Over the years, history teaching has lost its flexibility and become crystallized. Standard topics are taught even in junior classes, and a certain boredom sets in, both among teachers and students. There is, in addition, considerable repetition between the topics covered in junior classes, and those dealt with in more detail in senior classes. There is actually no need to teach fixed and pre-ordained topics in junior classes, as the syllabus for the class 10 exam can easily be covered in classes 9 and 10. Now with the tenth class exams being made optional, there may be even more flexibilty for those who decide not to sit for the exam. The entire mindset of teaching in junior and middle school classes, that is from classes 1-8, needs to be changed. A new approach is needed, which will create enthusiasm both among teachers and children, and lead to a genuine desire to learn and know, and develop a love for learning.
In this article, I am suggesting one possible approach, though creative teachers could think of many more. The whole concept here is that there should be freedom to teach different things in different ways, keeping in mind two aims: to impart various skills to the students, and to generate their interest.
It is not necessary to place the teaching of history in a watertight compartment, separate and distinct from other subjects. History can be integrated with geography and with other aspects of the past to make it more interesting. One way of doing this is by focusing on a single character or event of the past.
The writer is the author of the best-selling two-volume Puffin History of India for Children, and also other books on history and religion. She has a PhD in Ancient Indian History, and has taught for a few years at Rishi Valley School. She lives in New Delhi and is a free-lance writer. She can be reached at [email protected].