Objectives of the study:
This study attempts to assess social science (secondary stage), sociology and commerce(higher secondary) textbooks with regard to
teacher’s organization of classroom practices- use of textbooks, adoption of various pedagogical approaches, facilitating activity based learning and evaluation process
students and teacher’s perception about social science and commerce syllabus textbooks and
student’s learning levels in subjects.
The present study looks into whether the use of social science, sociology and commerce textbooks resulted in the following:
Is there a shift from teacher-centered to student-centered classroom practice?
Has the use of NCERT textbooks resulted in changes in assessment practices?
Has student’s achievement in social science and commerce subjects improved?
Are students able to connect the social science and commerce knowledge acquired in the class to their immediate environment?
Has the level of understanding of national curricular concerns among teacher students improved?
Has stress among teachers and students been reduced?
Forty-eight government and private aided schools from two states viz., Haryana and Uttarakhand affiliated to three Boards viz., Central Board of Secondary Education (5 schools), Haryana (19 schools) and Uttarakhand Secondary and Higher Secondary Examination Boards (24 schools) participated in the study. These schools are administered by state education departments of Uttarakhand (16 schools), Haryana (17 schools), private educational trusts and funded by state governments (2 in Haryana and 8 in Uttarakhand), Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (NVS- Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas JNVs- 2 in Haryana and 1 in Uttarakhand) and Kendriya Vidyalaya Samiti (1 in each Haryana and Uttarakhand). They follow NCERT syllabus and are expected to use NCERT textbooks. As many as 200 teachers teaching social science for classes 6 to 10, sociology and commerce for classes 11 and 12 and 2500 students studying in classes 9 to 12 in these schools took part in the study as respondents.
Classroom Observation Schedule
Questionnaires for Social Science, Sociology and Commerce Teachers
Focus Group Discussion Schedule for Teachers
Focus Group Discussion for Students
Achievement Test in Social Science for class 10
Achievement Test in Commerce
Achievement Test in Sociology for class 12
Checklist and Field notes
Count, Percentage Analysis, Mean,
Standard Deviation, Standard Error and F-Value were used in this study.
Use of NCERT syllabus and textbooks:
In Haryana, teachers used NCERT textbooks in 17 out 30 classrooms. In Uttarakhand, 22 out of 29 teachers used NCERT textbooks. NCERT textbooks were used by teachers particularly for classes 9 to 10. In class 11 and 12, mostly private publishers textbooks were used. The access to and use of textbooks in schools is driven by examination system. The research team observed students not widely using NCERT textbooks in many schools and particularly in Haryana.
Perception on syllabus and textbooks:
Content presentation in NCERT textbooks received only a satisfactory level appreciation by teachers in the study schools. Social science and Commerce teachers reported that language, presentation and the quality of narratives in NCERT textbooks as of High standard and are meant for urban students. According to them, students studying in rural schools were not able to connect them with their local environment. Language and subject specific technologies used in Hindi version NCERT textbooks were major sources of discomfort for both students and teachers. Many terms used in textbooks are not used in common parlance.
Not only the number of topics was more in social science course particularly for classes 9 and 10, but also some Social Science Text book chapters are lengthy.
However, students appreciated the visuals and general layout of NCERT textbooks. Both students and teachers appreciate a variety of questions given in textbooks. Though both students and teachers appreciated a variety of questions given in textbooks, ,most activities suggested in textbooks were not concluded. Teachers reported not having enough time to do textbook activities. According to teachers, maps were insufficient for teaching history and geography. Some perceive textbooks should mainly be books of facts and figures. Teachers expect the data and information given in textbooks be updated. As fact-based questions are asked in examinations, students are required to supply answers with latest information.
The pedagogical reasons for the use of subject-specific textbooks introduced these classes by the NCERT and suggested in the curriculum framework documents was not understood by teachers. Teachers found difficult to see the linkages between the objectives and how they were incorporated in different textbooks. Teachers understanding of what is happening in the different social sciences and commerce knowledge domains within and outside India is limited due to which they did not understand why textbooks topics, themes are organized and presented in the manner differently. Teachers think mostly in subject boundaries. Inter-disciplinary approaches followed in some topics were not appreciated some teachers.
Limited understanding of changes in Social Science and Commerce syllabus and textbooks and their philosophical underpinnings as suggested in NCF 2005 (for eg, Constructivism as a way of organizing teaching learning process) is true even for KV and JNV teachers who work closely with NCERT relatively for longer period and underwent training within their system and in NCERT. The perception gap is wide and significant in Haryana than in Uttarakhand. For eg, teachers felt that there was no need to teach sustainable development and people’s movements in the geography textbooks. Social Science teachers also think that it was not their job to teach history of culture, literature and language included in the NCERT history textbooks. Rather they feel that more contents related to Indian history could be included in the syllabus. Social Science teachers could not recognize that Indian history is being taught continuously for three years i.e. in classes 6,7 and 8.
Social Science and Classrooms:
Most of Social Science and Commerce teachers in the sample school classes rely heavily on writing on board, reading the textbook and explaining the points. There were a few hands on activities, group works and projects. Teacher posing questions and students answering them was the only interaction between teachers and students. Many a times the questions were very superficial, without making the child inquisitive and were just based on lower order thinking skills like remembering facts. Textbooks were used testing the learners rote learning skills. Only in a few classes teachers encouraged student’s active participation the discussions carried out in the classroom in the form of question and answers did not provoke the learners. Many students are inactive during class lectures.
However, teachers managed classes better. At times, they could appreciate student’s answers and help them to find answers, though the quality of questions as pointed out earlier, superficial and recall based. In most classrooms students were silent, docile, passive and behaved well. All these indicate that Social Science and Commerce teachers classroom practices are generally reflective of teacher-centered approaches.
Connecting school curriculum with local environment and daily lives:
A major section of people in Haryana and Uttarakhand reside in rural areas and depend on agriculture as the major source of livelihood. Cutting across schools, a few students connected social science concepts and topics with daily life issues such as agriculture, weather, monsoon, village panchayat, environment, state and national level elections. Girl students identify and recognize gender discrimination they face in their homes and shared in classrooms. Occasionally caste and religion find space in a few classroom discussions. However, all these depend mainly on the teachers interest and motivation.
Also, students do not get opportunities to share their lived experiences in classrooms. It was common to see students not able to differentiate experiences which can be shared in classroom and those which need not be. In a few occasions, rural students were not able to understand the urban centric contents in Business Studies course such as multinational companies and functioning of corporate sector. Many teachers reported that students were not intelligent enough to connect social science and commerce concepts with daily life experiences.
Compared to the scope available in NCERT textbooks, the amount of discussion taking place in classrooms, as reported by students and teachers, was relatively less. However, a new beginning is made in the Social Science and Commerce classrooms providing scope for discussions on social issues.
Understanding of National Curricular Concerns:
Teachers recognize that textbooks- particularly the political Science textbooks provide opportunities for developing the national curricular concerns. However, their perception towards NCCs as expected in curriculum framework documents was not satisfactory. This was true for teachers of both state and centrally funded sample schools.
Changes in Assessment Practices:
Sample schools in both Haryana and Uttarakhand introduced changes in the assessment practices in the light of NCF 2005. The prominent among them is the introduction of Semester System in Haryana from 2006 for classes 9-12. uttarakhand introduced CBSE pattern prevailing prior to 2009. JNVs and KVs introduce assessment practices. The end of the semester examinations of Haryana schools for classes 9 and 10 are almost similar to the CBSE summative assessment. However CBSE gives emphasize on the formative assessment and summative assessment almost equally whereas the Haryana Board still gives emphasize on closed- book written examinations at the end of semester. While Social Science and Commerce students of CBSE schools reported doing project works and hands-on activities more frequently, there is a complete absence of these in Haryana and Uttarakhand Board schools. Even if they were noticed in some schools, most of them were carried out for name sake.
There is a clear divide between students and teachers with regard to their perception on the semester system in Haryana. While students reported liking the semester system, it is a major source of stress for teachers. Students reported that they need not have to study vast syllabus and textbooks for closed-book examinations, teachers were persuade to teach large amount of syllabus within the short span of time, prepare students to take on Board level semester Examinations. For example, students of class 9 and 11 come to take admission only in July whereas the teachers are expected to teach topics during April 30 to September 30 of every year. Teachers had to set question papers for monthly tests- called Unit Tests held twice in a semester, prepare students to take on the semester examinations.
Uttarakhand also changed the examination system but not as that of Haryana. Rather they followed CBSE in a half hearted manner leaving many issues unresolved. Marks are allotted for continuous and comprehensive evaluation (CCE) and for doing projects, yet teachers and students were not found doing projects and activities as seen in CBSE schools.
The CCE introduced by the CBSE has increased the workload for the teachers working in JNVs and KVs. CBSE school class 11 students reported difficulties in transition-moving to annual examinations from CCE system.
Teachers were not happy with State Board Examinations as Board examination questions were mainly based on specific private textbook publishers. In Haryana, this issue was acute as many teachers and students in a few focus group discussions reported not even seen NCERT textbooks.
Students Learning Levels:
Students learning achievement in the sample schools was low at less than 40 percent. Their learning levels among subjects were relatively better in Social Science and Sociology than in Commerce subjects- Business Studies and Accountancy. Learning gaps across school managements was high in Haryana than in Uttarakhand. Compared to CBSE school students, student’s learning achievement was relatively low in schools run by state governments of Haryana and Uttarakhand. However, the learning achievement gap was not wide and consistent across subjects.
Compared to Uttarakhand, the learning achievement of Haryana students was better. There was a wide gap in the learning levels of boys and girls in Haryana with boys learning levels were better in some subjects. In Uttarakhand, girls learning levels were better in almost all higher secondary subjects. Learning levels in class 9-10 Social Sciences are moderate and similar for both boys and girls.
The learning achievement of Other Backward Class (OBC) students were better than the students belonging to other categories. This was prominent particularly in class 12 Sociology and Accountancy both in Haryana and Uttarakhand. The flip side is seen in Social Sciences, others category students have performed better.
Though Urban students in general were accessible to learning resources, this has not resulted in better learning achievement in the samole schools as there are no major differences in learning levels across rural and urban schools.
The learning levels across 9 to 12 suggest that students were able to recall what they have learned in class 9 and 11 much better than what was taught in class 10 and 12.
It was expected that students at the higher secondary level are grown up and they can understand abstract ideas. The level of learning achievement in different subjects and topics within subjects indicate that students find difficult to deal with theoretical/legal aspects. Students answered for most topics which have close links with their daily lives.
However, as a caveat, considering the period and the way in which achievement tests were conducted in schools, many of these evidences should be treated as preliminary observations which require further investigation.
Curricular Overburden and Stress
Though the semester system has reduced the stress levels of students in Haryana, as pointed out earlier, it has increased stress levels particularly for the teachers. One important source of stress for the students in general in both Haryana and Uttarakhand is the use of five books- four brought out by NCERT(four subjects- history, geography, economics and political science) and one (disaster management) brought out by the CBSE / SCERT. Another source of stress is the non-comprehensible nature of contents particularly the Hindi version of history textbooks. Both teachers and students found it difficult to some topic contents in history textbooks.
Social Science and Commerce curricula aims to impart social, cultural and analytical skills required to adjust an increasingly interdependent world, and to deal with political and economic realities. This necessitates revitalisation of teaching these subjects towards helping the learner acquire knowledge and skills in an interactive environment.
The Social Science textbooks were developed and presented in a manner to do away with rote learning and to provide scope for non-traditional engagement of students by the teachers- in involving in discussion, finding answers collectively. Similarly Commerce curriculum offer Business Studies and Accountancy expects students to become thinking accountant and imbibe entrepreneurial abilities to behave like business persons.
Education is in the Concurrent list of the Indian Constitution and State Governments play crucial role in providing schooling in India. Although some states prepare syllabus and textbooks in on their own, states aspire to use national level syllabi and textbooks and expect that this would result in improvement of teaching learning processes in schools under their administration. The present study shows that this need not be so. The present study reveals that merely following NCERT syllabus and recommending NCERT textbooks to schools may not result in higher learning achievement.
Questions in Social Science and Commerce textbooks promote critical thinking skills, help students to think on their own and develop multiple perspectives. This study suggests the imperative to take along the Social Science and Commerce teachers to implement curricular reforms.
The sample schools prepare students mainly for the Board examination. The examination centric schooling compel students procure and use curricular materials suggested by their teachers. When teachers recommend students to use pedagogically poor quality guidebooks containing only questions and answers, all the curricular reform initiatives of NCERT and state governments could become a futile exercise.
What NCERT can do?
Re-look at Syllabus and textbooks:
The NCERT Social Science and Commerce textbooks contain many new components- presence of different forms of narratives, visuals, in-text questions, activities. Students and teachers reported liking them. In order to make use of curricular materials, there is a need to re-look at the number of topics, concepts, subject-specific issues included in the existing syllabus. It is also necessary to review the length of chapters and language particularly in class 9 and 10 history textbooks.
Improve the presentation of contents:
Most students in the study schools reported using guidebooks of private publishers. This was essential even for those students who use NCERT textbooks. The gaps between NCERT textbooks and the guidebooks, according to some teachers and students can be bridged by incorporating some of the features of the guidebooks into the textbooks such as
giving a recapitulating section at the end of every chapter
a glossary of important words and themes
a table of dates and events
more end-text questions for which answers would be intelligently guessed by students and teachers using hints available in the contents
including activities which can actually be done in the classrooms within short time.
Some students suggested activities like quiz, drawing and map making. However, for this to happen, syllabus has to be re-looked.
Simplify Language and Improve Comprehensibility:
NCERT needs to review Social Science and Commerce textbooks from the point of view of vocabulary and language comprehension. Almost all students participated in the study use Hindi as a medium of learning. The long and complex sentences used in these textbooks were found to be difficult to comprehend particularly for students from the hill districts in Uttarakhand. Hindi speaking students live in different parts of India and the words used in Hindi version NCERT Social Science and Commerce textbooks need to be recognized and understood by all Hindi speaking students and teachers.
The Commerce teachers viewed that the Hindi terminology of Accounting is hardly used in the classroom. Students practice accounting in English. They preferred to have accountancy textbooks in bilingual form so that students are facilitated to study theory in Hindi and solve questions in English. NCERT can consider this suggestion not only for Commerce textbooks but also for Social Science textbooks. Also technical terms can be given in English in brackets along with the comprehensible Hindi term.
Review Questions in Textbooks:
Many students and teachers reported that it was difficult for them to know the answers for questions given in textbooks. This also indicates that NCERT needs to review all the in-text and end-of the chapter questions given in textbooks for their quality and suitability for practical purposes/for conducting various forms of assessment- the extend to which questions are suitable for Board examinations and formative/ diagnostic purposes.
Bring out Books on Exemplar Problems and Solutions:
In some subject areas, students require numerical problems for practice. NCERT can bring out separate exemplary problems with answers and supplementary reading materials for use by students for subjects such as Statistics for Economics (class 12) and Accountancy (class 11 and 12).
Develop Audio-Visual materials pertaining to Textbooks contents:
Since the new textbooks encourage students to go beyond textbooks, NCERT can come out with a variety of audio-visual materials to supplement textbook. Some steps such as the launching of National Repository of Open Educational Resources (NROER) and epathshala are noteworthy. However, many Indian schools do not have computers and internet to use these digital materials. One needs to explore how to reach out to schools digitally.
Improve Access to Latest Editions of NCERT textbooks:
Schools affiliated to CBSE in India increase every year. NCERT should make efforts to print books not only to meet the demand arising from the increasing number of CBSE schools but also the demand arising from other factors. Also NCERT needs to strengthen the marketing mechanism to reach out to students wanting to use NCERT textbooks- they may be studying in private schools, government schools, school affiliated to CBSE or state boards.
Students studying in KVS and JNVs reported using textbooks having outdated data. NCERT needs to intimate KVS, NVS and state using NCERT syllabus and textbooks about regular reprint editions.
What States, NVS, KVS and Private Aided School Administrations can do?
Improve Textbooks Availability and Access:
This is one crucial issue reported by students and teachers in many sample schools. Textbooks are not easily available to students and teachers in schools and the market. NCERT provides copyright permission to states to print textbooks in their respective states. Every year, NCERT also update data whenever required and brings out reprint edition of all text books including social sciences and Commerce textbooks. None of the teachers and students was aware about it in the sample schools. Hence, states using NCERT syllabus and textbooks should procure Camera Ready Copies (CRCs) of the latest textbooks every year and make available to schools and the market within their states.
The latest NCERT textbooks are also available on a NCERT website (http://epathshala.nic.in) for free download. If there is delay in availability of hard copies from states, teachers and students can download e-textbooks till new reprinted textbooks reach schools and markets.
In recent years, many states provide textbooks freely to students belonging to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and physically disabled. Some states also provide textbooks freely to all the students studying in government schools under various centrally or state sponsored schemes. Other states can also follow this practice by printing NCERT textbooks and distribute to students freely. This will lead to availability of good quality textbooks to students in state schools.
Students reported that it was burden for them to carry all the textbooks- meant for two semesters to school every day. Private sector textbooks- meant for two semesters to schools everyday. Private sector textbook publishers bring out semester wise textbooks. In order to address the needs of students under semester system, the state of Haryana can also print each textbook in two volumes – one per semester. In order to reduce the physical burden of students carrying textbooks to schools, some states such as Karnataka and Tamil Nadu pool together contents of different subjects and print one or two books per semester. Haryana also can follow similar approach.
Fill teacher vacancies in Schools:
In many sample schools, teachers recruited for teaching science, mathematics, sociology, commerce, Sanskrit and Hindi taught Social Science for classes 9 and 10. there were no vacancies filled in private aided schools of both sample states for nearly 15 years. In one sample school,1500 students were taught by just 12 teachers. Making teachers available in schools would reduce over burdened teachers and improve their teaching time.
Provide In-service Education course on Subject Contents:
Curricular reforms can be successful only when teachers and school administrators understand reform measures and the rationale behind it. When the textbooks began publishing by the NCERT from 2005-06, many orientation programmes were conducted by the NCERT through face-to-face
and through video conferencing. Most of these programmes were attended by teachers working in Kvs and JNVs.
The present study shows that about two-thirds of Social Science and Commerce teachers did not attend any training programme during the last five years. Even among those who attended the programme, most of them reported that they were not on subject contents. States can also seek support from NCERT in conducting these programmes, inviting experts who were involved in curricular reform-syllabus and textbook revision initiatives in NCERT.
Re-look at syllabus and Textbooks of Pre-service teacher education programmes.
Curricular reforms are not only meant for teachers who are already working in schools but also for prospective teachers. Higher education institutions offering teacher education programmes need to re-look at the existing syllabus for Social Science education in the context of NCF 2005 and NCFTE 2010. also scholars can be encouraged to write quality textbooks for pre-service quality textbooks. In recent years, the NCERT began publishing textbooks for two-year B.Ed course is an illustrative example.
Implement NCF 2005 and National Focus Group Recommendations on Examination Reforms:
India has been witnessing considerable change in assessment practices due to NCF 2005 and RTE Act 2009. Social Science and Commerce curricular practices also witnessed the impact of these reform measures. State Education Departments and Examination Boards need to work with teachers to take examination reforms to class rooms. Paper setters should be encouraged to include quality questions from NCERT Social Science and Commerce Textbooks. Orientation programmes on developing quality questions- both for classroom and formative assessment and for closed-book and open book examinations, how teachers can look for appropriate, imaginative, creative answers in answer scripts, need to be officials, marking scheme developers and teachers evaluating answer sheets. Recently CBSE made available some best answer scripts of students of previous year Board examinations in its website is worth emulation by states.
The CCE as envisaged in RTE Act 2009 and NCF 2005 require students to go beyond textbooks and work on projects and hands on activities. For effective implementation of CCE, financial provisions should be made from Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA). Students require computers, internet facilities, LCD projectors, smart boards. Stationary such as chart papers, sketch pencils, printing facilities are required. Students need to and can be encouraged to work with teachers on projects within class hours / schools. Teachers also require training and technical support to ease assessment related work burden such as developing question papers, submitting students marks etc.
Schools all over the world look for direction from governments and their agencies for change or reform. No doubt, schools in Uttarakhand and Haryana, KVs and JNVs have made their first step in reforming the way Social Science and Commerce was taught for many decades. It would be better if a few more steps suggested in this study are considered seriously by the educational stakeholders so that the goal of providing quality learning opportunities in schools as envisaged in NCF 2005 can be achieved.
Keyword(s): Social Science , Textbooks, Teaching Learning Process, Commerce