The National Council for Economic Research and Training (NCERT) is in midst of revising the national curriculum. A democratic process has been established through which State boards, educational experts, policy-makers and socio-cultural organizations have been consulted for their advice. It is my dream as a Member of Parliament from Assam that the modern NCERT curriculum reflect the historic and cultural importance of Assam and the rest of Northeast India.
The horrific incidents of racial targeting of Northeast students and professionals in Delhi, Pune and Bangalore have revealed the dangerously high intolerance that our society has for our nation’s diversity. If unchecked, it will lead to a wave of hatred in our society and soon there might be incidents of retaliation also. Racial targeting of Northeast students is not a recent phenomenon in our country but the current generation of young people has refused to be mute spectators anymore. Protest rallies across India over the death of Nido Tania from Arunachal Pradesh and Akha Salouni from Manipur implied that in addition to the 40 million population of Northeast, a large section of our nation’s citizens stand together solidarity on the issue of national integration.
The Education Ministry plays a pivotal role in strengthening our unity and respect for diversity. Under their guidance the NCERT can revise its framework and focus on teaching our students about the rich history and diversity of Indian culture and the contribution of different ethnic and hill communities. This need was highlighted in 1988 when NCERT state education aims to strengthen national unity through the knowledge of the cultural heritage, traditions, history of the different ethnic groups and regions of the country. If the teachers in our classroom teach students about religious traditions, political history, poetry and transnational culture of Northeast we will ensure our future citizens and decision-makers will be more enlightened leading to a decline in ignorance and intolerance
The issue of Northeast India being overlooked in our textbooks is extremely sensitive. In the past, several representations have been made to previous NCERT Directors Prof Sinclair and Prof Rajput who have publicly acknowledged the need for change. As per reports in the media the former Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh had conveyed his assurance to Hon’ble Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh Shri Nabam Tuki on the modification of our textbooks in the aftermath of Nido Tania’s death. Similarly the Bezbaruah Committee report currently with the Ministry of Home Affairs has also requested this urgent re-look into the NCERT curriculum.
The NCERT curriculum revision in the past has introduced major changes in the way education is understood in the country. It has ushered in a refreshing transition from rote-based learning to process-oriented learning. Initiatives like the National Curriculum Framework, optional board exams, comprehensive evaluation has made education in India more in-sync with contemporary needs. Now NCERT needs to work in consultation with the SCERT boards of the northeastern states and with local scholars and historians to ensure that our education integrates Northeast and India through education.
It is imperative that we teach our students about the religious beliefs of Srimanta Sankardev, poetry of Laxminath Bezbaruah, the historic World War 2 battle in Kohima, the oral traditions of Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram will enhance the knowledge of our students and broaden their horizons. The entire 40 million population of Northeast India in addition to our students and professionals across the country await the wisdom of NCERT on this very crucial subject.