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The problem of Pakistan's textbooks

By Staff Writer

What is a class without a textbook? It's a place of learning missing a crucial building block to impart education to students. Such is the problem of many classrooms in Pakistan.

Textbooks are the means of teaching a school or class's curriculum and are considered the most important instructional material at a student's disposal. In a number of studies, children who received textbooks in the course of their study achieved better academically than those that did not.

For instance, in neighboring India, children whose families were able to provide them with textbooks scored higher in tests of math and reading comprehension in 11 of the 15 largest states.

Generally speaking, many primary school students in Pakistan either lack textbooks and other learning materials completely or must, to a large degree, share them with other students.

One solution that has been proposed and implemented is to produce textbooks of very low quality to reduce the cost per unit. This, along with cheaper prices for the textbooks and state subsidies have successfully led to more low-income parents being able to purchase textbooks. However, these books of course do not last very long, given their poor quality in terms of binding, etc.

But the quality issue does not just affect the physical condition of books. Pakistani textbooks for primary school children are replete with factual errors, inappropriate illustrations and problems with readability. The country's textbooks are published by the provincial Text Boards. These bodies, which monopolize the textbook market in government schools, produce books that feature many, many factual and grammatical errors, along with major deviations from the specifications set by the Curriculum Bureau.

An additional problem is that the Pakistani government does not allocate enough money to develop, produce and distribute textbooks. In Pakistan, less than one percent of educational spending is aimed at textbooks and other learning materials. As a result, it is estimated that over 50 percent of children are without textbooks because of their high cost.

The language used in textbooks also creates confusion for students rather than aiding them as textbooks should, differing greatly from one grade level to another, and even from subject to subject among books at the same level. Pakistani teachers have reported that since the children were not fluent in the Naskh script used in the textbooks, they had to read the textbooks and summarize the lessons for their students.

In order to improve the quality of textbooks in Pakistan, a number of critical changes must be undertaken.

Firstly, the development and production of textbooks must take place along with curriculum development. This will ensure that students receive material that is relevant and will aid in learning and understanding course material, rather than causing further confusion.

Second, the private sector should be responsible for the production and distribution of textbooks, along with government assistance. This will enhance the quality of the currently substandard textbooks.

In addition, there must be greater encouragement for local initiatives in producing supplementary learning materials, since it is individuals involved in these endeavors who better understand what kind of material area schools need to further students' progress.

Third, teachers must be trained on how to effectively use the textbooks. This can be made easier if there are teacher guides which accompany student textbooks and feature not only the subject matter of the course, but teaching methods as well.

Finally, there must be an effective textbook distribution system in place to ensure that all schools receive this material. In fact, if the Pakistani government is serious about getting textbooks and learning materials to remote areas of the country, it must work to improve the transport infrastructure in school areas. In the short term, techniques like distance education can be used as an additional way to provide children with learning material in these areas.

Date/Time Last Modified: 6/17/2002 3:44:56 PM

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