SHOULD TEXT BOOKS BE AVAILABLE, BOTH IN PRINT AND E-BOOK FORMAT FOR SCHOOL CHILDREN?
Every day when I go for my morning walk. I see innumerable school children and some very young, carrying their heavy rucksacks filled with books up to a bursting point. Many out of them are even unable to walk in the normal manner because of the weight. Some even walk sluggishly and at times are helped by their nannies or their young parents or even their old grand parents. To, be on time for their school bus or any other mode of conveyance that they take. And I am more than sure this must be causing a great amount of unspoken dissonance in these children. Considering, the matrix and size of India. I consider this as an important issue to be looked at seriously. When it affects 52% of our population. The hypothesis finds more ground when we dig into some relevant statistics as given below.
MIX OF PRIMARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION
India has approximately 113.8 million children attending primary school and another 88.5 million attending secondary. While PE (Primary Education) covers an age group of 5 to 14 years, SE (Secondary Education) covers children in the age group of 14-18 years. PE is up to class 8 and SE spills over to class 12 and beyond that is the HE (Higher Education)
Now, if we were to analyse the demographic structure of education in India in the table below, we would find:
|DEMOGRAPHIC STRUCTURE IN EDUCATION 2009|
|AGE GROUP||EDUCATION GROUP||POPULATION IN CRORE||PERCENTAGE OF POPULATION|
|12-14||Upper Primary (VI-VIII)||8.5||7.30%|
The population in the age group between 4 to 18 years, which comprises of Pre-Primary to Secondary level, is around 40 crore and around 35% of our total population; which is sizeable. So, at no cost can we condone their issues, especially when they are not adults and cannot speak for themselves. The existing state of play, where they use printed text books may not be that convenient, both for them and their families, but then they have no choice.
SOME MAJOR DISADVANTAGES OF PRINT TEXT BOOKS
- Bulky and heavy to carry and the weight only increases as you go up, the classes.
- Often these books are out of print especially when the text is modified or when a new session starts and are even sold at a premium.
- Print books are subject to wear and tear.
- Expensive as compared to an e-book, and with the rise in paper, print, labour and transportation costs the prices will only increase.
- May not be readily available at multiple locations.
- In many areas we don’t have regular electricity supply or have long power cuts, when you can’t read these books and this is a great disadvantage, during times of examinations and even routine study. Whereas, an e-book can be read in the dark.
INDIAN PRINT TEXT BOOK MARKET
If we take the Indian text book market it is at a level of $ 1.2 billion, with an addition of $510 million of supplementary books. However, private publishers have access to just 60% of the market. Given the monopoly of state boards and NCERT in 95% of the school text books. And a large chunk of schools are vernacular with local languages; and often out of print.
BENEFITS OF E-BOOKS
If Finland can say good bye to ‘cursive handwriting’ by 2016, why can’t India move towards e-books. When the advantages are so many,
- Except for a onetime cost of purchasing the e-reader the recurring costs of purchasing text books will reduce substantially. Government can incentivise purchase of e-readers.
- It will always be available, both in India and globally. And never out of print.
- You can even read in the dark.
- Very light to carry and not bulky.
- Will give even a rural child a sense of advancement in life.
- One book for many books: e-reader.
The government should introduce e-book as a parallel option for children. To assess the ground reality the project could be piloted in a particular district or a state. It could even start with a particular subject. E-books could be readied out of print books and loaded in to simple e-readers, with white paper technology. The project can be launched in identified schools where it could be monitored by an IT instructor of the school along with teachers. And I am sure with this even our rural child will go global.
By Kamlesh Tripathi
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