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Human development indices might not be as popular as the GDP or growth rate in terms of measuring a country’s wealth, but how it treats education, particularly the delicate and difficult primary-level schooling, says a lot about its state of health. If textbooks used in a number of Gujarat government schools are anything to go by, both the health and the wealth are in dire straits. Not only are the books taught to Class VI-VIII students ridden with glaring and unpardonable mistakes which are factual errors bordering on bizarre, they are littered with stereotypes of every kind tending on offensive. Gems like ‘Japan launched a nuclear attack on US’, a new country called ‘Islamic Islamabad’ was constituted after Partition with its capital at ‘Khyber Ghat’ in Hindu Kush mountains, ‘South Indians are Madrasis’ abound in textbooks read by over 50,000 students in government-run English-medium schools in Gujarat. Notwithstanding the abysmal quality of written English in this school texts, they seem to be aimed at creating and sustaining mass caricatures of non-Gujaratis in ways most unacceptable.   

     Given that impressionable twelve-fourteen-year-olds have been studying the books, how the misinformation had impacted their worldview is only for one to discern. ‘Intellectual poverty’ aside, having errors of this margin is only a testament to the cavalier attitude to education of children that the Gujarat Council of Education Research and Training (GCERT) and Gujarat State Board for School Textbooks (GSBST) have been adopting so far. Even though the state bodies have now constituted a panel of experts to investigate the matter and bring out new, corrected editions, the fact that these staggeringly faulty textbooks have been prescribed and circulated for years is baffling. Not only have the officials paid a deaf ear to the warnings by reviewers, there is enough evidence to show that deliberate distortion of history has been undertaken by the constitutors of the textbooks. For example, there is an attempt at whitewashing the 350-year-long Mughal rule in India, which has been reduced to mere paragraph in a whole book on Indian History. Such unbelievably poor standards of books cannot guarantee quality education. Hope this poverty of imagination does not become a model for other states to emulate.      
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