Friday, October 02, 2009

NCERT textbooks

They are absolutely amazing compared to the books we got from the Tamil Nadu Board way back in the 1970s [BTW, the TNB books -- available for free download -- have also improved, but are not as great as those from NCERT].

Anahita Mukherji and Akshaya Mukul of ToI have a great report on some of the nifty things NCERT has done in its textbooks. Though students' preferences still depend a great deal on how good the teachers are, it's wonderful to see a child react to her text book like this:

... Ankita Kamath, a class VI student, says math is now her favourite subject. She loves studying the elementary shapes in geometry. "The textbook has lots of interesting exercises that we can do ourselves," she says. "We don't need to go for tuitions anymore."

Mukherjee and Mukul do a very good job of telling the NCERT story. Go read all of it.

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FWIW, here's a previous post on how NCERT textbooks handle the issue of reservations.


  1. Anonymous said...

    While the new approach taken in the humanities subjects sounds refreshing, I have some problems with mathematics being taught in a "culturally responsive" way. There seems to be a general (and unquestioned) belief that teaching mathematics through concrete examples makes it easier to understand. This goes against recent research into how children (particularly toddlers) learn and how the brain works, which suggests, for instance, that number as an abstract concept exists in the brain and is not necessarily an abstraction from everyday experience (i.e. the child does not learn "two" as the common property of two fingers, two bananas, two cups etc.). Ms Rampal says "it is a myth that mathematics and science are culture-neutral". I don't understand how "1+1=2" is not culture-neutral. Or what "indigenous knowledge" can contribute to understanding it.

    [Disclaimers: (1) I have not read the books, just the ToI article. (2) I am a mathematician, so possibly biased.]

  2. Abi said...

    @Anon: About a year ago, some interesting research found that those who were taught abstract stuff did certain things better than those taught the same stuff with concrete examples. [See this blog post for a discussion]. But that was with college students; I am not aware of this sort of research on young kids for whom, I would think, concrete stuff is the way to go. If you have any citations [for the superiority of abstraction for even young kids], I would be interested.

    I'm with you on the other comment about "cultural neutrality" of math content. But I won't take Ms. Rampal's views all that seriously.

    I have looked at a few NCERT math textbooks; the culture bit comes in only through examples which use folks and situations in interesting cultural contexts. That's all.

    At the end of the day, kids still end up counting fish; they are not asked to evaluate the fish's preferences ...