A stack of textbooks left over from the previous year stands in the corner of a classroom at Gcinokuhle High School at which only about half of its pupils arrived on Wednesday. Like many other schools in the area, it had not received stationery or new textbooks from the Department of Education Picture: KHAYA NGWENYA

Cape Town - A draft policy by the Department of Basic Education, which proposes that one textbook per subject and per grade be provided to pupils, has been slammed.

The draft national policy for the provision and management of learning and teaching support material was recently published for public comment.

According to the document, the policy has been introduced to “ensure that all the injustices and inequalities of the past, with regard to learner support, are addressed”.

Earlier this week Chris Klopper, the chief executive of the SA Teachers’ Union, said that limiting the national catalogue to one book per subject, per grade and per language suggested there was no understanding of schools and pupils’ needs.

“We are convinced that a single textbook cannot benefit teachers and learners from diverse school contexts and that this cannot be an example of international best practice.”

Klopper said a single textbook approach would narrow thought processes especially with regard to history, literature and life orientation.

“Our learners are diverse and such diversity needs to be recognised and therefore schools that wish to exercise their own choice, must be allowed to do so, therefore, different textbooks for different needs.”

Professor Maureen Robinson, the dean of Stellenbosch University’s education faculty, said the recommendation for one textbook per subject per grade was an alarming development.

“It will stifle the creativity that exists in the publishing industry as well as undermine the scope for teachers to make professional judgements regarding what is best for their specific learners’ backgrounds and learning styles. One also would like to know the criteria for selecting the chosen textbook, as we have a diversity of teaching situations and it would be hard to find hard-and-fast criteria that would suit all situations.”

Dr Jonathan Clark, the director of the Schools Development Unit at UCT, said the policy was fraught with difficulties.

“What happens if the selected textbook is a bad textbook?”

He said different contexts had different needs and a specific textbook could, for example, be more applicable to a highly resourced school than a school in a different situation.

- Cape Argus