Workbooks no better than textbooks

2010-08-30 11:41

Johannesburg – The workbooks introduced in primary schools do not work better than traditional textbooks, a study released on Monday has found.

"The study suggests that more research is required before more workbooks are introduced into the national education system as these workbooks do not necessarily improve learner performance," said Brahm Fleisch, professor of education policy from the University of the Witwatersrand school of education, and one of the lead researchers of the study.

The study was undertaken in response to the Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga's budget allocation of R750m in the 2010/11 budget for easy-to-read workbooks in all official languages to be distributed to the poorest 40% of primary schools.

The study, undertaken between January and July 2010, covered 14 weeks of the National Senior Certificate curriculum and was based on Grade Six mathematics workbooks in 42 primary schools in Gauteng.

Fleisch said the study suggested more research was needed before substantial public resources were committed to the printing and distribution of new workbooks to schools.

In the study, schools were randomly assigned to experimental and control groups.

Experimental and control groups

Pupils in the experimental group were issued with a workbook, which emphasises basic skill proficiency and the four basic operations: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

Pupils in the control group of schools were all given one of the approved textbooks widely used in South African primary schools.

Both the experimental and control groups received two days of training in the use of the books and three classroom visits to monitor coverage.

Both groups showed statistically significant improvement of eight percentage points from a baseline of 47%.

However, the researchers found no statistical difference in the gains between the two groups.

Both groups improved their mathematics achievement, but the "new" workbook did not work better than the approved textbook.