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  • Priyank Sharma

Agency of a teacher in the textbook culture

A curriculum designer went overboard in explaining how his publisher's books are extra-ordinary; that they don't just design the content but also lead the content for the teacher. They make sure they tell the teachers everything: what to teach, how to teach, which activities to do, when to take a pause, when to divide students in groups; basically, they hand hold teacher(s) for delivering the whole curriculum in the classroom.


He goes on to categorically mention: "Teachers ko kuchh nahi karna" (teachers don't need to do anything), they just need to follow the instructions in the textbook.


You see, the obsession with textbooks in our schools is huge. Somehow, we have come to believe that we need to give everything to the teacher on a platter (read textbook) because what if teachers can't innovate? I think we're fundamentally going amiss here; if teachers can't innovate then we need to question the education system, the selection procedure, the teacher training, etc. The idea of teachers sticking to the books forgets that curriculum needs to be embedded in the socio-cultural setting, and more significantly, assumes that teachers are dumb. And if they are not dumb already, will not sticking strictly to the books and the activities in the books only end up making them one?


The role of teachers in schools today is reduced to technicians who manage and implement curriculum(s). Teachers don’t have time and space to innovate curriculum according to social settings addressing specific pedagogical concerns. The underlying baseline is that teacher behaviour needs to be controlled and made predictable across schools. Their own agency to innovate is lost and they work only for the "jobs" they're in, not for the students they're involved with. The sheer "textbook culture" and "standardized assessment(s)" demands teachers to act as unthinking task-doers (instead of transformative intellectuals).


And that at the very least, is destructive !

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