File photo: Dolopi said too big a focus had been placed on the content of textbooks, and children were not taught love, and how to respect their peers. Picture: Matthew Jordaan
The country's schooling system is too focused on skills development, and has neglected social and interpersonal skills that are the backbone of a functional society.

This is according to SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) deputy general-secretary Nkosana Dolopi, following the release of a preliminary report into offensive and discrimination content in classrooms.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga last year established a task team to investigate whether text and illustrations used by authors and publishers in textbooks were inclusive, sensitive, and promoted the values of unity in diversity.

Interim findings were released to Motshekga last week, and she is the only one yet privy to the contents.

Department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said a finding included that textbooks generally adopted a mildly inclusive approach to diversity, and there were no obvious potential forms of discrimination with regard to race.

While there was an overriding focus on representing the African subject, there remained an abiding “mono-racial attitude” towards what families, communities, and societies looked like, Mhlanga said.

Dolopi said too big a focus had been placed on the content of textbooks, and children were not taught love, and how to respect their peers.

“Too much emphasis is placed on skills development and knowledge, and teaching of love, respect and appreciation is neglected; we should build on creating a diverse society on these principles, ” Dolopi said.

Mhlanga said the task team conducted a content analysis to determine discrimination biases, and the frequency and type of such discrimination. It also examined the extent to which different forms of discrimination manifested themselves in textbooks.

The content analysis focused on biases which could be associated with race, gender, class, religion, disability, sexual orientation, family status and age.

“While the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (Caps) clearly outlines what should be taught in schools, some teachers have, however, been found to have overstepped the boundaries.

“Where such incidents have taken place, where teachers were using racial slurs on others, swift action has been taken against the implicated teachers.

“It must be stressed that where such isolated incidents have taken place, these do not arise as a result of a defined norm or practice of a particular school, nor a dictate from the Caps.

“It is rather individual teachers who tend to do so, hence the swift action against such individual teachers,” Mhlanga said.

He said the final report would be released later this year.

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