Darwin in Indian biology textbooks (the absence of)

Prof. Balaram, in his latest editorial at Current Science, brings some disturbing news to our attention (pdf):

 … I wondered how much are our children are taught about Darwin. I took a clandestine look at a X standard biology textbook and found a picture of Gregor Mendel, but no mention of Darwin. There were sections on cell structures, genetics, respiration, nervous and reproductive systems, population and health, but surprisingly not even a passing mention of the origins of biological diversity. On enquiry, the owner of the textbook was dismissive: “Only you and the BBC are interested in Darwin”.

Considering the accepted importance of evolutionary  concepts in biology, the cavalier treatment meted out to Darwin in the high school textbook puzzled me. But, I quickly discovered that “evolution” is a word that is avoided elsewhere too.

Till I read the editorial, I was under the impression that in India at least, we did not have any problems with teaching evolution. May be my impression was incorrect; may be the biology textbooks that we perused also did not have any reference to Darwin, and all of what I know about Darwin and his work stem from my non-textbook reading. In any case, I only hope that Prof. Balaram’s editorial will be a starting point for the revision of the textbooks!

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6 Responses to “Darwin in Indian biology textbooks (the absence of)”

  1. Deep Says:

    We certainly had Darwin and evolution in our 9th standard books, and I do not think there has been any revision otherwise. But we have too many school boards, and their syllabi vary a lot. Probably Prof. Balaram is referring to CBSE or ICSE, which is all the more surprising to me; while in school, we were always under the impression that these boards had many more advanced topics than ours (WB). That we did not (or could not) see evolution as advanced enough was another story. And coming at 2008, this news indeed is a pity!

  2. Guru Says:

    Deep-da,

    What you say is true; I also studied in state board (TN), and we were also under the impression that central boards are more streamlined. But your mentionaing 9th standard makes me wonder if, in those syllabi too, Darwin appears in 9th standard and not 10th standard textbooks. If so, that would explain Prof. Balaram’s observation.

    Guru

  3. Some links on education and learning « Entertaining Research Says:

    […] Though the post obviously makes reference only the US system, I guess some of the things that Sean has to say are relevant in the Indian context too, where, the different syllabi are used in different schools, and some of them seem to be missing some important components: see this post and comments. […]

  4. Darwin in Indian textbooks — setting the record straight « Entertaining Research Says:

    […] in Indian textbooks — setting the record straight Sometime back, I wrote a post about the absence of Darwin in Indian science textbooks based on an editorial in Current Science by Prof. … (which is getting some attention elsewhere in the blogopolis […]

  5. xyz Says:

    Darwin’s theory of evolution was a whole chapter in the 9th standard CBSE textbook. All the basic concepts were covered. However the 10th standard textbook did not cover the theory of evolution.

    Any CBSE student will tell you that 9th standard physics, chemistry and biology are much tougher than in the 10th standard. The government made the 10th syllabus easier to increase the pass rate in the Board exams.

    The exclusion of evolution and many other concepts in physics and chemistry are thus simply because of the governments eagerness to boost the pass percentage statistics and not because of any religious reasons. The BBC seems to have misrepresented the story to fit it with their own sensational views.

    As an interesting aside even the most devout Hindus have no problem with evolution being taught in schools. This is perhaps because in Hinduism we do not have any all dogmatic simplistic creation fairy tales.

  6. Jeff Teare Says:

    We seem to have a problem in the UK with the surprising number of biology teachers in our schools who are apparent creationists, or at least supporters of ‘intelligent design’. They obviously try to impede the teaching of evolution as an accepted part of biological science.
    Does anything similar happen in India?

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