Thorat, chairman of the Indian Council of Social Science Research set up on May 14 was review these textbooks with an eye to identify educationally inappropriate material in them and to provide suggestions for alternatives to be placed in the textbooks.

The Committee had one month to review the Class XI political science textbook, "Indian Constitution at Work". The use of a 1949 cartoon by Shankar in the NCERT textbook had created a stir in Parliament, as many MPs found its depiction of Ambedkar unacceptable.

In its review of the Class XII text, the Committee felt that there had been an overuse of cartoons and some of these were not relevant. Sources close to the developments said that "students in big metros like Delhi and Bombay can understand these cartoons in the spirit in which they were made. This is because they are exposed to and have access to a lot of other materials and information. However, students in smaller towns and rural areas don't have that same access, and the cartoons take on a different interpretation."

There was a view in the Committee that some of the cartoons were not very innocent and therefore liable to hurt sentiments. Given that it was very difficult to determine which cartoons could hurt the sentiments of groups of people or communities, the Committee felt that there was a need to establish guidelines for the use of materials like cartoons. This would allow for a more judicious choice. Sources stressed that the Committee was happy with the approach taken in these textbooks, and would not like them withdrawn.

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