The new National Council of Educational Research and Training (ncert) textbook on mathematics for class 1 is a welcome change from the earlier dull version. The layout is more attractive and multicoloured illustrations abound. But there is a major drawback. Most of the pictures seem to have been pilfered from foreign sources. Alien images hold sway; from the blondes on page 44 to the comic-strip characters of the Flintstones.
Is ncert trying to preach multi-culturalism to the kids? Were the illstrators too lazy to produce original work? The fact remains that the textbook's images are grossly out of sync with Indian experiential reality. Take the illustrations of fruits: there are hazelnuts galore, but not a single mango in the entire book. How many Indian children get hazelnuts to gorge on in summer and not luscious mangoes?
Critics carp that school textbooks do not always portray the nation's diversity without bias. This textbook does not allow any such cause for complain. It can be considered impartial, as the illustrations would be exotic to children all over the country. The book should also generate enough fodder for interested politicians to use the lack of 'Indian culture' as an excuse to hammer home more of their ideological leanings.