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The reality of Text books

Text book is a help for a teacher and the actual learning depends on the capabilities of a teacher
12:00 AM May 06, 2024 IST | Dr Mushtaq Rather
the reality of text books
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Text books are indispensable tools to realize the curricular goals and objectives. The designing of text book therefore needs to be meticulously organised, and the job to compile text books in different subject domains requires expertise of highest order; both in terms of having mastery over the content matter and clearly defined in-built pedagogical frame work.

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Previously the essence of class room teaching–learning was central to the nature and type of text book and teacher usually was restrictive and limited in his /her approach while imparting black and white information to the learners.

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A teacher would hardly trespass beyond text books. The rigid and non-flexible approach on part of the teacher by totally relying on text books in content transmission has fostered the skill of rote-learning  and cramming up of the information by the end user.

NCF 2005, NCF ( Foundational stage) 2022 and NCFSE 2023

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Education sector has made immense strides past couple of decades and has therefore opened new contours and channels in disseminating learning content to the modern day learners. All the National Curricular Framework Documents: be it NCF 2005, NCF 2022  for foundational stage and National Curricular Framework for School Education (NCFSE 2023) have unequivocally laid down procedural framework on how to effectively achieve the curricular goals and aims by empowering learners as co-creators of knowledge rather than mere recipients of black and white information.

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NCF documents although extend great deal of emphasis to text books but strongly  discourages a teacher to be entirely dependent and text book centric. NCF documents, rightly referred as Bible of Indian Education is a guiding document for all the relevant stakeholders, especially the teachers. It empowers them to move beyond text books while exploring the learning horizons and subsequent fine honing of concepts  from the learner’s perspective.

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The NCF entrusts a degree of autonomy to teachers to judiciously make use of all available resources at hand and even come out of the four walls of the room, when it come to executing constructivist approach of teaching–learning, letting students to construct new knowledge based on their prior experiences rather than blindly relying on a single book. Text book is just a guiding path for the teacher and he/she holds absolute discretion to explore requisite ways and means to consolidate the concepts of the modern day learner.

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The un-ending text book controversy: The controversy around the text books has gained visibility and will certainly remain  a hot topic for considerable period of time. It is being debated in every type of public discourse. Even the social media platforms are flooded with memes, reels and discussions on the issue of text books. In our part of the world we have unfortunately limited our understanding of curriculum to mere text books, which is a wrong notion.

Text books by no means are curriculum in entirety. The term ‘Curriculum’ is not a restrictive term. We have limited our understanding of curriculum to text books which otherwise goes much beyond, with text books being just one entity in the broader domain of curriculum. As per National Curricular Frame Work for School Education 2023(NCFSE), which draws it essence from NEP2020, Curriculum refers to the entirety of the organized experiences of students in any institutional setting towards educational aims and objectives.

The NCFSE further emphasizes that the elements which constitute and bring life to curriculum are innumerable and include goals and objectives, syllabi, content to be taught and learnt, pedagogical practices and assessment, teaching learning materials, school and classroom practices, learning environment and culture of institution. So across the landscape irrespective of the school: be it government run institution or private institution curriculum is uniform, however text books might be different.

Public perception and reality of NCERT Books

Recently Union Public Service Commission has announced the final result of civil services examination (CSE 2023) and listening to the success stories of rank holders, where in they are talking  highly about the role  NCERT books have played in shaping their IAS dream progression and are rightly placing NCERT books right up in the priority list of to-do-things.

Then how come on earth we can demean or belittle NCERT books even crafted for elementary classes: books which  have the ingredients to let  IAS aspirants actualize their dream. The intervention of common text books is truly a laudable initiative on the part of the government and has certainly brought a sigh of relief to aggrieved lot of parents.

However, certain sections of the society  have created a false notion in the society that JKBOSE books are not the ones framed and designed by subject experts from NCERT. This absolutely holds no water as JKBOSE has the mandate to have a periodic review and updation of the books which in essence are the NCERT books, but are to be contextualized by incorporating local content as well. Education experts of highest order are of the opinion that NCERT books are by no means inferior to the quality and content of private  publications: be it Oxford , McMillan, Oswal , Modern , leads etc. However the quality of the text paper in case of JKBOSE books is certainly on lower side but at the same time as mandated by Right to Education Act (2009), government has to ensure free text books to a whooping number of more than 12 lakh students at the elementary level, where quality of the text paper is bound to nose dive.

In the current discourse private school sympathizers are strongly advocating that it must be the autonomy of the individual school to decide the type of text books as they believe that private publications like McMillan,  Oxford, Lucent, Lead etc., are high quality books. Are the teachers in these institutions equipped with requisite pedagogical set of skills to ensure the meaningful transaction of the text books? Or they simply believe in the actualization of exercise given at the end of the chapter or unit? What about the case studies, project work, higher order thinking skills, surveys etc., which are an integral component of these text books. Why a school cannot replicate same set of text books for the next academic sessions? Why change text books every now and then? Doesn’t it amount to profiteering?

For a versatile and resourceful teacher, a text book is a mere tool and his vibrant approach without relying too much on text books can take the learners to new echelons of knowledge. For a resourceful teacher, textbook is  just a skeleton and wrapping the muscles around the skeleton is the responsibility of the teacher.

Dr. Mushtaq  Rather, Educator  from Mattan Anantnag, J&K

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