While the decision to change the textbook policy for primary and secondary schools to have only one core textbook may be well-intended, it’s evident that not everybody is comfortable with it.
However, requiring parents to buy six textbooks per subject unnecessarily burdens them. At the same time, there has been some grumbling by teachers, publishers and other stakeholders, which cannot be just ignored.
The Education ministry is keen to alleviate the suffering of parents who were being forced to buy too many books for the benefit of publishers, cartels and some unscrupulous headteachers.
These cartels in the school textbook system ensure that some shoddily prepared books are picked over better ones.
The authorities cannot just sit back and let this happen. However, it’s also true that having one textbook per subject would deny students an opportunity to enrich their learning.
The Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development has been using the Orange Book, which contains a list of six textbooks per subject, as the standard guide.
From that list, teachers choose what they consider suitable. The lingering controversy indicates there is a need for further public debate. As publishers prepare to bid for textbooks, the government should fully explain the new policy. Even as we try to reduce expenses for parents, we must not lose sight of the need for quality learning.