School textbooks are not just teaching handbooks. They are windows to an ever-unfolding world. Teachers act as medium that connect students with the world through the textbooks. School textbooks promote attitude and values that ensure preparedness of well-informed citizenry of our future generation. In this regard, a letter to the editor which was published on August 18 issue of IFP demands serious attention of all stakeholders. The writer is a teacher serving in government school disturbed by a particular sentence: ‘He will send Chaoba to a government school which normally does not provide what we call quality education’. This sentence is from a school textbook prescribed by the Board of Secondary Education, Manipur. The book is prescribed as Social Science textbook to be taught in the sixth standard. The sentence, one finds, in the chapter ‘Making A Living’. This chapter explains different ways of earning one’s livelihood. According to the book, Chaoba’s father is a landless daily wage earner. He cannot afford to send Chaoba to a good school; therefore he will send Chaoba to a government school ‘which normally does not provide quality education’. In the letter, the teacher enunciates her dilemma of passing the message to her students that could tantamount to demoralising her students, if she were to translate the meaning of the sentence. The teacher at the same time acknowledges the general view that government schools are not the first choice for a good education, and that there are systemic flaws responsible for the poor performance of these schools. Nonetheless, the teacher is also aware of the subtext of the sentence, which would have a negative impression on the young minds of those who study in the government school. The teacher contends that the statement would not only demoralise the students but also the teachers as well. She rightly points out that the book was reviewed in 2012 by eight expert members, assigned by the Board. She enquires the learned scholars ‘whether inclusion of such sentence arouse doubts in the mind of the students or not?’ The teacher’s concern suggests the need for evaluating the school textbooks, of the content and pedagogy of the books. And perhaps, teachers are the best people to point out the failings. For they are the one who are constantly in touch with the curricula. They know and feel how children in the classroom respond to a subject, or a particular sentence. This is not an outright validation of the teacher’s contestation against the capability of the curricula experts. However, the authority of the BSEM and curricula experts should make it a point to relook into the book and the sentence mentioned by the teacher. The teacher who has written the letter has been very sensible on her part as a teacher who not only connects the world with the students through the textbooks but someone who cares. Her voice represents all other voices, which have identified one area of the impediments that enfeebles the connectivity. Her act of speaking out should be appreciated. By her action, the teacher has moreover challenged the general belief that government teachers are highly paid non-performers, who do not attend class regularly. There are serious teachers who are serious about teaching.
Leader Writer: Senate Kh