Children performing lepcha dance at Ringhim, North Sikkim. In an instance of citing examples for women empowerment, the exemplar of a local vegetable seller from Pakyong was taken in the new textbooks

Guwahati: On the occasion of Children’s Day, Sikkim launched a first-of-its-kind initiative to offer textbooks for primary levels of government schools which focuses on education on sustainable development (ESD) along with local contextualisation.

The textbooks meant for students of Classes I to V are a fresh take on education and probably the first in the country to embed concepts of peace and sustainable development in Maths, Environmental Studies (EVS) and English.

In an interview with Echostream, GP Upadhyaya, additional chief secretary, education department of Sikkim (SCERT), said that to get the books prepared, they engaged with two organisations: Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP), a part of UNESCO, for embedding sustainable development goals; and with Azim Premji University, which did the capacity building of the textbook writers.

They also associated with a local design agency called Echostream for providing description to the concepts of sustainability and SDGs, giving it a local flavour and local taste so that children can appreciate it.

Dr Rabin Chhetri, director of SCERT, said, that in the beginning of 2017 itself, Sikkim started reviewing textbooks used in government schools. A textbook and curriculum development team conducted surveys, spoke with teachers and previous textbook writing team, and recommended to rewrite textbooks of primary level for government schools.

And then, a team of 45 textbook writing members was constituted. “The idea was to write textbooks for the schools of this by the team from the state itself,” said Chhetri.

Human resources development minister Kunga Nima Lepcha said that the books for Classes I to III are ready, while textbooks for Classes IV and V are ready to be piloted in 40 schools.

“With the new textbooks, the government of Sikkim wishes to enable the students to relate their classroom learning with their life experiences and become sensitive towards their environment, society, country and the world as a whole,” he added.

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Plan of action

A working plan in four phases was finalised. In the first phase, the emphasis was on the capacity development of textbook writers on understanding curriculum, syllabus, and textbooks. This also covered the nature and pedagogy of subjects and embedding of ESP.

In the second phase, workshops were conducted for conceptualising, writing, and reviewing the textbooks. This required multiple visits to villages across the state to collate content, and review drafts.

In the third phase, the books were designed and illustrations, content and culture-specific were designed and in the fourth and last phase, the completed books were piloted in selected 40 schools in Sikkim this year.

Along with the launch, teachers of the concerned subject were also trained by a team from Azim Premji University. Also, follow-up visits were made to schools to assess the classroom practice of teachers using the textbooks. The visits aided in feedback mechanism which in turn helped further fine-tune the books.

In an instance of citing examples for women empowerment, the exemplar of a local vegetable seller from Pakyong was taken. All the details, design and scenario for which were made in consultation with the said vegetable vendor.

Covering concepts like human-wildlife conflict, environment, state, and collaborations across ages and community make the new textbooks a much-needed lesson for the youngsters to connect with their immediate surroundings and at the same time, gain crucial knowledge.

Education on sustainable development

ESD elements in the books makes the child think of concepts of inclusive, challenge gender biases and roles, tackle current issues and realities such as keeping a clean environment, natural calamities, harmony with the wildlife, respecting natural resources and dignity of labour.

Reference documents

The reference documents used for coming up with the new textbooks are — National Curriculum Framework, NCERT syllabus 2017, Learning outcomes of elementary level developed by NCERT and textbooks for Sustainable Development: A guide to Embedding by MGIEP UNESCO.

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