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Geography in School Education

Sachidanand Sinha

Social Science Part II (Class X), Fundamentals of Physical Geography (Class XI; Semester I), Fundamentals of Human Geography (Class XII; Semester III) and India: People and Economy (Class XII; Semester IV).   Geography is an important component of primary, middle and high school curricula in the social sciences. Until Class X it is taught as a compulsory paper along with history, civics and economics. However, it is not one of the favourite optional subjects at the 2 level, though the number of children taking their higher secondary examinations with geography as one of the optional subjects remains large in comparison with other social science papers, particularly in government-run schools. My interaction with government and private school students and teachers during the last ten years makes me feel that geography is invariably ‘a last choice’ in the absence of other viable options, or is an easy subject which ‘one can simply memorise and get good marks’. Social sciences teachers in general and geography teachers in particular are of the view that geography as a subject taught in schools is intellectually less stimulating and challenging as it provides little ‘value addition’ in knowledge, essentially because of its encyclopaedic nature and failure to relate with the day-to-day experiences in social life.   Keeping these issues in mind I present here some of the findings of my analysis of the high and higher secondary (Class IX-X and XI-XII) geography curricula and contents of geography textbooks particularly those prepared by the NCERT following the adoption of the National Curriculum Framework for School Education in 2000. At the outset, let me acknowledge that a textbook is essentially an exercise in delineation of the subject-matter, and that its content should not restrict the teachers from taking up related themes in the class or even going beyond the scope of the textbooks in the larger interest of spirit of the curriculum and intellectual needs of students. However, owing largely to the centralized examination system (conducted by the CBSE or State Examination Boards) that is geared towards meeting the objective of maintaining an acceptable level of educational standard uniformly across schools and regions all over the country, provide little space for experimentation by teachers in classrooms. All it matters is the students’ performance measured in terms of marks obtained at the final examination!   A cursory look at the course content of high school social sciences book presents the best example of how a ...

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