Where is my Textbook? #booksontime

According to NUEPA study on Elementary Education in India: Trends-2005-06 to 2015-2016, it has been found that 97.3% government schools received textbooks in Delhi but the question is when.

Quality in education is an important concern and good quality textbook is where it begins. It is unfortunate that in the capital city of the county, students are not receiving textbooks on time, as a result of which it has impacted the quality of education as is evident from studies like ASER. In India, large section of children are dependent on government schools. In Delhi, approximately 18 lakh children are enrolled every year in government schools from class 1 to class fifth. Accordingly, demand for textbook is also high. But what is evident from a survey in Delhi regarding availability of textbooks is   that textbooks are distributed very late in schools and sometimes as late as February and March.

Textbooks play an important part in the teaching and learning process. Textbooks became a regular constituent in post colonial India. In the textbook bound education system, quality education is dependent on the quality of textbooks. Availability, in this regard becomes non-negotiable. Textbooks held centre stage and became a source of contention as well as core source of knowledge. National Curriculum framework 2005, proved crucial in this respect. Education meant creating a space for the student and teacher, even to the extent of questioning the textbook. The latest NCERT textbooks made teachers think about their subject, and proved to be an ‘attempt to create an experiential India for our children’. However, this privilege has been restricted to a few children who attend unaided or public schools and not government aided schools.

In this world of information, students in class 6th and 7th standard look confused when they are asked if they have their textbooks. The culture of violence in schools has surfaced in so many ways and it spontaneously complements the culture of silence. Unavailability of textbooks and unaccountability of the government for it has become a ritual for years now. It is disappointing when artificial parameters of quality education like, colorful uniform, uttering English words, and transport facility like overcrowded vans are emphasized and real reasons are covered for petty political gains. There have been instances when School Management Committee (SMC) members raised the issue in a North Delhi school, however no attention was paid to their questions. Similar instances were raised in a SMC meeting held in Sarita Vihar. Students are given old books by teachers and this has become a substitute for unavailability of textbooks.

There has been a brutal neglect of child rights in schools and depriving children of textbooks is the worst of its kind. Structural violence and hidden curriculum not only reinforce inequality through education but legitimize it. In a country where education is a fundamental right and is free and compulsory, textbooks are not supplied – something that the students need the most. First, schools don’t have textbooks on time for all children and second teachers are not trained enough to read it or make meaning to the students and the surrounding milieu. The law gives right and it has a beautiful framework to make sense of the world together through co-construction of knowledge. It is possible when children will have their textbooks in their hand, they will read it to make meaning of it and the milieu they live in and question before learning to write answers. Failing the child is therefore nowhere the solution. The solution lies in dismantling the hidden curriculum to reinforce beliefs which legitimize inequalities and decide before the child reaches the school corridor, whether she will pass or fail. Every time somewhere she did go unheard asking…where is my textbook??

Written by: Aparajita Sharma (PHD), She is a researcher on education who specialises on education in conflict regions and currently associated with RTE Forums

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