Sunday, June 30, 2013

ROLE OF TEXTBOOKS IN EDUCATION

Texts and Books

Popular perception treats the textbook as the prime
site for curriculum designing. Though curriculum
planning is a much wider process, curriculum reform
seldom goes beyond changing the textbook. Improved
textbooks that are carefully written and designed,
professionally edited and tested, offering not merely
factual information but also interactive spaces for
children are important. But curricular reform can go
much farther if textbooks are accompanied by several
other kinds of materials. Subject dictionaries, for
instance, can relieve the main textbook from becoming
encyclopaedic, burdened by carrying definitions of
technical terms, and instead allow the teacher to focus
on understanding concepts. The triangular relationship
between high-speed classroom teaching, heavy
homework and private tuition, which is a major source
of stress, can be weakened if textbook writers focus
on elaboration of concepts, activities, spaces for
wondering about problems, exercises encouraging
reflective thinking and small-group work, leaving the
definition of technical terms to a subject dictionary.
Supplementary books, workbooks, and extra
reading come next. In certain subjects, such as
languages, the importance of such material needs no
fresh recognition, but the concept of such material does
call for fresh thinking. Current textbooks contain
uninteresting content covering different genres, and
workbooks simply repeat exercises of the type already
found in textbooks. In mathematics, and the natural
and social sciences, such supplementary materials still
need to be developed. Such books could draw
children’s attention away from the text to the world
around them. Indeed, for subjects like art, workbooks
may form the main classroom material. There are
fine examples of such materials produced for the study
of the environment, introducing children to the
observation of trees, birds and the natural habitat.
Such resources need to become available to the teacher
and for use in the classroom.
Atlases have a similar role to play in enriching
the child’s understanding of the ear th, both as a natural
and as a human habitat. Atlases of stars, flora and fauna,
people and life patterns, history and culture, etc. can
greatly enlarge the scope of geography, history and
economics at all levels. Posters on these areas of
knowledge, as well as other matters of concern on
which general awareness needs to be promoted, can
also enhance learning. Some of these concerns include
gender bias, inclusion of children with special needs,
and Constitutional values. Such material could be
available in a resource library and at the cluster level to
be borrowed by schools for use, or they could be
placed in the school library, or made available by
teachers.
Manuals and resources for teachers are just as
important as textbooks. Any move to introduce a new
set of textbooks or a new kind of textbook should
include the preparation of handbooks for teachers.
These handbooks should reach principals and teachers
before the new textbooks do. Teachers' handbooks
can be designed in many dif ferent ways. They need not
cover the content of the textbook chapter-wise, though
that can be one of the approaches. Other formats can
be equally valid: offering a critique of established
methods and suggesting new ones, and including lists
of resource materials, audio and video materials and
sites on the Internet. These would provide tips for
teachers, which they could use for lesson planning. Such
source books need to be available during in - service
training of teachers and during meetings when they
plan their teaching units.
Ver tically organised group classrooms (multigrade
or multiability) require a shift away from textbooks
designed for monograde classrooms, which assume
that all children are being addressed by the teacher
together and that they are all at the same stage and are all
expected to do the same thing. Instead, there is a need
for alternative types of materials to be made available
to teachers as a basis of planning lessons and units:
Thematic lesson with a variety of exercises and
activities a t different levels for different groups.
Graded self - access materials that children can
engage with on their own with minimum
scaffolding from the teacher, allowing them to
work on their own or with other children.
Whole - group activity plans, say, storytelling or
performing a small drama, based on which
children can do differ ent activities. For example,
all children from Classes I to V may enact the
folk story of the rabbit and the lion together,
and after this Groups I and II may work with
flashcards with the names of various animals;
Group III and IV may make a series of
drawings and then write out the story against
each drawing, working in small groups; and
Group V may rewrite the story, suggesting
alternative endings to it. Without the support
of appropriate materials, most teachers find
themselves trying to juggle monograde class
groups, with the result that for the majority of

children, time on the task becomes very low.

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