Bring back traditional textbooks, says Minister

Schools should provide pupils with textbooks to give them “a sense of ownership” over key subjects and stop them being overloaded with tatty worksheets.

According to research, only 10% of teachers in England issue whole textbooks to pupils, compared with an international average of 75% and 99% in South Korea, theTelegraph reports.

Education Minister Elizabeth Truss warned that England “has fallen out of love with the textbook” and that teachers see them as “regimented and old-fashioned”, preferring to give pupils classroom materials that they have created. In contrast, textbooks are routinely issued to pupils in some of the best-performing countries in PISA, enabling them to “catch up or read ahead, study core concepts on their own”.

In a speech to an audience of publishers she claimed that parents were frustrated when their children brought home “dog-eared worksheets” instead of a textbook:  “Textbooks represent something quite powerful in our education system,” she said, “A textbook provides a map or a guide. A good textbook starts off with the basics, building more and more on top, giving children what they need to know.”

Do you agree with the Minister, or was she just trying to please an audience of publishers? Are worksheets used too much at the expense of textbooks?

16 thoughts on “Bring back traditional textbooks, says Minister

  1. I couldn’t agree more with the minister. Students need textbooks to work with. Children get bored at home as they have nothing to work with and that’s why they spend their time in front of the computer or the TV. Textbooks can really motivate children. Those teachers who don’t like books probably are not sure about their own knowledge. I once worked with a language teacher who could not teach a lesson without her laptop. She actually said to me that in two years time there would be no textbooks in her school. She was the head of languages. No wonder why British children lag far behind in languages. I think the whole system should be revised and especially the teaching methods. A teacher who uses textbooks is not old fashioned, as most claim, on the contrary he/she knows what they are doing.

  2. I have continued to use a textbook in my teaching [Italian] despite fashions in teaching for worksheets. I believe a good textbook is worth its weight in gold. It gives us continuity and control of the material. It saves the teacher precious time which she can better devote to explanations in the classroom. I do use worksheets and other media as a supplement alongside my textbook and I have found over 30 years of teaching this method gives the best results.

    Susan Chew

  3. How many texts go missing , get lost or are ruined and defaced ? It’s a waste of money handing out texts to children who can’t care for them properly .
    I used texts AND worksheets. I kept the texts safely locked up and handed them out for specific lessons and collected them back again when the lesson finished ! Giving them to students to give them a ‘sense of ownership’ sounds like a privatization obsession !?

    More hot air from Truss !

  4. And how many text books are available that meet the needs of the new curriculum? How many publishers promote the authorship of text books?
    Speaking as a primary school teacher, it seems that at the moment everything is required to be personalised learning that text books just cannot provide. My wife is a secondary school teacher and the dearth of quality textbooks is similar at that stage it seems. Moreover the lack of funding means sending out a vast number of books at huge prices is too much of a risk.
    Perhaps the education minister, along with anyone else in Whitehall involved in dreaming up education policy, should spend some time finding out what schools and children are actually like these days rather than basing judgements on outdated memories of their own school days, yearning for the better times they recall.

  5. A comment like this just shows how far removed ministers are from what is happening in the classroom. There is the answer to why standards are falling .

  6. I think this same Minister should remember that many schools and colleges are dealing with massive cuts in funding. Paying out for new textbooks every year (which will be inevitable with wear and tear, and loss) for every single subject and student is completely untenable. I don’t see textbooks as unfashionable at all – I’d love to use them, but we simply can’t afford to at my college.

  7. I have not worked at an English school, but spent over 14 years teaching in Ukraine. The textbooks on most subjects can be borrowed from the school library there, and the responsibility for their safekeeping is on pupils, not on teachers. If the textbook is ruined or missed at the end of the year, it is to be replaced or paid for by the pupil’s family, so those pupils I used to teach cared properly of their textbooks. I created worksheets too and gave them to my students free of charge, still they could always use their textbooks for reference.

  8. From the statistics it looks like we are out of step with the rest of the world, who are outperforming us. Perhaps to deal with Elias’s concerns it might be useful to get a deposit from every child’s family or, if this is impractical, to make attendance at the end of term trip, Alton Towers in our case, dependent on return of their textbooks in good condition. I’m not sure about the “ownership” idea, which sounds a bit nebulous, but it does give students the opportunity to read ahead of the current lesson or check their understanding, where they are uncertain after the lesson. Also it’s really useful when exams come round for revision purposes. It sounds like common sense to me.

  9. A simple solution would be for the government to agree to fund the textbooks for each child in whatever subjects they choose. If the government wants the schools to do something then they should fund it. I found textbooks very beneficial during my school days but it has to be said many children in my school simply wrecked them. I remember one being burned on a school bus. Government ministers should spend some time in ordinary schools as TA’s fir a few weeks before spouting off ideas left right and centre with any practical understating or perspective on education today. They never tell surgeons how to operate but love telling teachers how to teach.

  10. I think the idea behind giving pupils text books is excellent. It all comes down to one thing. Expectations. If we expect them to lose the books, they will. It will undoubtedly take time to develop this new culture. However, developed it will be! When I took up headship at my current school, no child was allowed to take a book home in fear of them losing it. The library shelves were packed with book, covered in dust. Untouched! Now, all our pupils take books home and the most we lose is one or two a term, if that. So lets start changing attitudes and stop looking for excuses. As for cost, the money belongs to the children so spend it on them, strategically and wisely.

  11. 2002. I had to buy my daughter the textbooks she needed at her secondary school . 1971.In my school days we had text books provided which were covered in brown paper at the beginning of each new year . Obviously a difference in how budgets are spent nothing much to do with having ownership .

  12. I think that having textbooks will allow students to review their lessons on their own during free time. It’s really different if what we are reading is something we can touch and feel, such as a book. Learning is making use of our senses. Books allow us to go back and read topics several times… To practice and to perfect our understanding. Worksheets do the same, the difference is, textbooks are structured, which is important in forming a foundation.

  13. Yes,yes,yes.Give them textbooks.Children can look ahead to see what they are aiming for instead of being left in the dark.Let the children and all involved in their education take control of their own learning.

  14. Yes,yes,yes I recommend this fantastic idea of introducing the text books for core subjects as it definitely would encourage children’s interest towards studies and better performance because they have the material in hand. Without text books children wouldn’t have any idea what to revise and what to learn which in turn leaves them without any work at home in contrast to their counterparts in other asian countries where they are devoting more time for studies rather than playing all sorts of e- games which in turn creating all this gang culture and mis management of time.Lets spend money on text books and change the attitude and culture instead of youth programmes of all sorts which is not helping them in any way. Lets focus on this old tried and tested approach and help them to focus on studies and career by involving them in group and combined studies by organising events in libraries and other places .

  15. I completely agree with the concept of giving students the text books. It will guide students about the structure of their learning (especially when not all learners are at the same level), provide background knowledge if needed, provide the opportunity to read ahead, give ownership of their learning and confidence that they have learnt what was expected of them. Good source for revision.

  16. I liked Frances’s quaint comment about backing text books in brown paper, I’ll arrange my ‘backing your textbooks in brown paper lesson’ for the next time my teaching is observed for my performance related pay.

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