The academic year has begun. The neatly covered, brand new textbooks will soon be put to good use. However, just as students begin to flip the pages of their textbooks, guides are quietly making their way to students' study tables.

Students referring to guides — as part of what is popularly known as “guide culture” — is not an uncommon trend. All the same, the speed at which the guides are produced, and their success in the market, is worth attention. For instance, soon after the new set of textbooks were released for classes I and VI, according to the revised syllabus as part of the State government's Samacheer Kalvi initiative, guides for some of the subjects are selling like hot cakes. Over 3.5 lakh copies of the Konar guide for Class VI Tamil, brought out by Palaniappa Brothers, have been sold in the State in the last couple of months, says P. Chellappan, partner in the company.

According to a parent of a Class VI student going to a leading matriculation school, almost all the students in his son's class now own a copy of the Tamil guide. Though schools do not explicitly recommend the usage of guides, some teachers ask students to purchase them, say dealers of guides. The guides brought out by the State's Parent Teacher Association are also quite popular.

Senior educationist S.S. Rajagopalan says the practice of referring to guides is several decades old. “What was once confined to SSLC or board examination years has sadly become prevalent in lower classes, too.” Palaniappa Brothers, for instance, has been selling guides since the 1950s.

The general approach in schools, largely inclined towards performance in examinations, is one of the main reasons that educationists cite for the popularity of guides. “Guides are usually in the ‘question and answer' format and they don't elucidate,” Mr. Rajagopalan observes.

“One way to ensure that guides do not do well in the market is to keep revising textbooks often. In older days, when we had multiple textbooks the issue was not so serious, as guide publishers could not afford to bring out multiple versions,” he adds.

Also, he stresses the need for teachers to use the library and look up additional reference material so that they are able to elaborate on concepts well.

M. Thirumani Vanitha, retired headmistress of General Cariappa Higher Secondary School, thinks how a teacher handles a class can make all the difference. “If teachers try and make children understand the concepts based on textbook content, it is more than sufficient. The need for a guide simply will not arise.”

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Meera SrinivasanJune 28, 2012

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