Academic journal article Perspectives in Education

Gender Representation in Contemporary Grade 10 Business Studies Textbooks in South Africa

Academic journal article Perspectives in Education

Gender Representation in Contemporary Grade 10 Business Studies Textbooks in South Africa

Article excerpt

Introduction and background

In the era of political and social transformation that followed South Africa's first national democratic elections in 1994, the country's education system faced a continuous series of challenges (Christie, 1997). Numerous policy initiatives have been proposed to reform education practices and equip learners to become critical citizens in changing global and national environments in line with international trends (Naicker, 1999). Yet, by 2009, and in subsequent years, a number of problems were documented regarding the failings in South African schools. In response to a barrage of criticism, Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga appointed a task team to advise the Department of Basic Education (DBE) on changes that needed to be made in order to address the education crisis (Kgosana, 2010). A new action plan to improve the country's schools, known as Schooling 2025, that has now been set in place by government, targets a wide range of concerns, including teacher recruitment, learner enrolment, school funding, mass literacy and overall quality of education (Kgosana, 2010).

Schooling 2025, in conjunction with the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) documents, attempts to ensure that the performance of South African learners will be improved. One of the ways in which the DBE sees this happening is by reintroducing textbooks in classrooms as a central resource for students and teachers. The Department of Education's (DoE) (2003: 6) Curriculum News for 2010 notes that "textbooks play a vital part in teaching and learning [and] must be used by teachers and learners to enhance their teaching and learning". While this repositioning of the textbook as a key resource is a positive development, it is based on the assumption that textbooks are inherently useful and will project the values embedded in the country's Constitution. Crawford (2000) reminds us that textbooks play an important role in shaping and socialising students. In countries such as South Africa, the state is a key actor in preparing and controlling school curricula and textbook production. It is no secret that the state views the educational system as a political project through the fusion of linguistic unification and a coherent curriculum within the education system that enables consolidation of a national unity and a new South African identity (Christie, 2000). Yet, despite the ideological changes made to the curriculum since 1994, and despite policy statements aimed at publishing textbooks that are gender-friendly, the Gender Equity Task Team (GETT) Report identified a number of obstacles to transformation of the South African education system, one of which was transformation as it relates to gender issues in school textbooks (Wolpe, Quinlan & Martinez, 1997: 23; Biraimah, 1998: 44). According to Engelbrecht (2006), textbooks, by their nature, tend to both control and transmit knowledge, thus reinforcing selected values and ideologies in the minds of learners. Recognising the key significance of textbooks in the South African classroom and the important way in which they articulate a programmatic curriculum, this study explores the gendered characteristics of Business Studies textbooks.

Literature review

The manner in which gender has been represented in school instructional material, including textbooks, has been a concern for several decades. Documented findings from different studies across various disciplines clearly indicate (as will be shown) that the two genders have been treated quite differently. This brief literature review will focus on three themes, namely the firstness of pronoun; stereotypical occupational roles, and the depiction of leadership roles.

The analysis of gender firstness in textbooks was first undertaken by Hartman and Judd (1978) in an investigation of several textbooks published over a period of twelve years. Hartman and Judd investigated the order of mentioning of two nouns paired for sex, such as Mr and Mrs, brother and sister, and husband and wife, and discovered that, except in the case of 'ladies and gentlemen', the masculine word always came first. …

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