6.0 This has been one of the very few subjects on which the Committee has spent a great deal of time spread over a period of one year and five months spanning into nine sittings, visits to half a dozen States and interactions with hundreds of persons from various walks of life including experts, academia, students, teachers, parents, psychologists, psychiatrists, educationists, civil society activists, leaders of religious groups et al.
6.1 The Committee discovered that in the name of ‘Adolescence Education’, multiple agencies of the Government of India had tried to introduce a syllabus in the school curriculum which had the potential to pollute the young and impressionable minds of students by exposing them to indecent material. It was shocking to note how so many agencies of the Government could come together, conceptualize a syllabus, provide all kinds of justification for it, spent substantial amount of money in the printing of the material and then circulate it throughout the country with the avowed aim of providing scientific information and knowledge to the adolescents whereas the reality was that the AEP volumes were highly objectionable and bound to be rejected lock, stock and barrel. According to the Committee, Adolescence Education Programme (AEP) is a cleverly used euphemism whose real objective was to impart sex education to school children and promote promiscuity. The Committee observes that had this petition not been brought before it and had the media not highlighted the seamy side of AEP, the authorities would have gone ahead in full stream in implementing the AEP throughout the country which would have done incalculable damage to our school children who are the future citizens of this country. It is ironical to note that dissemination of information about HIV/AIDS, and its prevention and propagation of safe sex by using condoms, are the key features of the AEP meant for the target group of school children between 14 to 18 years which was sought to be passed on to the school curriculum in the guise of AEP. The Committee had gone at great length to find out whether there really existed any justification for introduction of AEP, with focus on HIV/AIDS, but did not come across any credible study or survey which could establish that the school children in the age group of 14 to 18 years were in the high risk group prone to HIV/AIDS.
6.2 School education and the curriculum building are the exclusive domain of the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India and the specialized agencies under its control, namely, NCERT, CBSE, etc. The Committee is constrained to observe that in the present case neither the Ministry of HRD nor the specialized agencies performed their assigned role. It is also intriguing to the Committee as to why National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), a body under the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare was so actively involved in the whole process and was given a primacy in the building up of the AEP syllabus. The Committee could not understand why the Ministry of HRD continued to acquiesce in the role played by NACO and virtually condescended to it inasmuch as NACO had interestingly taken up review of the AEP syllabus much before the Ministry of HRD had commissioned a relook. It appeared as though NACO was the original author of the AEP Programme and was in charge of its implementation, review and subsequent modification in the contents of the programme.
6.3 Another disturbing factor which came to the surface, in the exercise undertaken by the Committee, has been the total lack of coordination amongst various agencies in formulating and implementing the programme. Yet another disturbing aspect has been lack of adequate consultations with State Governments and other stakeholders in formulating and implementing the programme in the light of the fact that ours is a federal polity and that the State Governments had expressed divergent viewpoints on the subject. ‘Education’ being in the ‘Concurrent List’, it was desirable that views of all State Governments ought to have been ascertained and a consensual approach taken before implementation of the scheme in the States and the Union Territories. In the initial stage of examination of the subject, the seriousness of the matter was not fully realized. It was only after the petitioners and others brought to the notice of the Committee the objectionable texts, sketches and diagrams in the literature of AEP, than it was realized that the issue needed to be inquired thoroughly. The parents were kept in the dark about the contents of the syllabus; the subject was never put in the public domain, no attempts made to forge a national consensus on such an important subject affecting the lives of our school children. The Committee would like to recall that in its first meeting which was convened to hear the petitioners and others, hard copies of the powerpoint presentation were made available to it. Having gone through them, the Committee decided not to have the powerpoint presentation as it would have been very embarrassing to Members, officials and witnesses present in the Committee Room, to view them. It was really an unpleasant task for the Committee to go through the material of an indecent nature in the four volumes of AEP and the YUVA volumes brought out by the Government of NCT of Delhi. If such could be the reaction of a Parliamentary Committee, one could well imagine the negative effect it would have on our school children. Nevertheless, the Committee draws satisfaction over the fact that due to the initiatives taken by it, the vigilance displayed by the civil society activist, spiritual leaders, and other stakeholders and some of the State Governments, that it was able to bear enough pressure on the Government to put the AEP on hold till a new version of the programme was formulated and national consensus arrived at before actual implementation thereof. The Committee also draws solace from the fact that a misconceived AEP was thoroughly revised by a committee under the Chairmanship of Chairman, CBSE which did not contain any of the objectionable matter found in the earlier syllabus.
6.4.0 The Committee having deliberated at great length on the pros and cons of the petition makes the following recommendations:-
6.4.1 There should be no sex education in schools.
6.4.2 Message should appropriately be given to school children that there should be no sex before marriage which is immoral, unethical and unhealthy. Student should be made aware of marriageable age which is 21 years in case of boys and 18 years in case of girls and that indulging in sex outside the institution of marriage was against the social ethos of our country. Students should also be made aware that child marriage is illegal and is injurious to the health of girl child. They should also be educated that consensual sex below 16 years of age amounts to rape.
6.4.3 Appropriate, age specific curriculum should be drawn up for Scientific Health Education, Moral Education, Personality Development and Character Building, Environmental Awareness and Social Awareness. Health Education may include education on hygiene and physiological changes which takes place in the adolescents especially amongst the girls.
6.4.4 The curriculum may commence from 8th Standard onwards to be implemented in all the schools of the country – Government, Public and Private. Education about HIV/AIDS and need to control this deadly disease including Sexually Transmitted Disease may be imparted in the higher classes. Appropriate chapters thereon may be considered for inclusion in the syllabus of ‘Biology’, not before 10+2 stage.
6.4.5 Awareness of our rich cultural heritage needs to be spread amongst school children by using latest technology like audio animatronics shows, hi-tech museums, cultural tableaux, theme parks etc., so that the target group takes keen interest in the subject. Student should also be taught the values of our family system and the need to preserve it.
6.4.6 The new curriculum should include appropriate material on the lives and teachings of our great saints, spiritual leaders, freedom fighters and national heroes so as to re-inculcate in children our national ideals and values which would also neutralize the impact of cultural invasion from various sources.
6.4.7 In this context the Committee would like to stress upon the fact that our school syllabi must cater to the needs and requirement of our society and culture. Our country’s social and culture ethos are such that sex education has absolutely no place in it. Basic human instincts like food, fear, greed, coitus etc. need not be taught, rather control of these instincts should be the subject of education. But present academic system incites stimulation of instincts which is detrimental to the society. To focus Indian education on ‘instinct control’ should the important objective and for that the dignity of restraint has to be well entrenched in education.
6.4.8 The Committee is happy to note that the revised curriculum drawn up by the Review Committee under the Chairmanship of Chairman, CBSE has tried to take care of the various contentious issues to a large extent and as such is more acceptable than the previous curriculum. In comparison to the old curriculum, the revised curriculum is apparently more customized with an Indian outlook. In the new curriculum various new aspects of human relations and personality development have been explained properly which are necessary for children in the present times. In this context the Committee would like to make the following suggestions.
- Chapters like ‘Physical and Mental Development in Adolescents’ and ‘HIV/AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases’ and other Chapters related to these topics may be removed from the present curriculum and included in the books of Biology not before the 10+2 stage. This would be more effective, appropriate and acceptable.
- The remaining Chapters be made more extensive and introduced under a new name ‘Character Building and Personality Development Programme’.
- “Naturopathy”, “Ayurveda” “Unani” and “Yoga” be made integral part of the new syllabus.
- The ultimate aim of the new syllabus should focus on the total development of the child.
6.5 Today there a need to reintroduce the subject of moral values in our school curricula since society seems to have lost much of its faith in the ethical value of humanity. These values have always been emphasized in the Indian scriptures and epics. What has been viewed for so long as a family responsibility, value education should become an important part of the curriculum of any educating body. The responsibility of strengthening the values of a society lies not only in the individual hands; educators must assume the role of mentors in this time of need and bring about change to usher in a better world – a world of unselfish concern for those around us.
6.6 It is to be remembered that in the past, elders themselves taught values to their wards. Parents led by example. Grandparents enlightened young receptive minds with stories, fables and parables. Today, many Indian parents have hardly any ‘Quality Time’ for their children because of their preoccupations. Often grandparents are in homes for the aged. Young people pursue glamour and materialistic attainment. Swami Vivekanand is relevant even in these modern days when he says,
“….Today, when material ideas are at the height of their glory and power, today when man is likely to forget his divine nature, through his (growing) dependence on matter, and is likely to be reduced to a mere money-making machine, an adjustment is necessary….”
This adjustment can unarguably be brought about by value education. It is now important to stress the need for value education as an important activity of educators of all streams of studies in schools and colleges.
6.7 Educators in India need to awaken to the most precious task of teachers, that is, rekindling in the minds and hearts of its students an increased awareness about the strengths of their values. Curriculum designers must become sensitive to this dimension of education because it is an area that has attracted little or no attention until recently, since it was assumed that all students uphold moral values and belief systems. The truth is that, on the whole, they are, but these values are slowly becoming obscured in the growing materialism of the young workforce.
6.8 Teachers in India must be entrusted with the task of helping to mould the character of students. This responsibility involves many painstaking exercises for the teacher. Teachers who help students must learn to listen to the specific comments they make. This assistance will help to determine the type of value system that guides their behaviour. Students who are listless and apathetic should become more purposeful and self-directed after being trained in value education.
6.9 Every teacher should aspire to strengthen students’ minds, fortify their hearts, vitalize their thoughts, and help them crystallize their principles. Teachers must help students clarify their values so that they can make wise choices when faced with confusing options. Schools and Colleges must become the training ground for students to become better-adjusted, tolerant, and neighbourly citizens. This should also be backed up by professional guidance and counselling sessions.
6.10 In conclusion, the Committee would like to recommend to the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development to consider the observations and recommendations made by it in this Chapter while finalizing the new syllabus on the basis of the revised curriculum submitted by the National Review Committee. After taking into consideration this Committee’s observations and recommendations, the feedback received from the State Governments and UT Administrations, the feedback received from parents, teachers and other experts and the general public, the Ministry should finalise proposals on the new syllabus, which would act as a model for the entire country, and obtain approval of the competent authorities. Thereafter this matter may be placed before the Chief Ministers’ Conference so that a general consensus is arrived at before implementing it in all the schools of the country.
6.11 Pending finalization of the new syllabus, the Committee calls upon the Ministry of HRD (Department of School Education and Literacy) to issue advisories to Chief Secretaries/Education Secretaries of all States/UT Administrations to withdraw the existing AEP literature from all schools, State run or CBSE affiliated, if those are still in circulation. The Committee would like the Ministry of HRD, being the nodal Ministry, to clarify to all concerned that pending finalization of a national policy on the new curriculum, no other set of instructions should be allowed to be introduced in the Schools, in any form or manner. Learning from past experience, the nodal Ministry must ensure that the entire process is completed under its superintendence, direction and control.
6.12 The Committee calls upon the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Department of School Education and Literacy to apprise it of the action taken on its recommendations at the earliest.