NCERT Social and Political Life-Social Science Textbook for Class VIII

NCERT Social and Political Life-Social Science Textbook for Class VIII

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brought forth the following tentative ideas one, we would need content that was grounded in the lives of students two, students needed to understand that democracy is not limited to the functioning of government institutions but depends primarily on the role played by ordinary persons and three, change in content would simultaneously require a different pedagogic style. The second question that struck us concerned the choice of themes within the subject area. Here we have explored many new themes, trying to balance what is appropriate for the middle school with a certain depth of analysis. It is unfortunate that social science has increasingly come to be viewed by students a box full of general knowledge facts to be learnt by rote. This existing understanding is completely opposed to what social science is meant to do, i.e. to provide a lens through which to analyse the world around us. This ability to analyse social issues is increasingly being viewed as a necessary and desirable skill to possess even amongst those who teach Science in Universities. As social science teachers, we should be proud of our subject area and the opportunity it provides to build in the student a critical and informed way of looking at their contemporary world. The third question related to the role that we expected teachers to play in this new subject area. This was more within the realm of pedagogy and we had the following thoughts on this one, that as often as possible we would not provide definitions for concepts that we discussed, two, that we would use stories and other forms of creative expression including storyboards to help the students empathise with the issues being raised, and three, that the in-text and end-text questions we asked would make students engage analytically with the material presented. The visuals that the book used, whether they be storyboards, photos or photo essays, were integral to the content and could be used for further analysis of issues. These should not be seen as decorative. Quite naturally for all of these ideas to materialise within the space of the classroom, we had to rely on more than the textbook. A national textbook, we recognised, would always fall short of providing particular content that was grounded in the vast diversity of students lives in this country. As far as possible, we have tried to spread the case studies across regions and social groups. Secondly, since contemporary concerns would necessarily highlight the inequalities that were woven into our social fabric, there was a need for mediation of information and opinion in the classroom space. And, this role is best played by teachers. So your role is not just to transact the content of the textbook but you have been expected from the start to bring in different, more local, examples and help students develop their own analysis of important issues. These textbooks also mark a departure from earlier ones precisely because they name and identify specific forms of inequality. These caste, religious and gender distinctions are also realities that are present in the classroom and therefore, our expectation is also that you will handle these situations with the necessary sensitivity. Paulo Freire, the Brazilian educator who characterised rote learning as akin to depositing money in a bank wrote that teachers should attempt to, live part of their dreams within their educational space i.e. in schools . And, we hoped that the social and political life classroom would serve quite easily as this space for teachers because the topics discussed in the textbooks were deeply connected to people s struggles for justice, equality and dignity. We hoped that
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the teachers strong identification with the topics discussed would allow them to guide students to critically pose questions on contemporary issues. We also realised that this critical lens we wanted students to develop would need to be linked to a larger vision. This was needed for them to make a more informed analysis as well as not develop a cynicism when confronted with stark realities of social and political life in India. We wanted them to be critical and positive at the same time. And, although this might sound contradictory to you, we were quite sure that we did not want one without the other. For students to be confronted by only unequal realities without having