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Issues with UGC’s New Undergraduate History Curriculum

Synopsis: Recently, the UGC (University Grants Commission) suggested a new undergraduate history curriculum. However, it falls short to meet its desired objectives and requires reconsideration.

Background:
  • The UGC released a new document on the undergraduate history curriculum, named  Learning Outcomes-based Curriculum Framework (LOCF), 2021.
  • The document suggestes changes as per the changing domestic and international scenario.

Objectives:

  • Use history as a vital source to obtain knowledge about a nation’s soul.
  • Create a conscious student body that is aware about India’s glorious past and can compete at the global level.
  • Build a new narrative about the nation through a dialogue between past and present.
About the curriculum:
  • The five units of the course cover: 
    • The concept of Bharatvarsha 
    • Indian knowledge traditions, art, and culture
    • Indian economic traditions
    • Dharma, philosophy and ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’
    • Science, environment, and medical sciences
  • First paper of course is titled ‘Idea of Bharat.’ It seeks to study the primitive life and cultural status of the people of ancient India.

Concerning Issues:

  • Firstly, the idea of Bharatvarsha is portrayed as devoid of invasions. 
    • The origin is associated with the pristine ancient past. No credit is associated with Kushans, Mughals, etc. invasions in shaping the idea of Bharat.
    • Further little role focus is paid towards the contributions of the south, east, and northeast people towards nation-building.
    • The struggle of the masses in the freedom movement is also not given its due space in the creation of Bharat. 
  • Secondly, the paper on medieval and the early modern India (History of India, 1206-1707) shows that Hindus and Muslims as two separate entities. This would strengthen the belief in separate nations for Hindus and Muslims which led to the country’s partition in the past.
  • Thirdly, the use of force is projected as the main driver of change in society. It is shown in the case of Aryan, Mughal or any other invasion. This kind of narrative portrays violence as the sole reason for the change.
  • Fourthly, it adopts the categorization methods of colonial historians. This simply undermines the efforts of historians to challenge the colonial way of history-writing. 
    • The colonial methods used to pose a contrast between the secular, modern Europe and the backward ‘oriental’ states (having irrational adherence to religion).
  • Fifthly, the curriculum is biased towards the history of North India. The rich sociocultural, economic and political changes of other regions have been given very little room. Further, some regions are only introduced as political formations.

Pedagogical Issues:

    • Firstly, the style of pedagogy is more textbook-oriented. A less emphasis is placed on archaeological artefacts, coins, visits to monuments and museums etc. that helps in better understanding.
    • Secondly, the students are not encouraged to read the diversity of opinion which would have helped in a better understanding of history. 
    • Thirdly, the curriculum ignores the finest writings in Indian history. The bulk of readings span from the 1900s to the 1980s, with a heavy dependence on the work of Indologists. This curtails their resource base.
    • Lastly, the linkage of critical 21st-century issues like climate change, democracy, social justice etc. with the historical framework is missing.

In a nutshell, the curriculum aims to make history education space for passive rote-learning of ideas which was last popularized in the 1920s.

Source: Thehindu.com

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