Adaptability of the In-Use Textbooks to Students in Rural Junior Middle School in Henan, China

Article excerpt

Abstract

In Henan province, and through out China, both students in cities and countrysides are using the same textbooks for junior high schools. This phenomenon unavoidably resulted in the fact that it is difficult for students in rural junior high school to understand the contents in textbooks. In order to investigate whether the learning difficulty results partly from the inadaptability of the in-use textbooks to students in junior high school of Henan Province, we assumed that the three-version textbooks being used in the schools are not adaptable. Through observation, plus analysis of the questionnaire, we find that in compiling textbooks, rural students' needs are always ignored consciously or unconsciously. Consequently, our hypothesis was confirmed by the conclusion. In the end we strongly recommend that rural students' special needs should be taken into consideration.

Keywords: adaptability, textbook, rural, junior high school

1. Introduction

From 1949 to the present, middle school textbooks have undergone three phases in the People's Republic of China. The first phase, from 1949 to 1956, was Probe Phase; the second one, from 1956 from 1966, was Establishing Phase; and the third, from 1978 to now, Developing Phase. The same characteristic of textbooks used in these three periods is that all textbooks are mainly compiled by a particular group of specialists in linguistics. There was no regional difference between rural and urban areas. Both students in countrysides and cities are learning from the same textbooks, and no consideration is ever given to the difference among city students and rural ones. Presently, as in urban junior high school, three versions of English textbooks are being used in rural junior high school in Henan Province. One is Junior English for China (1990) composed by People's Education Press of China and Longman Publishing Group of England in 1990; another one is the newest-version Go for It (2001) which was jointly formulated by People's Education Press of China and Thomson Publishing Group of America in 2001; and the third one was composed by Hunan Education Press. All these three versions are compiled according to the new English Curriculum Standard (2001) which is made in response to the voice of education reform. There are many ways to implement education reform, but in the final analysis, education reform won't be realized without curriculum reform. Therefore, the main focus of curriculum reform is the reform of teaching materials and the reform of textbooks should be the key of teaching material. Still the formulation or reform of any textbook should take learners' needs into first consideration, because satisfying learners' needs is the starting and ending point of educational reform in English (Bao, 2005).

Karl Marx held that anything should be done from each according to his abilities, and to each according to his needs. So any course should be based on an analysis of learners' needs (Hutchinson & Waters, 1987). Cunningsworth (1984) also considered, when assessing the textbooks, that four aspects should be taken into account, and one of those aspects is that textbooks should satisfy the needs of learners. Cunningsworth's (1995) criterion is particularly helpful for teachers of English as a foreign or second language to evaluate textbooks and select those which are most suitable for their purposes. Besides, students' age, English level, expectations, motive, existing learning resources, their preferred learning style and interest also must be taken into account. Tomlinson (1999) particularly emphasized the needs of the students. In his opinion, a good textbook should have the following characteristics: 1. It should be lively, informative and absorbing. 2. The contents and arrangements of the textbook should encourage students to pursue further learning rather than frustrate them. 3. Topics for discussion should be relevant to the student's life. 4. Besides bringing students into contact with real linguistic context, a good textbook should always allow students access to practice. …