A necessary dose of Minimalism - Why I prescribed Scholastic Textbooks for our Primary School

posted Feb 8, 2018, 7:03 PM by Prashant Bhattacharji   [ updated Feb 8, 2018, 7:49 PM ]
I have written in the past about how India's rote learning culture is largely a consequence of our textbooks. There is an unnecessary level of detail in most of our textbooks and this is generally for the sole purpose of expanding the number of pages and using that as an avenue to charge more. There is a whole cartel of players with vested interests in this game which makes it very hard to find compact textbooks, simply because they can't be priced at outlandish levels. Paying Rs. 350 for a class 3 Science textbook with nothing beyond the usual Indian curriculum, does not make any sense when the Scholastic series is excellent and is priced in the range of Rs. 150-250.  We'll be prescribing the "Mastering Science" series for ~500 kids between class 1 and 5 and the "Exploring Social Studies" series for ~275 kids between class 1 and class 3.


A little bit of minimalism will go a long way in helping the Indian education system. A little less detail will throw open a lot more time for casual reading and practical activities. 
One does not need ten pages of detail when ten gigabytes of information on any topic, are a few Google searches away. If anything, excessively thick textbooks do a great disservice in the primary years because they steal time required for far more critical language, math and spatial skills - and even playtime. 

Our little Primary School will be switching over to the Scholastic series for Social Studies and Science. 
There are several things I liked about them 
- Compactness. They cover all the required topics, but they do so within 100-130 pages. Many other textbooks have 200 plus pages. One wonders how much of that a 10 year old will retain. 
- Excellent visuals. Diagrams, pictures and figures make learning a lot more efficient and enjoyable. Each image is worth a thousand words. What can be learnt via a picture does not need a two page description.
- A reasonable number of questions at the end of each chapter. One does not need 50 questions for a 5 page chapter. Many other books have forcefully tried to insert questions and exercises. 
- Reasonable pricing. About 50-70% of the price of books used by good schools (for no real reason). 
- Will leave enough time for hands-on activities such as making posters or projects or practical tasks. 
- Chapters are covered in a manner which is concise without skipping any essential details. The mental clutter created by including a ton of trivia for kids to memorize, is something we can do without. 
- Some fun activities like crossword puzzles: kids enjoy these things a lot. 
- Scholastic also has a lot of affordably priced casual reading books for different age groups. Their Clifford series is exceptionally good for kids under 8 years of age. 

Mastering Science and Exploring Social Studies are the two series and we'll be using them for classes 1 to 5 and from classes 3 to 5 respectively. 
We hope to have an efficient curriculum which reduces the time spent on rote learning and opens up enough time slots for effective hands-on and practical activities. 
We will also help parents save up money which can instead be spent on storybooks, toys, puzzles and encyclopaedias. 

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