One Textbook

14 Nov 2014

If the government plan of one textbook per subject goes ahead, among other things, the difficult work to create and inspire the reading of children’s literature in African languages and English will be significantly harmed. The sale of textbooks into the education system is what makes money for publishers, and much of the tiny body of African language literature for children that is published, happens ‘off the back’ of these profits. Many publishers have already suffered huge losses, or have gone under with the reduction to eight books per subject a few years ago. So publishing children’s literature, already a ‘risk’ for publishers – and considered ‘supplementary’ rather than crucial to a good education, will become perceived as even more of a luxury than it already is. And the already print-poor-literacy-poor cycle will be reinforced by fewer books for children from communities with poor or non-existent library facilities – meaning radically reduced access to content of all kinds. This will be the reality for the majority of children in South Africa. The proposal poses a real threat to attempts to build democratic educational opportunities for all. Please read the article below by Kate McCallum and give support to the campaign.

Dr. Carole Bloch
SA PEN Executive Committee Member / Director – PRAESA

Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa (PRAESA) is an independent research and development unit affiliated with the University of Cape Town.

More damage predicted for educational outcomes: the case against approving only one textbook
By Kate McCallum, 08/11/2014

A recent proposal by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) is to do away with the national catalogue of eight books per subject per grade, and to approve only one book, is predicted to damage further South Africa’s already poor educational outcomes.

The draft National Policy for the Provisioning and Management of Learning and Teaching Support Materials (LTSM) has two good aspects to it. The first is the excellent intention to achieve universal provision by providing each student with a textbook per subject per grade, i.e. to supply a Minimum School Bag. The second is to ensure that books are kept by schools for five years, to ensure that universal provision is attainable within the limits of the annual budget for LTSM. However, the proposal to remove all choice of books by schools from a national catalogue of eight approved titles and to have only a single approved textbook is a retrogressive step.

One size does not fit all. A single textbook will not meet the widely differing needs of the South African school population. Students aiming at university entrance need books that cover the subject comprehensively, teach higher order skills, and prepare them for university entrance. At the other end of the spectrum, struggling students in poorly resourced schools, learning through a medium of instruction that is not their home language, require a more basic coverage of content and significant language support. Students in additive bilingualism classrooms require a different language approach altogether. A book that meets the needs of the top 30% of students will be inappropriate for the remaining 70%; if it is aimed at the lower-performing 50%, it will not meet the needs of the higher-performing 50%, who will be disadvantaged. Indeed, a paper on American states which have a single approved textbook system, note that the system has resulted in a dumbing down of textbooks to the lowest common denominator. Read more.