NCERT withdraws transgender inclusion training material after NCPCR notice

Law-and-Policy Schools Students

The National Council Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has withdrawn the training material released by it on the subject “Inclusion of Transgender Children in School Education: Concerns and Roadmap” after it received a notice from the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).

By a letter dater 2 November, 2021, NCPCR wrote to NCERT saying it had received complaints against the training and material and was therefore taking suo motu cognizance of the issue. By the letter, NCPCR asked NCERT to take action to rectify the anomalies in the document and verify the antecedents of the drafting members.

“The text of the manual suggests gender-neutral infrastructure for children that does not commensurate with their gender realities and basic needs. Also, the idea of creating and removing binaries shall deny them equal rights of children of diverse biological needs. Second, this approach will expose children to unnecessary psychological trauma due to contradictory environments at home and in school,” NCPCR chairperson Priyank Kanoongo is reported to have said in the letter to NCERT.

The training material, which was uploaded on the website of NCERT, was “designed for sensitization of teachers and educators regarding aspects of gender diversity keeping gender-nonconforming and transgender children at centre stage.” It also states that “The training material provides a foundation for developing sensitive school culture – geared up for inclusion and acceptance of gender diversity among school children. To achieve this target the training material specifies some strategies which can be easily practiced in schools. Suggestions are also made for the curricular modifications taking specific subjects and stages into consideration.”

The material goes on to define certain “concepts and terminologies” including biological sex. intersex persons, gender identity, cisgender, transgender, gender congruence, gender affirming therapy / surgery. sexuality etc. It then goes on to enumerate the existing legal and policy framework concerning transgender persons in India. The document then addresses the issues and concerns of gender nonconforming and transgender children in school education. Among other issues, the training manual addresses embedded practices and binary structures in schools which may cause discomfort to such children. These include uniforms, seating arrangements in classrooms, assembly and school functions, play areas, other spaces as common rooms, sports teams, choice of characters in dramas etc., and choice of hairstyle. It also highlighted issues of infrastructure, particularly in relation to toilets, changing room facilities in sports, hostel facilities etc.

The document then proceeds to give suggestions for strategies to help schools become sensitive and inclusive to transgender students. “Separate rows for boys and girls during assembly, school functions, seating arrangements in classrooms; gender wise separate uniforms, working groups for assignments, excursions, etc., should be discontinued. Mixed groups should be allowed, gender neutral uniforms can be introduced, etc. Teachers must aim at developing culture of care without being judgmental; which can be attained by mutual trust, active empathy and access to help.”, the manual reads. It also recommends sensitization of all teaching and non teaching staff, training of key educational personnel, installation of CCTV cameras and curricular reforms among other suggestions. It also suggests inclusion of success stories of transgender persons in the curriculum to promote sensitization towards transgender students.

The training manual has since been taken down from the NCERT website. A copy of the document is available here.

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