Count on a poor quality textbook
(TEXTBOOKS FOR ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS – FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS)
Analytical commentary, August 2020
Slovakia achieved poor results regarding the quality of textbooks for elementary schools both in TALIS 2013 and TALIS 2018 surveys. This is in line with the findings of various audit and analytical activities done by the Supreme Audit Office of the Slovak Republic (SAO SR). As these activities consistently pointed to the insufficiency of textbooks provision system, the SAO SR decided to analyze it in more detail. The SAO SR prepared a questionnaire and sent it to a statistically representative sample of elementary schools. The survey was conducted during April– May 2020 and facilitated collection of a complex set of quantitative and qualitative data.
Key findings of the survey:
- More than 3/4 of the addressed schools considered the textbooks for mathematics as unsatisfactory and often unsystematically written.
- Besides mathematics, also textbooks for some other subjects were highly criticized, namely those for Slovak language and literature, informatics and geography.
- Almost 75% of schools are aware of textbooks that are available on market and are of higher quality in comparison to textbooks provided by the Ministry of Education.
- Due to the poor quality of textbooks provided to schools by the Ministry of Education, majority of schools used other sources to obtain them. Hence, 86% of schools used financial support from parents of pupils to buy textbooks of higher quality.
- The Ministry of Education hasn’t been performing any effective and systematic process of gathering feedback on textbooks – 85% schools has never been asked by any relevant authority about their opinion on textbooks.
- There were also complaints about the portal for textbooks ordering run by the Ministry of Education. Many schools considered it not to be flexible enough. Only 13% of schools agreed with the current system, in which the Ministry of Education selects and distributes textbooks to schools. Over 70% of schools would prefer a system that allows them to choose textbooks freely.
- It also happened that deliveries of textbooks ordered by schools were delayed or did not arrive in the ordered quantity, so that teachers and students did not have them at the beginning of the school year.
In summer 2020, the Ministry of Education changed its approach to the textbooks provision system. The new system will allow schools to choose textbooks from much wider variety of available alternatives since the 2020/2021 school year. It is important to stress that the survey was conducted before this change and thus does not reflect it. The SAO SR welcomes the new approach, but it should have been done much sooner. In addition, the SAO SR recommends ensuring that the delivery of ordered textbooks is on time. If any of ordered textbooks are not going to be delivered, the schools should be informed about this situation as soon as possible.
The full text of the analysis about this issue in Slovak language is available here.