Teachers reject new textbooks due to multiple errors

Head teachers select books for new syllabus at Moran publishers stand during the Kenya Primary Schools head teachers Association 12th annual delegate conference at Sheikh Zayed hall in Mombasa. [Photo by Omondi Onyango/Standard]

Erroneous calculations, spelling mistakes, a mix-up in content ideas, shallow exercises for students, and poor arrangement of topics are some of the errors detected in the new secondary school textbooks.

Teachers said the mistakes are confusing learners and have compromised teaching. For example, they are grappling with the wrong identification of the parts of laboratory equipment.

The errors affect topics in the core subjects, namely mathematics, Kiswahili, English, biology, and physics.

Some teachers are avoiding the textbooks with mistakes and have reverted to books from other publishers. The books were procured by the Government at a cost of Sh7.6 billion.

“Our worry is the impact the errors will have on learners. Using these books may cause damage to learners either through omission of some content or overload. I have already received many complaints from teachers,” said the Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (Kessha) chairman, Kahi Indimuli.

Quality controls

One of the publishing experts said the errors could be blamed on poor quality controls during the vetting of textbooks and cases where publishers influence the approval of flawed books. The expert said the books approved by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) vetting panel might not be the same ones in circulation.

KICD Chief Executive Officer Julius Jwan said the books have been in use since 2005.

“We did not evaluate the books afresh. We only picked the cheapest books based on revised prices,” said Dr Jwan.

The Government's decision to distribute the books was touted to have saved taxpayers Sh13 billion, but stakeholders are demanding to know what went wrong.

The errors that The Standard found included the Kiswahili textbook, Uhondo wa Kiswahili by Moran Publishers, which seemed to be the most affected, with many errors cited by teachers who are now using alternative materials.

Learning areas

Some of the learning areas have been omitted in the book while others have been mixed up.

For instance, on page 25, only 12 learning areas under ngeli have been listed, leaving out two.

On page 22, there is a mix-up on sounds that teachers said were likely to confuse young minds. For example, vizuiwa-kwa mizwa has been used but the wording is changed on the next page. Vipasuo-kwa mizo has been introduced on page 23 instead of consistently using the vizuiwa-kwa mizwa.

“They are supposed to be the same but they have been used to mean a different thing and this will confuse learners,” said a secondary school teacher who did not wish to be named.

Another error on sounds is vitambaza, a plural sound, has been used instead of kitambaza, which is singular.

Another error is vimadende, a plural sound that has also been used in the place of the singular sound, kimadende.

More errors have been identified in Secondary Biology Form One students book Fifth Edition, by Kenya Literature Bureau (KLB)

On page 21, some basic parts of a microscope have been mis-allocated. The ‘stage’ is wrongly indicated in the diagram. The labelling of ‘stage’ should be above the ‘clip label’ and not below it, as is the case on the diagram.

Another naming mistake is noted on page 27 in a picture representing the structure of a cell membrane. The diagram in the book shows that the protein molecule is the vertical space surrounding the openings of the pore.

The correct naming of protein is in the horizontal space sandwiched between the two phospholipid layers, as indicated in the diagram.

Also in biology textbook, under one of the student activities, the book takes students through tests of vitamin C but the conclusion is on vitamin D.

“…if the blue colour of DCPIP is retained, this indicates the absence of vitamin D,” said a teacher.

In the physics students' book, teachers said the examples given were too shallow to support learning.

For instance, in the KLB book, activities only go up to measuring the density of a regular solid, yet in the teacher's guide, there are more activities such as measuring the density of a liquid using a relative density bottle.

Also in the teacher's guide there is an activity in finding the density of a relative density bottle.

In the mathematics textbook, some of the examples are mixed up and the calculations jumbled up.

The Kenya Publishers Association (KPA) termed the errors as 'minor' and asked teachers to correct them as they teach.

“We accept there were errors, but even the Bible has errors,’ said Lawrence Njagi, the KPA chairman.

But publishing experts termed the errors as ‘dangerous revelations’ because they touched on content.

“If it were technical factors such as poor printing because of the pressure we had, then it would be a different story. But it touches on content,” said David Waweru, a former chairman of publishers association.

Sources familiar with the book vetting process said the errors in content meant three things might have happened: The KICD vetting process might have been flawed, the textbook publishers might have compromised the vetting teams to pass a book with errors, or the books approved by the KICD vetting panel might not be the same ones in circulation.

“It is possible that after vetting, some publishers revised books to reduce the number of pages and in the process errors occurred,” said Waweru.

Teachers called for an audit to ascertain whether the books delivered to schools were the ones that had been submitted, vetted, and approved.

The Government has adopted a new direct book distribution policy that started this year.

Under the policy, only one book was approved for each course unit, limiting teachers’ choices on teaching materials.

Textbook policy

Former Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i implemented the new textbook policy that saw the Government spend only Sh7.6 billion on purchasing the books.

The books were procured following a re-evaluation of prices of books contained in the Orange Book.

The Ministry had accused school heads of not buying books even as capitation was sent annually for the purchase of books.

Last year, KICD initiated a new re-tendering process, which found that the prices quoted in the current approved textbook list had highly inflated costs.

The details are contained in the 'Report of the Re-Evaluation of School Textbooks (Classes 7 & 8 and Forms 1 – 4)'.