Difficult Textbooks Cannot be a Surrogate for Quality Education

Difficult Textbooks Cannot be a Surrogate for Quality Education
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MUKHTAR AHMAD FAROOQI

Text books are considered as an indispensable part of any formal or informal process of education but they are not the sole source of knowledge, especially keeping in view the other type of learning materials available these days. According to Webster International “A textbook is book used in the study of subject or a literary work relevant to the study of a subject”. Contents available within a particular textbook cannot determine the learning outcomes but to whom the book is prescribed and the way the content is taught (pedagogy) determine the outcome of that teaching learning process”. The aim of writing this piece is to bring into to the notice of the concerned stakeholders about the issues related to textbooks prescribed in some private institutions in particular and rest in general.
A common norm of private schools is that they prescribe textbooks from other private publishers up to 8th standard of their choice having a staggering price; the reasons are well known to everyone without forming the committee of experts who would have determined the quality of textbook and given their respective consent(s) of approval before being put into use. Based on this profit making scheme, most schools authorities amass whopping revenue during the book selling season but the irony is that some schools even change the publishers frequently so that the parents are not left with the option of buyback. Even though these textbooks highlight on the cover page that the textbook is in accordance with syllabi prescribed by NCERT (National Council for Educational Research and Training) or CBSE but when content analysis of the books is done, then it is found that the content is not within the capacity of the age group for which the book has been prescribed.
I would quote an example to defend this. A month ago or so I came across a science textbook prescribed for class 6 students wherein a chapter carried topic on Bohr’s Model of the atom including its various postulates. All those people who have studied science after secondary level are wary of the fact of complexity and abstractness of this concept but how come a student of class 6 would understand this abstract concept at this level. Similarly, some private schools compel their students to read 10th standard textbook of English in class 8th so that their parents think that their children have excelled a lot in their studies regardless of the fact that those students are not able to write even ten lines on their own if an essay is put into the paper that is not available in grammar books.
In some cases KG students are prescribed textbooks that even class 4 or class 5 students find difficult to grasp just to please innocent parents .Difficult textbooks are prescribed to deceive the parents in the name of quality education because, in our part of the world, in general , and for those parents who are half literates and those that are not directly involved in the process of education; quality education means how expensive uniform their child is wearing, the type of school bus in which children are ferried and difficulty level of textbooks.
I am not challenging the quality of textbooks from all publishers and all private schools but most of them do so particularly those functioning in rural areas which lack infrastructure and the faculty to teach those books and have been given recognition only on the basis of political affiliations.
The commission on education namely Education without Burden focused on the development of mental faculties and decreasing the burden of huge bags from the shoulders and minds of those innocent children who lose their childhood under this unwanted burden of books. These so called schools are running a blind race to get economic benefits in the name of quality by prescribing difficult text books and activities that are above their age both chronologically and mentally. Even the NCF(National Curriculum Framework) 2005 in its “Perspectives” mentions that information is often confused with knowledge and cautions against commodifying schools and application of market related concepts to schools and school quality. Sometimes, the contents move beyond the teaching capacity of teachers so they rush through the contents with tedious methodology.
According to a report published in the India Today Magazine “As the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) earlier made NCERT books mandatory in all its affiliated schools, several schools have shown displeasure against the move”. While NCERT books are well defined for board examinations, several private schools have alleged that the move will reduce schools to lower standards of quality education and further observed that they are less innovative in teaching strategies. Although the NCERT books are first prescription in almost all competitive exams but due to personal benefits they show displeasure. Despite this, we cannot deny the fact that NCERT books , at times, lag behind and are not revamped or updated at appropriate time. Even if the schools boast of providing a scientifically designed curriculum, the jacked up price of books cannot be ignored as it discouraged the spirit of right to free, equal, and compulsory education.
Although they claim that their books are the ones with quality parameters but if we go by the various sources that define quality education, then their claim does not stand to scrutiny. According to Bernard, quality education is one where the focus is on learning which strengthens the capacities of children to act progressively on their own behalf through the acquisition of relevant knowledge, useful skills and appropriate attitudes; and which creates for children, and helpsthem create for themselves and others, places of safety, security and healthy interaction. As per UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) Quality Education includes:
 Learners who are healthy, well-nourished and ready to participate and learn, and supported in learning by their families and communities; Environments that are healthy, safe, protective and gender-sensitive, and provide adequate resources and facilities;
 Content that is reflected in relevant curricula and materials for the acquisition of basic skills, especially in the areas of literacy, numeracy and skills for life, and knowledge in such areas as gender, health, nutrition, HIV/AIDS prevention and peace;
 Processes through which trained teachers use child-centred teaching approaches in well-managed classrooms and schools and skilful assessment to facilitate learning and reduce disparities;
 Outcomes that encompass knowledge, skills and attitudes, and are linked to national goals for education and positive participation in society.

The NCERT, in accordance with the emerging curricular and pedagogic perspectives, has suggested certain quality indicators for a secondary school which may help observers or a team of experts to observe the correspondence between intended transacted and achieved curriculum, which defines quality in school education. After receiving expertise from different stakeholders NCERT has given following general quality indicators:
 Learner Friendly Inclusive Curriculum -in which content of syllabi and textbooks in all subject areas connects school knowledge with learners’ day-to-day life incorporating social concerns.
 Classroom Processes- where all learners enjoy learning concepts and feel engaged in the process of acquiring/ constructing knowledge.
 Teacher- is eligible and trained for teaching secondary stage of school education, knows content well and also keep them update on their content and, understands connectivity among curriculum, syllabus and textbooks.
If the above mentioned quality parameters are kept in consideration, then the difficulty level of textbook is not quality education but that education which can result in holistic development of personality and application of knowledge gained in classrooms in the practical world .
Text books play an important role in successful schooling, so committee should be formed at s the state level and then at respective school levels that would prescribe the textbooks from private publishers that are in real sense beneficial and appropriate as per the age group but not to fascinate and disguise the parents because we comprise a society where we get fascinated by glory, fame and follow the herd
. It is pertinent to mention that most of private schools are administered by those who are not from the field of education or are lacking the knowledge of textbook development. The role of text books is not only to facilitate teaching but to develop the child’s attraction to books.
We must all understand and appreciate the role played by private educational institutions in imparting the quality education but now a days they have become more of money minting machines than the other way around.
For the betterment and improvement of children that comprise our future, we must understand that quality textbooks that have been crafted carefully and with expert opinion not difficult textbooks play a decisive factor in the quality of instruction in schools because our society doesn’t want tablets of information but educated good and happy human beings.

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