Wednesday, July 4, 2012

How the S.K.Thorat committee reviewed the cartoons?

( this is the portion where the committee explained its approach. It is shocking to know that there were no guidelines to choose cartoons for the text books. It was left to the text book development team. The report is yet to be released officially. This is from the ‘ wiki leaked’ report published by Kafila)
Guidelines used by the Committee to review the Materials and Visuals

The Review Committee reviewed the six textbooks keeping in view the above mentioned guidelines and principles, namely guiding principles of National Curriculum Framework – 2005, objective of Teaching of Social Sciences at Secondary and Higher Secondary Stage and Specific objectives of teaching political science at Secondary and Sr. Secondary stage.  Further the following criteria were also taken into consideration while reviewing the educational materials, consisting of both written text and visual including the cartoons. 
5.1     Criteria to Review the Content of Textbooks
     i.        Convergence:
While reviewing the textbooks the Committee examined whether the written text or contents were in consonance with the illustrations.

   ii.        Targeting of individuals or groups of individual 
The lessons were reviewed to see whether the content both verbal and non verbal and examples, targets individuals or group of individuals or are intended to clarify the concepts and content.  Whether there were distortions in explanation and interpretation?  Whether the illustrations or pictures were “event specific or person specific.” 
 iii.        Sense of proportion in presentation
Balance in content, illustrations, visuals, cartoons and other visuals.

 iv.        Analytical and synthesis mode
Whether the content of the lessons focuses only on analysis or on synthesis also.

   v.        Level of satire 
What is the level of satire? Is it appropriate for students of that age? Is the satire subtle or abrasive?
 vi.        Positive and negative examples
Is there a balance between positive and negative examples – case studies, cartoons, visuals, collage etc?
7.                   Quality of illustration
Quality of the illustration was seen in terms of being eye-catching and stimulating the imagination

8.   Sensitivity 
a)    How sensitive are the cartoons and illustrations towards communities, castes, ethnicity, religions, women, language and other groups and minorities? In a country as diverse as India the above considerations cannot be disregarded.
b)   Individual specific and issue specific visuals

5.2     Guidelines used for review of cartoons
The general objection raised in Parliament and outside Parliament by some groups was that the use of cartoons is inappropriate in some textbooks.  The letter by two Advisors to the Review Committee also mentions this.  The Committee tried to get the guidelines for the use of cartoons by NCERT.  It emerged from the discussion with the former Director of NCERT and Chief Advisors that no specific guidelines were laid down for the use of visuals including cartoons.  The general guidelines used for the written text were also used for selection of cartoons.  The Chief Advisors in the interactive meeting held on 28 May 2012 informed the Committee that the selection of the cartoons was generally left to the Textbook Development Team.
However the Chief Advisors in ‘A Letter to You’ in the books mentioned the importance of the cartoons in teaching.   In the text book titled Indian Constitution at work for Class XI, importance of cartoons has been pointed out.  The Advisors write that “the cartoons are not there simply as comic relief. They tell about the criticisms, the weak spots and mere failures.  They also help to learn both about politics and about how to think about politics.  “Thus for these reasons, the Advisors emphasised the importance of cartoons in teaching.  Chief Advisors observed:
We cannot claim to be experts in educational psychology and it may be important to take experts’ view on whether or not students aged 15-18 should be exposed to cartoons. We simply shared and followed the spirit of NCF 2005 that invited us to bridge the gap between bookish leaning and the world outside the classrooms. Cartoons used in the Political Science textbooks do different things at different points in the text: entertain or engaged the readers, invite them to return to the text with a new range of questions or help them achieve   critical distance vis-a-vis received wisdom, including that of the textbook itself.—-Exposing the students to these and other cartoons from all over the world encourage them to relates to the working of democracy. Elements such as cartoons, pictures and news papers clipping aim at situating the abstract point in the context of the actual processes that unfolded in the past or are unfolding in the contemporary  movement. These are not visual distractions but integral to the design of these textbooks.”
The former Director of NCERT and the Chief Advisors thus attributed great significance to the use of cartoons in teaching.  This view indeed is supported by researchers as well.  It is argued that sociologically, cartoons are a powerful means of providing social and political comments because so often they are unmasking and they reveal the contrast between perception and reality.  Cartoons can be used with students to objectively analyse every day social behaviour and stimulus to reflections on attitudes. (Ziegler 1998, Witkin 1999, Khauan Wai Bing and Chua Hong Tam 2003, Taher Bahrani Rahmatollah Soltani, 2011) (see reference at the end).
However the views expressed by the Advisors did not mention about the precautions in the selection and use of the cartoons in teaching.  The literature on the use of the cartoons revealed that while it recognised their usefulness in teaching, it also demand precaution in their use.  There is a need for a careful balance with humour and the content that we would like our student to learn.” (Khauan Wai     Bing and Chua Hong Tam 2003, Taher Bahrani Rahmatollah Soltani, 2011).  The researchers have indicated precaution in few respects.  The first precaution is about the careful selection of the cartoons keeping in view the goals of the specific subject. It is through the careful selection and use of appropriate and relevant cartoons that an element of humour can be introduced, where appropriate, without detracting from the intension of the teaching.  The second precaution is that it is essential to practice using it at least once with groups of learners before final inclusion in the textbook.  According to experts, this will help to find out if the cartoon selected is going to work and in the expected way with expected results. If they do not produce the desire effects, then it might need to be scrapped or modified (Taher Bahrani Rahmatollah Soltani, 2011).  The researchers also warn that, users has to guard against the overuse of cartoons or possible “unintended consequences”, particularly of caption humour, which are sensitive to certain groups  of people in  culturally diversified society.  The expert further cautioned that there is also the risk of offending through misunderstanding with any joke being perceived as source of ridicule, sarcasm or as being racist or sexist in nature (Khauan Wai     Bing and Chua Hong Tam 2003) . There is also likely to be differential response between the students due their background and language deficiency .It is for these risk elements that cartoons need to be used wisely. Wai and Tam argued that facilitators have to realize that what works for some people might not work for others. The researchers also caution about the overuse of cartoons and mentioned that ,” one has to be careful not to overuse cartoons or their effect will be diminished if not lost” .There is a  needs to be a careful balance with humour and the content that we would like our students  to learn, observed  Wai and Tam ( 2003) .
In the absence of clear guidelines for the use of cartoons by NCERT, the review Committee has kept these insights in consideration in reviewing the cartoons in six textbooks in Political Science. The Committee used the following criterion to review the cartoons:
·         ·         Based on visual relief and fun
·         ·         Improve teaching and learning
·         ·         Provides background information in the text  to help the students appreciate the message
·         ·         Help expand students’ imagination
·         ·         Sensitivity with respect to various caste, ethnic, religious, gender  and regional minorities
·         ·         Messages the cartoons give about the people and political Institutions.

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