Reveries

A mishmash of spirituality, human relationship, adult and children's literature, news analyses and anti-road-rage tirades

A regulatory authority for school textbook publishing in India?

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Image source: Pixabay

Recently, there has been a lot of hue and cry among private publishing houses in the business of making textbooks for school children. This is because of a news that supposedly says that the Indian government is banning textbooks from private publishers and making it mandatory for schools to use textbooks from the government-funded publisher (NCERT) only.

I think the issue stems from a clash between two divergent schools of thought revolving around textbooks published by private players:

  1. PARENTS ARE VICTIMS. Textbooks from private publishers, although not required by law, are being prescribed by schools because of the schools’ business interests. So all schools should adopt only NCERT books, which are cheaper. Most newspapers in India subscribe to this view.
  2. PRIVATE PUBLISHERS ARE VICTIMS. By bringing in a ban to use textbooks from private publishers, the government is supposedly trying to shut down an entire industry comprising highly-paid authors, content developers, editors, illustrators, graphic designers and allied professionals. Most newspapers in India do not even discuss this as an issue, although an utter fear psychosis prevails within the industry.

But somehow the debates seem to ignore the most important stakeholders—the students using the books. In fact they are the victims.

Regardless of the fact whether the books are published by NCERT or private publishers, textbooks require to maintain certain standards in quality. Here is a non-exhaustive list of quality parameters for textbooks.

  • content
    • pedagogical requirements
    • level-appropriateness
    • treatment
    • extent of coverage
    • accuracy
    • sensitivity to genders, races, faiths, disabilities, common stereotypes and misconceptions
    • adherence to syllabus
  • visual appeal
  • utility in classroom situations
  • supplementary audio/video/multimedia material
  • production quality
  • support system and hand-holding to teachers
  • efficient and timely deliver to meet demands

In most cases, barring a few, textbooks from most private publishers score far better on almost all counts. But quality comes with a price. Hence, these textbooks come with much higher price tags. In the absence of any regulation, at times the prices can be just whimsical.

The NCERT books on the other hand may score considerably lower in terms of quality and definitely lower in terms of meeting the demand. These books are available at throw-away prices.

Seemingly, the children seem to be exposed either to the best or the worst depending upon how much their parents are affording. And parents, without the expertise to evaluate books on the required parameters, think that they have every right to choose affordability over quality.

My question is—do we have such a right to decide the children’s future in monetary terms only?

In the interest of the learners, who are the future of the nation, I would rather propose a new idea. In my opinion, both government and private agencies should come together to formulate an unbiased, not-for-profit regulatory authority in the line of IRDA, TRAI, etc. This authority can keep an eye on all the parameters discussed above.

The sooner this happens, the better for the nation.

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Filed under: Children's Educational Books, Current News, , , , ,

Are We Still a Democracy?

Democracy's Dance of Death (Illustration by Ranjit K Sharma)

Democracy's Dance of Death (Illustration by Ranjit K Sharma)

Imagine yourself standing next to your neighbourhood shopkeeper and bragging about your son’s smashing performance at the latest exam, while your domestic help appears in front of you all of a sudden only to inform on how your son’s school has sent him back to home today as a punishment for his bullying behaviour. Well, you are speechless, motionless! Isn’t it?

Indians too have found ourselves in a similar situation recently.

While Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen’s words, “mantle of democracy is now very much strongly held by India,” when addressing an audience at Oxford University’s Said Business School, highlight India’s strong democratic credentials, at the same time, the Jallianwala Bagh-like, mid-night crackdown on peaceful protesters, supporting Baba Ramdev’s fast unto death at Ram Lila Ground, New Delhi on Saturday night, tends to accentuate the glaring shortcomings therein.

Not in the distant past, we remember having settled down smugly self-satisfied at the victory of democratic values. The Indian democracy has deepened when members of the civil society such as Anna Hazare and others were included in the drafting process of the Jan LokPal Bill.

But with the above surprise, forced eviction, where thousands were manhandled, Indian democratic credentials have surely come under scrutiny.

Swami Ramdev’s demands might be too far-fetched. He may be a political greenhorn. He might be limelight-hungry. He might have assets worth over a thousand crores!

But that do not justify such undemocratic way of curbing his voice against the government; not to tell AICC General Secretary Digvijaya Singh’s uncalled-for statement of naming Baba a thug.

I think Baba has done the right thing by continuing his fast unto death.

The only positive sign about which he should feel lucky is the fact that he wasn’t arrested by the police, charged with an “attempt to commit suicide”, and force-fed though the nose like Irom Sharmila, who has been doing a Ramdev since November 2, 2000 for protesting against a similar, undemocratic law of the government.

Let’s cross our fingers and watch where we are heading towards!

Filed under: Current News, General Awareness, , , , , ,

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