An Unfinished Democratizing Intervention: History Lessons in the 21st century for School Children in India

by Kumkum Roy, Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University

I do not remember when I first met Monica. However, from the 1980s, when I first began teaching in a college at the University of Delhi, I do remember hearing about a bright, energetic teacher and scholar. Our more systematic interactions started when I joined the Department of History at the University. Monica was already teaching there, and with her I learned to negotiate the nitty gritty of academic life, participating in exciting and intense discussions around texts that she initiated with students which were rigorous, demanding, challenging, insightful, and nuanced.

Some years later, we met again as part of a large, unwieldy yet enthusiastic team of historians, teachers, and administrators, trying to put in place a new curriculum for Indian school children to be developed through a series of fresh textbooks. Monica’s contribution, a chapter on the French Revolution for students of Class IX, remains one of my favorites. Apart from her own contribution, she was constantly available over e-mail responding promptly, efficiently, and precisely to all kinds of queries; verifying, clarifying, qualifying, and refining half-baked chapters, with energy and professional commitment that was remarkable. It is this combination of deep and reliable scholarship, presented imaginatively and creatively, along with her warmth and affection that makes Monica special.

Book Cover of India and the Contemporary World I: Textbook in History for Class IX. © by NCERT 2006.

 

In what follows, I reflect on the moment in 2005 when the National Curriculum Framework for India was revised, and turn to the implications and possibilities that opened up for the Social Sciences. I will be discussing Monica’s chapter, locating it within a larger framework, and draw attention to subsequent developments which indicate that the intervention of 2005 will most probably be reversed in the near future. Continue reading “An Unfinished Democratizing Intervention: History Lessons in the 21st century for School Children in India”