In 2016, Minister Motshekga commissioned a task team to evaluate officially selected school textbooks, for ways in which diversity is represented. The task team analysed a large sample of textbooks in six subjects, evaluating representation across eight categories including race, gender, class, sexuality, religion and ability.Their report has recently been made public and it raises important questions about the role of textbooks in promoting diversity. The report also reminds us of the place of textbooks in the bigger text production cycle that includes curriculum planning and construction, the setting of criteria for textbook selection and the choice of textbook selectors.The publication of this report provides an exciting opportunity for reimagining textbooks, their role in promoting diversity in a range of ways and for thinking about teacher agency in relation to textbook selection and use.So, what did the team find? First, that more than 80% of textbook writers are white. Second, that while generally textbooks presented an inclusive picture of South African society when it comes to race and gender, there was “… some bias and prejudice with respect to almost all categories with a middle class normativity present and with obvious omissions of orientations  such as LGBTIQ that do not conform to the norm.” (pg 125).Some of the key recommendations the task team has made to the DBE, include:the need for diverse selection panels and diversity among textbook writers and illustrators the need to revise the CAPS, with a view to decentering the Western knowledge selection currently privileged for textbooks to create opportunities for learners to read critically in ways that challenge norms.

We, as the bua-lit collective, want to add the following recommendations:that textbooks writers engage with the category of language and reflect multilingualism as the norm in South Africa that a ‘rich literacies’ perspective be used to consider what makes texts readable in different learning contexts that the one textbook policy currently mooted in the DBE be reconsidered, to create the possibilities for a range of textbooks to reflect multiple lived worlds and to build teacher agency in engaging with and selecting textbooks that better meet the needs of their specific contexts.

For a more detailed analysis of the report and its findings, click here to see the article.

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