Guj Textbooks Are Replete With Stereotypes

Team TOI

Ahmedabad: Hundreds of girls displayed their karate skills to the beats of ‘Lalkaar Chhe’ during the closing ceremony of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s pet project, ‘Khelmahakumbh’ recently. But it seems such empowering imagery is yet to punch biases in prescribed school literature.
For example, on the cover page of the Class VIII Sanskrit textbook of the Gujarat board, the main illustration of a chapter called ‘Khelmahotsav’ — dealing with sports — depicts a large number of children happily playing. In that visual, all are boys. In fact, state board textbooks prepared by Gujarat Council of Education Research and Training (GCERT), which shape the worldview of Class VIII adolescents, demonstrate a serious gender disconnect with reality.
So while the state celebrates Gujarat-origin icons such as Sunita Williams who has stormed space, in textbooks, girls are still stuck in a time warp — sweeping floors, serving food to boys, and accompanying mothers to fetch water. Barring two images of a girl reading, the entire syllabus of Class VIII adheres to medieval conventions, but boys are shown working on computers and using cellphones.
Apart from gender stereotyping, instances of gender bias abound. The chapter on the Supreme Court in the social science textbook does not mention the first woman SC judge —Justice M Fathima Beevi.
In the social science textbook, the GCERT admits only two women — Madam Bhikaji Cama and Vijaylakshmi Pandit. It is a 124-page book mapping the social reform movement and the freedom struggle. In the chapter ‘Independent India’, the first and longest-serving woman Prime Minister Indira Gandhi finds no place.
“Gujarat, reeling under the skewed sex ratio, desperately wishes to break stereotypes attached with the girls and women,” says sociologist Gaurang Jani. “Textbooks depict the same stereotypes, not showing the next generation the changing roles and status of women. Where are the chapters, stories and illustrations that centre on women, highlight them as an asset, and champion equality?” He says a study had found that of 120 poems in the syllabus of Class V-XII of the state board, only four were by women. “There were only 10 poems on women, all written by male poets on mothers,” says Jani.

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