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Single textbook plan for all schools

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Francesca Villette

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The government plans to introduce a schooling policy to help redress educational injustices and inequalities of the past by having pupils across the country using the same textbook and study material.

THE government plans to introduce a schooling policy to help redress educational injustices and inequalities of the past by having pupils across the country using the same textbook and study material.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has drafted the Provision and Management of Learning and Teaching Support Material policy, which would allow the government to decide on “one book per subject, per grade, per language” and be administered at all public schools.

This would mean that a pupil from a top-performing school in Cape Town and a pupil from an underperforming school in KwaZulu-Natal would study from the same learning material.

The draft stated that the government would be able to better monitor the provision and management of textbooks, and have the books and learning materials kept longer.

“Redress and equity are fundamental principles en-shrined in the constitution. (These), within the learning and teaching support material provisioning context, are crucial, as the injustices of the past had to be corrected,” the draft read.

South Africa’s school textbook publishing industry said it faced ruin.

Mpuka Radinku, executive director of the Publishers’ Association of SA, said the industry would suffer severely and publishing companies would have no choice but to retrench staff, while others could face closure.

“The publishing industry as we know it will be decimated. Very few publishing companies will develop books in a context where only one textbook will be selected. For those that do choose to participate, there will be huge financial losses should their books not get approved. The likelihood will be that many publishing companies do not develop books.”

The association represents 141 schoolbook publishing roleplayers like Oxford University Press, Maskew Miller Longman, Cambridge University Press |and Pearson.

“The ripple effect is also great,” Radinku said.

Pasa had made a submission to the department for the national catalogue be open |to fair and transparent submission and evaluation standards and processes.

The National Professional Teachers Organisation of SA has rejected the proposed legislation.

President Basil Manuel said it hampered “freedom of choice”. “No one author… can effectively include different perspectives of the content, nor can one textbook contain all relevant information.”

Fred van Leeuwen, general secretary of Education International, a global federation of teacher unions, said privatisation of education services posed serious obstacles to achieving quality and equity in education. “It is an illusion that education can be delivered more cheaply and efficiently by the private sector – with fewer and less-qualified staff.”

SA Democratic Teachers Union deputy general secretary Knosana Dolopi said it supported efforts to undo past injustices, but that it was “unfair” to take away the privileges of teachers and schools to decide which textbooks were appropriate.

Department spokesman Elijah Mhlanga said it was reviewing public comments.

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