EDUCATION TRIBUNE

Teaching history needs to be made interesting
Yogesh Snehi
H
ISTORY is often regarded as a boring subject. It has, indeed, become difficult to grapple with this subject amidst the perennial controversies engulfing it. There are many other factors which have been responsible for distancing the interest of students from history. The neglect of the subject continues to be an area of concern.









Teaching history needs to be made interesting
Yogesh Snehi

HISTORY is often regarded as a boring subject. It has, indeed, become difficult to grapple with this subject amidst the perennial controversies engulfing it. There are many other factors which have been responsible for distancing the interest of students from history. The neglect of the subject continues to be an area of concern.

Certain perennial notions of unfriendliness have infested the learning of history. Learning history is regarded as ‘digging graves’, ‘chasing ghosts’, ‘things of past’ and has a ‘distancing effect’ on its understanding. This disgusting effect is corroborated by the notion that whatever happened in the past is ‘irrelevant to the present’.

Is history banal? Why has history become a thing of the past? How has it become so detached from our everyday lives?

The problem, indeed, lies somewhere in the methods of teaching. Often the practice of class teaching involves the reading of some chapter of the textbook by a student ‘with the assumption that ‘the learning of history is obvious’ and does not require explanation and discussion. Teaching history, however, needs greater objective insight and an empirical dialogue with our day-to-day lives.

The idea that ‘history is our story’ can help in scaling the distance of our past with our present. An object as simple as a pen or a pencil, which is so closely integrated with our everyday lives has a history. Take another example of the schools as they exist today. They have a long unchequered history from ancient gurukuls and madrasas meant for religious teaching to pathsalas and schools which originated in the colonial period. Then, the concept of uniform, the origin of shoes, etc everything has a past so closely related to the present. Can we think of town planning without municipality which caters to our everyday needs of water and sanitation?

Often classroom teaching makes history insensitive. But history can be sensitive and related to the native landscape. There is a common complaint that educational trips, which are closely integrated to the teaching of history, to important historical places are expensive and
unaffordable.

This argument dissolves the purpose of ‘creative history teaching’ by locating history in a far-off and remote monument, museum or places of ‘historical importance’. Contrary to this, the selection of places of historical interest can be close to our everyday lives. While teaching a lesson on the architecture of a temple or a mosque, the local shrines can be an important representation of history. Similarly, it won’t be tough to locate Arya Samaj temples, DAV schools, etc to teach about the role of Swami Dayanand in socio-religious reform.

Often, the problem symbolic is with teaching skills rather than with monuments and places. Thus, an enquiry into the agrarian, cultural or village history can easily be dealt with a trip to a nearby village.

Sometimes it is much more interesting to read history from Nehru’s ‘Glimpses of World History’ rather than recommended textbooks.

Nehru offers some intriguing insights into pedagogy which can be invaluable in bridging the communicative barrier between the student and the teacher.

Also, biographies and autobiographies sketch a personal narrative of a historical phase, making it more engaging. Besides this, inculcating the habit of reading historical novels can rejuvenate the idea of teaching history.

It is also important to discuss the choice of textbooks on history. Almost all textbooks are either syllabi-oriented or are supposed to be handy for teachers. There are a few textbooks which are written keeping in mind the interest of students. Unfortunately, NCERT textbooks, which are prescribed throughout the country, also fall in the category of the former. Among the books written with student orientation are the books published by Eklavya, a non-project organisation based in Bhopal.

These books are representative of an illustrative and narrative form of creative books of history. Similarly, the books published by SCERT, Delhi, have attempted to inculcate a critical understanding, of history among students.

Technology offers an important tool in the teaching of history. Audio-visual aids based on history, like films, documentaries, etc provide significant gains in informational learning, retention and recall, thinking and seasoning activity, interest, imagination, better assimilation and personal growth and development.

These aids are the stimuli for learning ‘why’, ‘how’, ‘when’ and ‘where’ of history.

While on the one hand teaching becomes interesting through audio-visual aids, on the other it creates a virtual reality of historical landscape and brings it closer to classroom understanding. History is, thus, a landscape of our past and its teaching would aim at scaling its complexities and making it relevant for our everyday lives.

Amidst the political controversies over interpretation and representation of history, the task of the teacher has become much more challenging.

Teaching of history should help student critically examine these debates and identify its rightful interpretation.

This will not be possible unless students develop a creative understanding of the subject and here the role of teacher assumes immense significance.

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September 30

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August 10

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August 31

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July 27

Govt Polytechnic for Women, Sec-10 D, Chandigarh

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July 31

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