Saturday, September 26, 2015

Five bizarre 'lessons' in Indian textbooks

India, which has a literacy level well below the global average, has intensified its efforts in the field of education.

In 2012 the country passed the Right to Education act which guarantees free and compulsory education for all children until the age of 14. Read More >>
However, some of the "facts" that have been found in textbooks around the country have given rise to speculation over what exactly passes for "education" in India.
Glaring mistakes, downright lies and embellishments in textbooks are often featured in local media. A trend that is all the more worrying, given that India's education system promotes rote learning at the cost of analytical thinking.
The BBC's Ayeshea Perera looks at five of the most outrageous excerpts from Indian textbooks that have made headlines in recent times:

Women steal jobs

Cartoon of teacher saying women cause unemployment
Image captionUnemployment in India? Blame the women

A teacher in the central Indian state of Chhatisgarh recently complained about a textbook for 15-year-olds in the state, which said that unemployment levels had risen post independence because women have begun working in various sectors.

When contacted by the Times of India newspaper, the director of the state council for educational research and training told the newspaper: "It's a matter of debate. It was a writer's view out of his experience. Now, it is the teacher's job how they explain things to the students and ask the students for their view whether they agreed to it or not."

Never trust a meat eater

Cartoon: Teacher asks 'lying?', student says, Image copyrightdf
Image captionPeople who eat meat turn to violence and commit sex crimes, said a textbook for 11-year-olds

A national textbook for 11-year-old students created uproar in 2012 when it was discovered that it said that people who eat meat "easily cheat, tell lies, forget promises, are dishonest and tell bad words, steal, fight and turn to violence and commit sex crimes".
Later, the director of the Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE) told the NDTV news channel that school books used across the country are not monitored for content.

'Donkey' wives

Cartoon of man leading donkey
Image captionDonkeys are like housewives? Actually, said a textbook, they are a shade better

In 2006, it was discovered that a textbook for 14-year-olds in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan compared housewives to donkeys.
"A donkey is like a housewife. It has to toil all day and, like her, may even have to give up food and water. In fact, the donkey is a shade better, for while the housewife may sometimes complain and walk off to her parents' home, you'll never catch the donkey being disloyal to his master," the Times of India quoted the Hindi language textbook as saying.
An official told the newspaper that the comparison had been made in "good humour".

Japan did what in World War Two?

Cartoon of teacher holding book titled 'New Modified and Twisted history'
Image captionOne textbook in Gujarat got its nuclear history a little mixed up

In what can only be described as a complete distortion of history, a social science textbook believed to have been taught to 50,000 students in the western Indian state of Gujarat declared that Japan had launched a nuclear attack on the US during World War Two.
Officials said the textbooks, which also got the date of Mahatma Gandhi's assassination wrong, would be corrected. However, officials had also said that the textbooks currently in circulation would not be recalled.

'Sewage' Canal

Cartoon of student envisaging a sewage canal
Image captionThe "Sewage canal" is a shipping lane?

Don't be too shocked if you find students from the west Indian state of Maharashtra telling you that the "Sewage Canal" is one of the most important shipping lanes in the world. That is how the Suez Canal has been spelled in an English language textbook in the state.
The book, meant for 15-year-olds also spelled "Gandhi" as "Gandi", and got a number of important Indian historical dates completely wrong. The NDTV website which reported the errors said that it had not been able to contact the officials responsible for the textbooks.
Cartoons by BBC Hindi's Kirtish Bhatt
Cartoon by Kirtish Bhatt (

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