Films can make the difference

Amita Prasad, Priyadarshinee Guha, Sutapa Roy

film The task of a history teacher is often most unenviable. At the very outset, the teacher has to counter the belief that studying history is a necessary evil imposed on the students by the school or the “Board” – and that only mathematics and the sciences are “important” subjects, as they alone will lead to impressive and lucrative career options. Furthermore, students (and most adults) still harbour the impression that history merely involves memorizing a certain amount of information, especially unpronounceable names and dates, which are of no relevance to their lives. Added to this is the problem that most history textbooks tend to be nothing more than chronicles of events, which fail to inspire critical thinking, reasoning, or analytical debate.

Faced with the daunting task of inspiring a love for the subject and bringing the past alive in the classroom, the teacher has to rely on a variety of materials. Films are a valuable resource available to us and, if used judiciously, can go a long way to help reach our goals. Commercial cinema, documentaries, and video clips from You Tube are all equally useful to the teacher of history at different levels.

One of the aims of history teaching is to cultivate in the students a sense of wonder and appreciation of our heritage – in terms of art, architecture, and culture. The ICSE syllabus, for example, lays a lot of stress on art history in class IX. Unfortunately, this is reduced to a list of monuments with the names of their builders and features, which inevitably include a number of dreary facts (“Its massive tower rises to a height of 57 metres… its top is crowned by a single block of stone 8.6 metres high and it weighs about 80 tonnes”). Students are then expected to cram such details and reproduce them in an examination – leaving them completely unmoved by the magnificence of the construction or the beauty of the monument.

Amita Prasad has been a teacher with varied experience of teaching History at the Secondary and Higher Secondary levels for over 20 years. She has co-authored ‘Time Travel’ – a series of History text books for Classes III, IV and V published by OUP. Currently, she is Middle School Coordinator at Modern High School for Girls. She can be reached at [email protected].

Priyadarshinee Guha is a teacher in Modern High School for Girls, Kolkata .She has been actively involved in pursuing music and theatre. She has a keen interest in films, music, dance and drama which often proves to be invaluable in her profession. She can be reached at [email protected].

Sutapa Roy has been teaching History at the Middle and Senior school levels for 11 years and she also guides the Community Service Programme in Modern High School for Girls.

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