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You can't always go by the book

Error-filled state and central board textbooks leave schoolchildren without a firm grasp on basics concepts. Bhavya Dore and Mugdha Variyar reports.

mumbai Updated: Feb 25, 2013 00:45 IST

The highest peak in the Sahyadri range is 1,646km (It is actually 1,646m high). Women are the wealth of the alien people.

If you are trying to make sense of these sentences, think of the school-going children who are memorising them as part of their curriculum.

From geography to physics, across disciplines and boards, school textbooks are replete with errors and confusing statements.

For instance, a Class 9 state board textbook says intensive farming gives a low yield. The Class 10 textbook says intensive farming gives a high one. An ICSE economics textbook says it's more costly to pay someone in cash rather than by cheque, but doesn't explain this piece of wisdom. And a major cause of India's booming population is unemployment, because the unemployed have no recreation but sex, as both ICSE and state board textbooks insist.

Incorrect punctuation, grammar and spellings are one kind of problem in school texts. Incorrect facts, ambiguous statements and downright hilarious logic are more pernicious issues.

Academicians do not find these mistakes funny at all. "There are serious errors. We see that even after getting a masters degree, students are not clear about basic concepts," said Aniket Sule, faculty member at the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education in Mankhurd.

Students struggle with this barrage of wrong information through their years in school.

Till Class 9, Maulashree Shanbag, who studies at an SSC student in Thane, had learned that the name of the Rani of Jhansi's adopted son was Damodar Rao. Her current Class 10 history textbook refers to him by his original name, Anand Rao. "We have studied one thing all these years, but in the board exams we are expected to write something different," said Shanbag, 15.

Teachers are as helpless as the students. "Other teachers tell me, if the textbook says 5 plus 3 equals 9, teach it, because only that will stand in the board exam," said Ravi D, a former history teacher who has repeatedly written to the board about the errors.

While the central board textbooks have their share of problems, teachers and parents said the biggest issues were with the state board texts. The Class 9 texts have been revised in 2012, but teachers say the books have even more mistakes now.

"When I recognise an error, I correct it myself, but there may be others I am not aware of," said a teacher in a private school. "Students are very confused. There are so many spelling mistakes in the names of states and districts."

State board officials said they were aware of the problems. "There are some errors; we are looking into this and will correct them," said S Jadhav, the state board chairperson.

Arundhati Chavan, president, Parent Teachers Association United Forum, said a common grouse parents brought to her notice was that textbooks translated into different languages are even worse.

"There are usually more errors in the Indian-language textbooks compared to those in English-medium schools," she said.