Basic Education Minister, Mrs Angie Motshekga, launched the Textbook Evaluation Report of the Ministerial Task Team: Evaluation of a Broad Sample of Existing Textbooks and Learning Materials Towards Developing a Textbook Policy that Promotes Diversity, which serves as a blueprint for the development of a Textbook Policy aimed at promoting diversity in public schools. The launch took place at the DBE Building in Pretoria on 05 April 2019.
During 2016, Minister Motshekga established a Ministerial Committee to look into social variables such as racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination in textbooks. The Committee was expected to evaluate a sample of existing textbooks and Learning Support and Teaching Material (LTSM) against stereotypes and discrimination towards the promotion of diversity in education. The Committee had to ascertain whether the text and illustrations used were inclusive, offensive or excluded certain groups, in order to promote the values of equality and empowerment for learners. They also conducted a content analysis to ascertain the specific discrimination bias, frequency and type of discrimination.
The work of the Committee is aligned to policies such as the National Youth Policy 2015-2020, which indicates the DBE’s need to audit teaching and materials to ensure that they do not contain latent elements of sexism or racism.
Addressing various education stakeholders at the launch, Chairperson of the Committee, Prof Crain Soudien, said more effort should be put in place to strengthen the screening processes for textbooks. “The Department should strengthen the textbook review process for issues of social inclusion and equity to be foregrounded, such as changing the assessment criteria; broadening the base of reviewers from diverse groups and constituencies; and tightening the specifications for publishers in producing textbooks (tendering process)”. He further advised the DBE to provide minimum requirements and clear guidelines for authors and publishers on text and illustrations, and suggested that the DBE looks at empowering screening teams to detect stigma attached to teaching on diversity, for instance disabilities.
Summarising the report findings, Minister Motshekga, said: “Race and gender in textbooks reflect the demographic diversity of South Africa, but there is a distinct disproportionality in the ways different groups are captured. In terms of age, there’s a bigger representation of learners and adults, but older people or pensioners and babies/children are seldom featured. In terms of sexuality, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) community is rarely represented. There are notable silences and omissions in terms of religion, family status and disability. I hope this report will continue to ignite rich and constructive debates and robust discussions in society. Our curriculum transformation should be progressive so that the correct legacy will support the values as espoused in our Constitution”.