SA Journal of Education, Vol 44, No 2 (2024)

Do textbooks reflect learners’ diversity? A case study of Grade 4 English and life skills textbooks

Lucy Sibanda, Tracey Herman


Textbooks socialise and legitimise cultural norms, and therefore, learners’ social worlds should find expression in their textbooks. In the study reported on here we examined how Grade 4 English First Additional Language and life skills textbooks reflected learner diversity in South African schools as manifested in their racial, gender, occupational, ability and geographical profiling in the textbooks. Content analysis was used to systematically identify instances of diversity representation in Grade 4 English First Additional Language and life skills textbooks. Quantitative content analysis accounted for the ubiquity of human characters’ reflection in textbooks on the diversity variables in question. Qualitative analysis focused on the depiction of characters’ gender roles. Quantitative data suggest that learners’ social worlds were generally represented in the selected textbooks. However, males enjoyed greater visibility than females, and the visibility of disabled people was low. The 2 life skills and 1 English textbook portrayed both urban and rural settings. The qualitative analysis uncovered some gender stereotyping, where, for example, women were depicted in lower positions compared to men’s high-paying vocations like judges, scientists, or doctors. Boys were depicted receiving prizes for their Matric achievements. Implications for publishers and writers commissioned to write textbooks include the need to consider representation of learner diversity in textbooks. The Department of Education should develop guidelines that promote such representation.

ORCiD iDs of authors:
Lucy Sibanda -
Tracey Herman -

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