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Exclusion of history from text books: Why historians feel it is a big blow for education?

Exclusion of history: In view of the recent development to remove Mughal history from school textbooks in India by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), the Indian History Congress (IHC) has expressed concerns about the revised syllabus. IHC, founded in 1935 is the largest association of professional historians in South Asia, is now another addition to several other civil societies, historians and academicians who oppose NCERT’s move.

Amidst the ongoing debate, it is important to understand why it is essential for students to have access to unbiased history and undistorted facts of the past.

Exclusion of history: Role of history in school syllabus

In this regard, an excerpt from the 2011 book, Pinning Down the Past: Archaeology, Heritage, and Education Today by Mike Corbishley stands out: “Misuse and abuse of the physical heritage can never be stamped out fully by legislation, but only by raising the level of awareness of the general public through education. One of the most important influential forces on the public today is their children-themselves the general public of tomorrow”. The author raises a very important argument of the students of today being the “general public” of tomorrow and in a properly functioning democratic nation, the knowledge and awareness of the general public are decisive for the very health of the country.

The peer-reviewed article, Indian Students’ and Teachers’ Perceptions and Attitudes to Archaeological Content in History Textbooks, takes this argument further and acknowledges history as a record of situations that occurred in the past, activities, events and even the processes that followed. The journal clearly mentions the role of history in helping the students develop an understanding of their identity and how it developed through time. Based on this knowledge, the students can thus make informed decisions about the issues they deal with in the present and the developments that might take place in the future. Another argument raised by the paper is that history plays an important role in developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills among students. The learning develops an understanding of the universal human experiences and the intricacies that distinguish one culture or society from another.

Learning history requires a keen and discerning mind

Dalarna University, Sweden’s 2016 publication Uses of History in History Education, says that
throughout time, history has been a workable tool wielded by individuals and societies for various purposes. According to the book, the narratives of history are not simply objective accounts of the past but are shaped by the cultural context of their authors. Similarly, the way history is received and understood is dependent on the historical consciousness of its users. This realization underscores the significance of an instructive perspective on the production, appropriation, and communication of history in both educational settings and broader society.

Investigating the uses of history in history education is a valuable and fruitful endeavour. By analyzing and discussing the different ways in which history is employed, we can gain insight into the historical culture in both educational and societal contexts. Thus, engaging with the uses of history is an indispensable aspect of contemporary society, one that requires a keen and discerning mind.

Exclusion of history: With regards to the importance of history as explained by the above pieces of research, the only question that still remains in the context of the NCERT’s ruling to remove the history of the Mughal era from Indian textbooks is, will the future students have an open view of life?

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