New Delhi: A group of more than 1,800 scientists, science teachers and educators has written an open letter raising concerns about the chapter on "Theory of Biological Evolution" being dropped from the NCERT textbook for Class 10.
The signatories to the letter include scientists from noted institutions such as the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) and IITs, among others.
As part of its curriculum rationalisation exercise, the NCERT had last year announced that the chapter "Heredity and Evolution" will be replaced with "Heredity" in the Class 10 science textbook.
Among the topics dropped from the chapter are 'Evolution', 'Acquired and Inherited Traits', 'Tracing Evolutionary Relationships', 'Fossils', 'Evolution by Stages', 'Evolution Should Not Be Equated With Progress' and 'Human Evolution'.
The new books as per the rationalised curriculum have hit the market now with the commencement of new academic session.
Demanding that the theory of Darwinian evolution be restored in secondary education, the signatories, who are part of the "Breakthrough Science Society", have said that understanding the process of evolution is "crucial in building a scientific temper" and depriving students of this exposure is "travesty of education".
"Knowledge and understanding of evolutionary biology is important not just to any sub-field of biology, but is also key to understanding the world around us. Evolutionary biology is an area of science with a huge impact on how we choose to deal with an array of problems we face as societies and nations from medicine and drug discovery, epidemiology, ecology and environment, to psychology, and it also addresses our understanding of humans and their place in the tapestry of life," the letter said.
"Although many of us do not explicitly realise, the principles of natural selection help us understand how any pandemic progresses or why certain species go extinct, among many other critical issues," it added.
The scientists noted that in the current educational structure, only a small fraction of students choose the science stream in grade 11 or 12, and an even smaller fraction of those choose biology as one of the subjects of study.
"Thus, the exclusion of key concepts from the curriculum till grade 10 amounts to a vast majority of students missing a critical part of essential learning in this field," the letter said.
Dropping of several topics and chapters by the NCERT has been caught in controversy with several chapters, which were not notified by the council last year, found missing from the new textbooks.
While earlier the NCERT had claimed that not mentioning certain changes in the rationalisation booklet could have been an "oversight", later it said "minor changes need not be notified".