"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Textbooks and Learning Materials

Outside the classroom, textbooks are often the only resource to which all students can have access. A teacher can only be available during class time or office hours, but a textbook is within reach twenty four hours, seven days a week. Textbooks likewise guide teachers on what to teach. Good textbooks are rich with exercises and problems. Working through these activities is an effective way of studying. Even with the obvious and significant role textbooks play in learning, it is still important to measure their impact on education. Like teachers, classrooms and other resources, textbooks come with costs. It is helpful then to weigh the costs and benefits of using textbooks especially when resources are very limited. A carefully controlled experiment designed to yield this information is not easy to perform. Why would a group of students or their parents agree not to use a textbook just to inform us on how important textbooks are? In fact, people realize how important textbooks are that some have taken the responsibility of producing them for poor children. An example is the story of Zakes Ncanywa:

Above copied from the Mail & Guardian
Fortunately, one may still find real situations in poor countries where such comparison can be roughly made. In Honduras, there are currently two school systems in rural areas for the years following primary education. Centro de Educación Básica (CEB) is most common and is not really that different from public schools in urban areas. A second system called Sistema de Aprendizaje Tutorial (SAT) is managed by a non-government organization, and focuses more on providing learning materials (textbooks) and training teachers on how to use these books. The two systems have other differences but the key here seems to be the use of textbooks. Textbooks are required in SAT schools while these remain optional in CEB. A study published in the journal Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis captures this scenario and reports the following:

95% of students in SAT have textbooks compared to 58% in CEB schools. To help visualize how much 0.2 of a standard deviation is, here is a paragraph from Stanford's Eric A. Hanushek:

Amazingly, it is equivalent to the effects of having a good teacher as opposed to having an instructor who is simply average. The annual cost per pupil in a Honduras' CEB school to support teachers' wages is about $300. The annual additional cost per pupil for the required textbooks in an SAT school is about $30, only 10 percent of the cost of a teacher.

It may seem that Joy Rizal is writing endlessly about textbook problems in the Philippines. The following are just samples of Rizal's articles posted on this blog:

Sep 05, 2013
by Joy Rizal As I reported before we have had a lot of issues regarding the DepEd Malabalay City
school district of Bukidnon, not delivering any of the promised second grade material for our children
to use in their classes.

Nov 10, 2014
The following are photos of exam questions posted by Joy Rizal on Facebook: Looking at the above,
a student cannot really tell which is grammatically correct: "Which set of numbers" or "Which set of number".
This maybe ...

Nov 07, 2013
The title as well as the main body of this post comes from Joy Rizal. Joy worries that with the
incompetence and corruption within DepEd and the rallying cause of improving basic education,
DepEd can well serve as an ...

Oct 20, 2014
Can DepEd Deliver Anything on Time? by Joy Rizal. It seems the ONLY things that DepEd has the
ability to keep and insure will happen on time, according to schedule, are breaks and holidays.
According to the official DepEd ...

Seeing how significant textbooks are in basic education, one should in fact wonder why the Department of Education in the Philippines fails miserably in this area. The poor performance in providing textbooks to students in the Philippines is truly a testament of how much or how little attention the government pays to improving the education of its youth. In this area, there is no question. The Philippines' DepEd is totally incompetent.

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