Friday, August 9, 2013

Textbooks do not matter

I have complained before, and I am far from being the only one, that textbooks are too expensive. But we still use them because we think they are useful, or because we are too lazy to come up with class material ourselves. Beyond the benefit for the lazy teacher, do textbooks actually bring something to the classroom?

Maria Kuecken and Marie-Anne Valfort looks at a case where textbooks are sometimes simply not available, classrooms in 11 Sub-Saharian countries. And it turns out the availability of textbooks does not matter, whether owned by each pupil or shared. It is only in one case, the richer kids, where there is a noticeable improvement in school achievement for shared textbooks. So it looks like teachers manage to adapt well to the absence of textbooks. And I think there is virtue in working without them: students have to listen to the teacher, learn to take notes or absorb material on the spot, and they are more active in the classroom. I wish I could go without textbooks, but unfortunately rules are rules. And publishers also need to make a living, right?


avs said...

"And publishers also need to make a living, right?" wrong.

Economic Logician said...

avs, that was sarcasm.

That said, I realize that I wrote something that does not make much sense. The results from Sub-Saharan Africa likely do not generalize well into the context of developed economies. I got carried away by my strong disliking of current textbook prices.

Unknown said...

Some say that Africa is backward because Africans do not read. Does this support your claim about how unuseful textbooks can be? Just think about studying languages without some kind of textbook and tell me how skillful you can become at it. I have seen village schools in Africa where an entire class has just two English language textbooks and I can tell you there is nothing to write home about English language literacy there. Let's get textbooks to them.