Indian bookworms turn

February 7, 1997

INDIA is deciding whether to "Indianise" university textbooks following complaints that western texts ignore "realities" and put students who are not fluent in English at a disadvantage.

The education ministry proposes establishing a national consortium for higher education textbooks to produce core textbooks. "The books should be Indian not only in the sense that they are written by Indian authors but also that they adopt the Indian perspective and use Indian examples and illustrations to make them intelligible and attractive to students," a ministry committee says.

Critics say such a move, rejected in the 1960s, would cut off students in Indian universities from the international mainstream. The mass-circulation English language newspaper The Indian Express said that "this is not the ideal manner to bring equal opportunity to campuses . . . and in fact is guaranteed to encourage the flight of intellectual capital".

The proposal has also been criticised on the grounds that local languages are ill-equipped for rendering complicated ideas into a comprehensible text and that those that are may not be accepted.

There is also the problem of experience. Ravi Vyas, a former chief editor of Macmillan India and now a senior Delhi University lecturer, says that while classroom teaching has given lecturers fluency in speech this has happened at the expense of the written word. He claims textbooks written by them require heavy rewriting.

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