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Mistakes in school workbooks proof there’s no supervision
Published on: Monday, December 26, 2016

By Assoc Prof Dr Mohd Sallehhudin Abd Aziz and Alla Baksh Mohd Ayub Khan
I refer to complaints of mistakes in workbooks of students, in this case Primary One.

Assessing the level of inaccuracy identified in the material, suffice it to say that both the national language and English were equally taken for granted by the publisher and author. The ministry has thus promptly responded to clarify that such materials are not endorsed by it.

Some may argue it is after all a Year One material/workbook and. therefore, let’s turn a blind eye to it.

It does not take a rocket scientist to discover that publishers, by and large, are on the lookout for profit in both the short and long run. In addition, any changes made to educational policies are business opportunities for them.

To beat off competition in the market, they find ways and means to come up with materials as quick as possible as it is their rice bowl. Thus, we may hastily shift the blame to the publisher concerned. Are we justified in doing so?

Taking a closer look at this issue may, however, help us discover that publishers may not be able to publish such materials on their own unless a deal is struck between the publisher and an individual or group of individuals (in the Ministry perhaps) who jointly bring such materials into the market.

The possible motives which could have driven the writers to commit to such publications can be educational or monetary in nature.

In the case of the former, it is commendable as such materials may come in handy for teachers or parents even who are on the lookout for supplementary materials (in addition to standard textbooks provided by the ministry) to enhance the learning process of their charges.

The latter on the other hand is considered equally good but doing it on a part-time basis and having to deal with deadlines may result in the standard of the material to suffer.

In either case, quality of the material can never be compensated as it may lead gullible teachers and parents equally astray.

It would be unfair to claim that all writers and publishers involved in such business are equally not worried about the quality of the material.

One big possibility could be that the writers may not be aware of the dire consequences of any unintended mistakes made and the publishers on the other hand may only be able to attend to the technical aspects but not the content of the material.

In the event of teachers finding it difficult to impart some aspects of teaching by means of standard textbooks, for instance, HOTS (Higher-Order Thinking Skills), they may turn to such materials available on the market to help themselves and their students simplify them.

The decision made either coincidentally or carefully on the material selection may have serious implications.

Both teachers and students may end up promoting the “distorted and diluted” versions promoted in such materials.

Therefore, considering hundreds or thousands of workbooks and other supplementary materials aimed at various levels of education being brought into the market, it can be a daunting task for the Ministry to carry out quality checking on each of them.

However, it is our personal view that the Ministry may still need to devise some policies to regulate the publication of such materials.

For instance, the Ministry is in a position to identify qualified, widely experienced and credible writers within the teaching workforce and it can therefore control the publishers by means of these writers.

The publishers may have to go through these representatives only and not any self-appointed writers who believe they are capable but unfortunately are not.

Assoc Prof Dr Mohd Sallehhudin Abd Aziz and Alla Baksh Mohd Ayub Khan Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia

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