As a parent and someone with great interest in education of our Nation’s children, I wish to air my issues with the use of workbooks in the elementary school system. There are 3 main reasons why I think that this is not the best approach to educating our youngsters.
The first negative in my mind associated with using workbooks is that parents and guardians are unable to pass down books to younger children as was the practice some years ago. The pages are all marked up, and in order for the upcoming child to benefit from the lessons contained in the text, he has to get a brand new book. Who benefits from this arrangement? Certainly not the parents, who are put out of pocket every twelve months being forced to buy brand new books instead of having the option to purchase a second hand book or pass down a used book. Where parents are put under this pressure, it makes it less likely that they can purchase 100% of the book list requirement, thus compromising the overall delivery of information to our young ones. The ones who stand to lose if the use of workbooks was obliterated are the book publishers and sellers. But in an environment of scarce resources and an imperative to equip our citizens from the elementary stages in support of giving us a competitive edge, I think that the Ministry of Education should side with parents and children in doing what is best for them rather than the publishers and sellers of books.
The act of writing aids in committing information to memory. Where children are asked to merely fill in blanks, I believe the learning process is being short-circuited, to their ultimate disadvantage.
And lastly, penmanship, sentence construction and the working of math problems by laying out steps in enough space to accommodate it (versus being constrained by the miniscule space that the workbook designers think is sufficient) are all compromised by forcing these young learners to fit their answers into a prescribed slot with as few words as possible.
I’d like to throw out a challenge to our schools: if the Ministry of Education will not reduce the numbers of workbooks as part of the recommended book lists for our schools, then schools can mandate that all working out and answers be done by children in exercise books, with no writing whatsoever to be done in the workbooks. This will allow second hand books to be sold and passed on easing the burden on caregivers and allowing the children to optimize their learning process. Furthermore, in the event that the publishers try to outsmart schools and parents by issuing revisions every year if such an arrangement was indeed instituted by our schools, the Ministry could institute a policy of limiting revised editions to once every three years.
Let me be clear, I am not attempting to pit parents and schools against our book industry. But in difficult times, difficult decisions have to be made. I believe that giving the upper hand to parents and children will benefit the Nation more than giving the upper hand to book publishers and sellers.
The challenge is now yours, Schools and Ministry of Education.