Can Future Generations be Prepared with Textbooks Alone?

Learning Beyond Books

JL Tip: Learning that combines textbooks along with other innovative methods is the way forward…

There’s a pretty interesting story I happened to read some time back. While travelling to a small village outside her city, this little girl delightedly screamed upon seeing a herd of brown cows. Inquisitively, her father asked her if she hadn’t ever seen cows before, to which her reply was, “I have dad, but never a brown one. My textbook portrays cows usually in white and black only.”

The father then explained the little girl that many Indian cattle breeds do come in hues of brown. She seemed to reflect upon this and continued to think, as they went closer to the herd of cows. The truth of the matter here was, that her textbook, with a curriculum that is as outdated as the colonial rule in our country, sadly had not described cows in the Indian context. Atrocious, isn’t it!

Beyond Textbooks

It is a common belief today across all stakeholders that we cannot prepare future generations with textbooks alone or any online variations of these textbooks. Learning through textbooks in combination with various other innovative methods of learning, is surely the way forward. It is predominantly necessary to give the next-gen child an opportunity to learn and experience in a multi-sensory environment.

To make learning deeper, the child should also have a first-hand experience of speech, smell, touch and taste, rather than the traditional forms that only include seeing and listening. The girl mentioned in the above story, understood more about the Indian cattle and the ecosystem that surrounds them, once she came out of the textbook mindset and had a practical experience.

Experimental Learning

In addition to this multi-sensory learning strategy, effective experiential learning too engrosses the learners with real-world situations that help them contextualise what they’ve learned and eventually realize the challenges in solving those problems. It is a notion that going beyond the textbooks means asking the child to either build a model or design a project inside a controlled environment, but in the practical world, it doesn’t necessarily solve the purpose of learning.

An effective experiential learning means to ensure that children experience the real-life exchanges, the limitations and drawbacks, the likelihood of new connections and new opportunities that come with a true involvement into the real world. In many ways, going beyond textbooks for namesake is simply inadequate, whereas, going beyond the classroom could turn out to be the most effective option as well.

Aspects of Communication

One more important challenge that can be addressed in an effective manner within the experimental learning segment in our education system is of course communication. Invariably, a lot of unnecessary importance is been given to the language, and sometimes to so such an extent that children are being pushed hard to perform, even out of their will in some cases, thereby ending up becoming counter-productive. This age-old approach nullifies the other important aspects of an effective communication, restricting children to express themselves hiding behind the language-bearer diktat.

Rather, there should be an experiential programme set in place that educates children on all crucial aspects of communication like: simple articulation, the art of gesture, body language, listening deeply, cultural variations, understanding scripts and reading symbols and so on and so forth. Children will learn all these things subconsciously, if they are exposed to new, alien environments and diverse groups.

Understand the Need

It is imperative to not just look at a learning model that talks beyond the textbooks, but to dig deep into analysing the need, purpose and value of doing so. The word ‘experiment’ eventually gets thrown out of the window by a lot of schools as they overtly focus on the mere word itself, without really understanding the purpose behind doing so.

In our country, we witness many children who face this sort of application vacuum, where they do random experiential activities without even understanding much of what they have learned during this activity. During those so-called summer camps, in a mad rush to blindly follow other kids, parents too end up missing on the actual objective of why they wanted their kids to opt for such programmes that go beyond the textbook. Hence, parents and educators, the two most important stakeholders in the child’s development process, should first understand the needs of the child, along with the purpose of a chosen experiential learning programme or activity, well before they put their time, money and other resources.


A novel education can be termed as the one wherein the children learn to observe, predict, understand, think critically and intensively, and most importantly apply their teachings to solve real life challenges and contribute their bit in taking the society forward. Perhaps, this is how we will then transcend the future generation kids into a generation of solvers. We need to understand that a balanced unification of varied innovative learning methods, and not over-reliance on one single method, will get us there.