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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Textbooks - A Curse of Higher Education

Following is a response to the news report that appeared in Times of India on 20 July 2009 in the Education Supplement regarding the introduction of course pack (Reading-based Approach) in Political Science at the UG level in Delhi University.

Bhatia Surabhi. 'DU’s political science now reading-based' Times of India 20 July 2009. Click here for the article.

I am quite impressed with the Delhi University (DU) move of introducing course pack (reading -based approach) at the UG level for political science.

One of the fundamental problems with textbooks is that they present knowledge as closed. Instead of presenting knowledge as evolving or disciplinary knowledge as a contested area, textbooks present the finality of ideas/knowledge/discourses. The existence of textbooks at the higher education defeats the purpose of Humboldian idea of university, around which the present university structure has evolved, and based on which it justifies its existence. Further, the strong presence of textbooks brings higher education in general, and UG space in particular, under the high school culture where the finality of the teacher in the realm of knowledge prevails and not the production of knowledge.

While the textbooks retain teacher's hold over the students in a classroom and outside, they create a closure of any intellectual curiosity. Considering this I must say, textbooks are a curse of higher education.

I hope that this new initiative is not defeated in the usual argument of 'poor' learners put forth by the teaching community, which is more of a facade to consolidate their existing positions, rather than a real concern either for the students or to the profession.

While I hope and wish that the model is emulated by other disciplines at DU (if they haven't), and other universities in rest of India, I also hope that in emerging universities, teaching community and the administration make qualitative moves towards course-pack based teaching-learning at least in social sciences and humanities.

with full of optimism,


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