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Texts and Books

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Texts and Books: Popular perception treats the textbook as the prime site for curriculum designing. Though curriculum planning is a much...

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 earth, 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 different 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. 

Vertically 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 at 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 different 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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