Textbook Availability and Use in Rwandan Basic Education
A mixed-methods study
Textbooks and related learning materials, such as workbooks and teacher guides, are widely assumed to be key inputs in effective schooling systems. Some recent statistical analyses have challenged the validity of such assumptions and highlighted the tendency for textbook availability to be used as a proxy for textbook use. However, few studies have explored whether textbooks are actually used, and if not, why not. This article aims to address this gap in the literature by presenting the findings from a nationwide survey of textbook use in Rwandan basic education and providing a detailed analysis of current use of textbooks in a range of Rwandan classroom settings and an exploration of the barriers to their effective use.
The study utilised a mixed-methods survey design to enable the collection of representative data about the extent of textbook use across a range of classroom contexts and in-depth exploration of the barriers and enablers to textbook use from the perspectives of teachers, learners and the school management. The fieldwork was carried out between March and May of 2015. Quantitative data were collected at 120 schools through spot checks of textbook availability and follow-up structured classroom observations of textbook access and use.The first key finding from this study is that textbooks are widely available in all schools but that this does not translate into access in the classroom with textbooks only present in approaching three in five (58.5%) classrooms. Furthermore, in these classrooms, it was most likely for the textbook only to be used by the teacher as a teaching aid.
- There were no clear patterns to how the books are being used with only very limited examples of textbooks being used systematically as learning support material available to all learners.
- It is evident that textbook availability cannot be seen to translate into their use as effective learning support materials for all learners in the classroom.
The findings have also suggested a number of barriers to textbook use. There was little indication that teachers were opposed to using textbooks. However, evidence suggests that the perceived challenges were preventing their regular use. Thematic analysis of the qualitative data identified three main barriers to the more frequent use of textbooks in the classroom. These related to textbook supply, quality and accessibility.
- Regarding textbook supply, when asked to reflect on the barriers to their textbook use, the most frequent response by the twelve teachers was that textbook supply remained insufficient with student numbers significantly larger than the books available.
- The second most cited barrier to textbook use by teachers was the quality of the textbooks available.
- The final key barrier that teachers highlighted was a mismatch between textbook content and learner linguistic capabilities.
Conclusions suggest the implications for textbook development, distribution and use in Rwanda and point to the need for greater understanding of the complexities of the ways that textbooks can be used as effective learning support materials for all learners.