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How to pass when textbooks fail

To work around errors in texts, students are using other ways to learn such as better books, the Internet and mobile apps. Bhavya Dore and Mugdha Variyar report.

mumbai Updated: Feb 27, 2013 01:49 IST

Notes from her coaching classes, and not her textbooks, are what Anisha Motwani is relying on for her ongoing Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) exams.

"There are too many errors. In the Chemistry textbook, they have given wrong formulae in several places, and one chemical compound has two different names on the same page," said Motwani who studies in a junior college in Thane. "Our teachers are also unsure when we ask them which answer is right."

With errors inundating textbooks, students often have little choice but to resort to alternatives such as notes from coaching classes, educational websites, digital media and even independent guides.

The Internet is the most popular alternative, especially for those who aren't giving a board exam, or are in schools where the text isn't sacrosanct. "I usually refer to online information because school textbooks are too specific on certain topics and do not elaborate much," said Rutwik Deshpande, a Class 8 student from Pawar Public School, Bhandup. "The information in the textbooks is just enough to write an answer, but we have to go beyond the book if we really want to know about the subject."

Some organisations and institutes have been printing their own textbooks for school students. The Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education (HBCSE), for instance, produces books for the primary level by engaging students and teachers in the process, referring to relateable daily life situations and keeping it activity-based. Some schools and non-profit groups also bring out their own texts.

"Our aim is to improve the quality of science and mathematics education in the country from primary school up to undergraduate level," said Jayashree Ramadas, director of HBCSE, describing the "small science approach" as "asking questions, making sense of the natural world".

Sensing a huge opportunity in the online education space, digital content providers are now offering everything from multimedia games and iPad apps to audiovisual lessons and videogames. "Our material move beyond the purely textual, and integrate various media," said Sanjay Purohit, founder CEO of iProf, a tablet-based education provider. With the Aakash tablet being upheld as the future of learning, the online space has exploded with options.

However, as far as most schools are concerned, these are usually companion measures rather than alternatives that entirely do away with the text. "Teaching aids are supplementary measures, but for the basic curriculum we prefer to use our own textbooks," said Seema Buch, principal of Gundecha Education Academy in Kandivli, which writes its own textbooks for some subjects.