SA textbooks not inclusive, DBE report finds

Girl posing with textbooks | Image: Twitter/ @_DeniaaG

Girl posing with textbooks | Image: Twitter/ @_DeniaaG

Among the issues highlighted is the fact that with race and gender, there remains distinct disproportionality in how issues are captured.

A report commissioned by the department of basic education (DBE) and conducted by a committee led by Professor Crain Soudien into whether or not South African textbooks are inclusive has found that local textbooks are sorely lacking in this department.

Soudien was tasked with leading the committee that looked into social variables such as racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination in textbooks used by the DBE. The committee was led by one main question: should our textbooks tell the story of the country as it is, or should they be aspirational?

The committee launched and officially handed over its report to DBE minister Angie Motshekga on Friday, reports the South African Government News Agency.

Prompted by textbooks with discriminatory and biased content, committee chair Soudien said the report looked into identifying these issues so that inclusive texts were ultimately produced in future.

In undertaking the report, the committee analysed 48 textbooks at the seminal grades of each phase of schooling. The study looked into textbooks being read and used by learners in Grades 3, 6, 9, and 12.

Subjects analysed were narrowed to English, Afrikaans, isiZulu, Mathematics, Social Sciences, and Life Orientation. The study focused on two textbooks per subject for each of the four grades.

In addition to the aforementioned focal question, the committee looked into how the social variables of race, class, gender and other forms of discrimination were represented or not, and if they were, how were they represented or depicted.

“The study did not only look at whether African people or women, for instance, were in the textbook, but went further to ask how are these people are represented,” said Soudien in a statement.

Among the issues highlighted in the report is the fact that with race and gender, there remains distinct disproportionality in how these issues are captured.

Further analysis of the textbooks reveals that class and sexuality are often inferred rather than identified. Identification and vulnerability of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) community is rarely identified.

Furthermore, the textbooks show that there is minimal inclusion of disability in the texts analysed.

Speaking at the launch of the report earlier today, the minister emphasised the need for inclusivity and representation in textbooks and other learning materials.

“For me, text is very important and powerful. It shapes the way we and our children see themselves. The report is also about talking points that we need to get in and we have to work hard to consolidate where we are. With these images and texts, we need to ask ourselves what are we saying to our children when in the book they are reading. There are more males, where boys are the ones with phones and gadgets and the girls or women are cooking in the kitchen. Our aim is to align what is taught at our schools with our constitutional value of openness, freedom, and liberty,” said the minister.

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