'Textbooks should be open-ended'

Says director of Centre for Indian Studies in Africa at the University of Witwatersrand Dilip Menon, who visited Kerala recently .

Published: 16th November 2013 11:51 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th November 2013 11:51 AM   |  A+A-

The textbooks of schools as well as colleges ignore the children of the marginalised, while addressing the middle-class majority the lower classes do not matter to them, says social scientist, historian and director of Centre for Indian Studies in Africa at the University of Witwatersrand, Dilip Menon, who was in Kozhikode recently to attend the history congress held at the Government Arts and Science College. “Textbooks should be open-ended and allow interaction. Teachers address different sets of students each year hence they cannot be taught the same syllabi and resort to the same method every year. Children of a domestic help are never the subject of study. Inequality in the production of knowledge is unacceptable and knowledge should be universal. The education system destroys self-confidence in our part of the world. The minds of the people remain colonised while keeping the West as the centre/axis of the world,” says he. “Upper-castes have invented the idea of merit as a self-congratulatory notion. Reservation is for the lower castes.” The social scientist opined that textbooks must be standardised and precise. He spoke on transnational history and intellectual history of colonial India. According to him, history of India was written for the elite. “Intellectual discourses are associated with the elite and revolts are linked to the Dalits,” says Menon, who translated Sarawathi Vijayam, written by Potheri Kunjambu, in 1893. Sarawathi Vijayam is the first novel written by a Dalit in an Indian language. “Conversion to Christianity gave some of the Dalit writers a chance to escape the caste system. They could publish novels along with their upper-caste contemporaries,” he adds. “While thinking of the nationalism of our leaders, India forgets that they had travelled across the world and were internationals,” the social scientist says. “History is not confined to an area, but related to the movement of people. The knowledge produced from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbeans is ignored,” he further adds. “Nostalgia is often related to the caste system. For the Dalit, when he leaves India, he leaves behind inequalities. His memories are not intertwined with a nostalgic cultural past of India. Indian history has been affected by myopia as well as amnesia. We forget the history of 300 years and history becomes nationalism minus diaspora,” Menon says. He added that governments had a divide in considering the diaspora. “They make a division between professionals and labourers. Pravasi Bharatiya Divas is exclusively for professionals while ignoring the labour force that remits money from abroad,” he says. The social scientist is also of the opinion that while the children of NRIs study abroad, they do not need to study according to the Indian curriculum. “Children must be allowed to grow as universal citizens. While in Africa, why should they be taught Malayalam and Kalarippayattu, let them study subjects which are helpful for them to live there,” he adds.


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