At Tridha school in Vile Parle, textbooks are secondary. Instead, learning is based on experiments, exploration and personal discovery.
"You can't learn from a textbook. Textbooks are about information," said Patrick Brillant, director of Tridha. "It's not like once you know the text you know everything. The theory should come last. Learning is about practice and discovery."
Alternative schools such as Tridha are trying to shape their own teaching practices. Other international schools affiliated to the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) and the Cambridge International Examinations, usually have greater leeway in determining how to teach.
"The IB views a textbook as one resource among many, such as the students' prior knowledge, the teacher, the Internet, multimedia and others," said Ian Chambers, director, Asia Pacific, IBO, via email. "We believe that developing the understanding of concepts should be authentic and follow a natural path of learning. The curriculum is therefore contextual and built by educators wherein a textbook has its place, but certainly does not drive learning."
Allowing students to understand concepts on their own allows for freer movement between subjects. "Children can refer to multiple sources. This encourages them to develop knowledge, analytical and comparative skills," said Vandana Lulla, principal of Podar International School in Santacruz. "It creates inter-disciplinary learning opportunities."
This practice, of allowing students to build knowledge by 'constructing' it on their own rather than allowing the text to be the sole driver, is referred to as 'constructivism' and is increasingly being applied in city schools.
However, this doesn't mean the textbook is dispensable. "Constructivism plays an important role in developing understanding of a subject, and is implemented through practical exercises, project work, and learning by doing," said Tanya Valecha, principal of Rustomjee International School, Dahisar. "It doesn't replace the text, but builds on it. Structured learning has its place in the curriculum, and the textbook contributes immensely to this approach."