The NCERT was established by the Government of India in 1961. It has been providing advice and assistance to the state and central schools, in terms of curriculum as well as textbooks. The government is pushing for NCERT textbooks for the Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE) schools over textbooks published by educational publishers. This decision has some people cheering with joy while others are not happy about it.
Are textbooks by academic publishers better or are NCERT textbooks the right choice?
The answer to that is complex. Both sides have something to offer. Let us take a look at a comparison between academic book publishers and NCERT.
NCERT Textbooks Contain Everything The Curriculum Requires
Since the NCERT works closely with the educational boards for curriculum development, they know exactly what content is needed. These books are tailored to meet the content requirements. If there is any change in the curriculum, NCERT books will change accordingly, with no delay. Additionally, all CBSE examination questions are from NCERT textbooks.
While other academic publishers also follow curriculum requirements, they might not be able to keep up with any changes made to the curriculum. They will catch up, but it might not be as quickly as NCERT.
Academic Publishers Generally Have Better Content Quality Than NCERT
As mentioned earlier, the NCERT has the support of the government. The state boards and CBSE can and have made it compulsory for schools affiliated to them to use only NCERT textbooks. This is good news for the parents, as they don’t have to spend money on highly priced books. However, the teachers and students often have to suffer with less than optimal content. In fact, there have been some schools who have expressed a dissatisfaction with the number or errors in NCERT books. The fact that the science textbooks have errors affects the quality of education as a whole. This puts students studying from these books at a disadvantage in competitive examinations.
Because the NCERT textbooks are not subject to market competition, they are not obliged to improve their content. This is something regular educational publishers cannot afford to do. Poor content for them means no one will buy their books. This is why they try to provide over and above the minimum requirement. As a result, teachers prefer using their books for better teaching value.
Because the NCERT textbooks have been made compulsory, the schools who can afford it ask their students to buy additional books from other academic publishers. This way, they can cover up the gaps in knowledge. However, the schools where students cannot afford two sets of books end up with less intensive learning material. Students preparing for competitive exams especially find that NCERT textbooks aren’t enough for study material.
The situation is even worse for students of higher education. NCERT textbooks have to be supplemented with books from other academic book printers. Since these books are already expensive, they might feel it is pointless to even buy the NCERT books. As for English language or literature books, most schools avoid NCERT books in favour of books from other educational book publishers. They feel the quality of language is very poor in NCERT published books.
Textbooks By Educational Publishers Are Priced Higher
This is a common complaint coming from parents. They are compelled to buy the textbooks prescribed by the schools. If the school prescribes books by private academic printers, the parents often find the books to be expensive. NCERT textbooks, on the other hand, have much more controlled pricing. The government ensures that. They also have an advantage when it comes to the price of the raw material. This advantage is passed on to the final consumer.
Academic book publishers do not have the same advantage. They also tend to use higher quality raw material, which ends up driving up the price of the books. As a result, the books for lower classes are priced high. The books for higher classes tend to be even more expensive.
The NCERT Is Not Able To Provide The Books On Time
Since NCERT doesn’t do a lot of business in the market, they only print as many copies as have been ordered by schools. If the school doesn’t place the order on time, the books get delayed. As the largest consumers of these books are government schools, their orders depend on when the government funding is released. In the academic year of 2017-18, over one lakh students will not receive their books on time.
Other schools find that NCERT textbooks are difficult to procure and are delayed in arriving. They often find themselves waiting for these crucial books at the beginning of the school year. Other educational publishers on the other hand start supplying books to the market at the beginning of the school year. Because their supply depends on the demand, they are ready to print as many copies as they can sell. Again, being private businesses, they have a quicker reaction time. They try to make sure they never have a situation where their books are out of stock. This is something NCERT is not equipped to deal with. If the volume of demand goes up, they have not yet proven that they will be able to provide.
NCERT Content Is Not Always Secular and Accurate
A government-managed organisation in a democracy needs to be very firm about its decision or every group with any political ‘voice’ will end up affecting its policies. This is something that NCERT has to deal with. History books face the constant pressure of showing ‘Hindu culture’ in the ‘right’ light. Religious groups want to have their faith’s leaders shown in a glorified light.
Facts are distorted and outright falsehoods are introduced in order to be politically correct. This ‘saffronisation’ of textbook content harms no one but the students who have to study it. Combined with the errors that these books also contain, it ends up with students getting fed misinformation. They graduate without a proper knowledge or understanding of history and events.
Books by educational publishers, on the other hand, are vetted for accuracy as well as for errors. They do not have politically-minded groups pressuring them to change content to make it show them in a favourable light. They have more resources at hand to ensure that the quality of the content is fair and faithful to the facts.
NCERT was set up for a reason, and its mission is aligned with the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan. The price and the content it offers ensures that every child in the country can afford these books. It is imperative for the mission to educate every child. However, as with any system, it is not flawless. In this case, it is the quality that suffers.
Quality is something that Manakin Press academic book publishing places very high on our priority list. Our content has to match up against our stringent checks to make the cut. We have panels of experts who vet everything before it is published. And the best part is, we price our books very competitively. That means you get great content that is reliably accurate at a great price.