The evaluation of ESL textbooks : a sociolinguistic perspective
Soldati-Kahimbaara, Kulukazi Theodorah
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The attitudes and values of textbook authors can (sub)consciously influence the content of their textbooks. Where the culture/gender of writers and users differ, textbooks could be culture/gender-biased. The aims of this mini-dissertation were (1) to draw up criteria for ESL textbooks that are culturally inclusive, gender-representative and use a gender-neutral form of English; (2) to evaluate three ESL textbooks widely used in schools using these three groups of criteria and (3) to make suggestions to supplement the textbooks to overcome shortcomings in these three areas. Literature on cultural inclusiveness/diversity, gender-representativeness and the use of a gender-neutral form of English was reviewed. Forms of bias in the textbooks analysed are discussed in the light of their potential effects on learners. Preliminary criteria to evaluate textbooks for cultural inclusiveness/diversity, gender-representativeness and the use of a gender-neutral form of English were developed based on the literature review and these criteria were then validated by means of a validation questionnaire, sent to a group of lecturers in Applied Linguistics. A five-point scale was used to rate the criteria. Twenty-eight criteria were selected after validation and were applied to evaluate the three textbooks. Two of the textbooks were unsuccessful in terms of the criteria. Both displayed bias against formerly disadvantaged groups (Africans/Coloureds), mainly because Africans, the majority of South Africa's population, hardly appear. Both textbooks showed gender bias, as very few women appear. Lastly, both textbooks use a male-centred form of English. Thus, by excluding people from some population groups/women and using male-centred English, these textbooks render these groups and their participation in society invisible. However, the third textbook met most of the criteria, except that it tended to overrepresent Africans in the texts used at the expense of other formerly disadvantaged groups (Coloureds/lndians). Where textbooks were unsuccessful in terms of the final criteria, recommendations are made for supplementation to overcome shortcomings with additional materials that are culturally inclusive/diverse, gender-representative and use a gender-neutral form of English.
- Humanities