Being a part of the education industry and even more importantly, being an ardent believer in the power of education, I was thrilled to know that NCERT was planning a review of its school textbooks to incorporate the latest developments. Kudos to the government for doing something that was long due!
Reasons for the unease of people concerned about the quality of education are manifold. An important one amongst them is the relevance of what is being taught to the current environment. This is also the reason being cited by the government for the exercise. It says that it wants to incorporate the latest developments like Demonetisation and Goods and Services Tax in the school textbooks. Bang on!
However, this malaise goes deeper. Let’s take History as an example. The nature of the subject is such that it depends on previous generations for data. Not all information is documented or even available. This is a practical problem, which cannot be addressed even by the reviewers. However, what needs to be taken care of is the politicisation of the textbooks. It is said that it is the victors who write History, and therefore, they are likely to tweak things in their favour. Textbooks need to be factual and not reflect the flavour of the season. There are many other areas that also need to be addressed in the review, some of which are discussed here.
Though one can presume that strict quality standards must have been followed when the books were written originally, there are still chances that there were some errors – human or those due to lack of sufficient knowledge back then. It is possible that at the time of revisions, the new text would have undergone quality checks presuming the original was good already; thereby, passing the erroneous information down the generations. Therefore, it is important that the reviewers look at all the textbooks from scratch.
The reviewers need to develop a holistic approach to the exercise. They need to look at not just the content part, but also how that content is being delivered to or is reaching the students. In other words, the pedagogy also needs to be looked at.
With the advent of technology, the modes of teaching and communication with the students have changed. Though e-learning is making inroads into some schools these days, it is limited to the urban areas. Also, the technologies that are being used are a far cry from their international counterparts.
These days, students interact with students across the globe through various medium like social networking sites. Exchange programmes, global opportunities, and multiple languages are other aspects that have become the norm and will play a vital role in the future of the kids. In fact, even the parents of today have become more aware and are thinking out-of-the-box. Therefore, any review exercise needs to take care of these aspects as well.
In a nutshell, the content and the pedagogy need to be holistic, practical, relevant, up-to-date, and futuristic. Only then can this exercise achieve its desired objective.
So, how frequently should such an exercise be undertaken? Is it practical or even economical to undertake such a gigantic task at regular intervals? Given the significance of education in shaping the future of a country, it is advisable that such exercises are more frequent and regular unlike the current review that is being undertaken after a gap of ten long years! The world has changed by leaps and bounds in the past decade, but we are still teaching our children obsolete stuff!
The frequency of such exercises should not depend on the whims and fancies of the incumbent government. A comprehensive review every five years could suffice if the current exercise is done properly. In addition, an annual review to incorporate any recent developments or feedback can be undertaken. Parents, teachers, and students can be involved in the exercise even though indirectly. International trends and developments also need to be taken care of. In other words, a proper system needs to be developed that functions and is accountable unlike the current practice of having a piecemeal approach.
The foundation of every state is the education of its youth, and the key to progress is also education. Any government or institution that wants its country to progress, will understand the importance of the review exercise and why it needs to be done well. Need we say more?
(Shobhika Puri is a freelance writer)