ΤΕΥΧΟΣ 13

ΤΕΥΧΟΣ 13

ISSUE 13

Autumn 2009

EDITORIAL

D. Mattheou

CONTENTS

The purpose of this article is to probe into the changes that took place in the politics of school knowledge, especially as concerns the school textbooks of the Greek primary education during the 1997-2007 period. Most specifically, it is asserted that curriculum reform and textbook design and development establish a case for a paradigm shift when compared with those of the former period 1982-1996. The article comprisex three parts.

Part one refers to the basic theoretical approaches regarding the context of current politics for school knowledge including the relationship between school textbooks and curricula. Emphasis is placed in the delineation of curricular issues such as centralist knowledge, symbolic and social control, cultural reproduction, ethnocentrism in education, etc.

Part two concerns itself with a historical comparative approach between the two periods regarding the politics of school knowledge in order to establish the case for the paradigm shift. More specifically this section includes : a) an investigation of the history of  politics of school knowledge in Greece during the 1982-1996. Specific studies are presented to document the shift at the political as well as the curricular level, including school textbooks, b) a comparison of the main features of both reform periods in order to build up a case for a paradigm shift.

Part three explicates in great detail the discourse of policy talk and practice of the recent reform period regarding school textbooks. To this end, the structural elements of the new curriculum reform and its effect on the content of school textbooks are delineated and the specifications for textbook development are compared with those of the former period. Furthermore, in order to document the paradigm shift, some of the structural features of modern Greek language as a school subject, at a primary level, are put forward.

Finally, the article critiques the reform of the politics of school knowledge in Greece and questions the degree to which the aforementioned paradigm shift would be implemented in practice in view of the weaknesses, the dysfunctions and the power-knowledge relations in Greece which seem to impede the materialization and success of the present educational reform.

This article deals with the three policies for school books which have been pursued in the neo hellenic state, ever since its establishment. These are the state monopoly policy, the free competition policy and the regulatory state intervention policy.  The article also presents the theoretical basis for each policy, the targeted objects, the negative incidents accompanying their implementation, and their educational and social consequences. Following this examination over time, one may conclud that the policies which ultimately prevailed in Greece, including the policy implemented from 1937 to date, were extremist. Though today’s “one-and-οnly-book” policy is considered to be outdated, at the same time, the possible adoption of policies which would have involved the market more, gives rise to concern, as the supervisory and control functions of the neo hellenic state continue to be inherent with striking shortcomings.

Research of school text-books is a decisive issue for educational scientists (researchers and pedagogues), considering that in most educational systems the text-book is as yet the dominant medium for teaching and knowledge transfer. Research in school text-books, as it was systematized during the 1970s, has focused on the following three dimensions: the ‘informatory’, the ‘pedagogical’, and the ‘political’. The later is of a particular interest for many researchers in the framework of critical pedagogy, as the text-book was fittingly considered not only as a medium for teaching, but also as a medium for ideological reproduction. Departing from critical analysis tradition, politically oriented research of the school text-books today is considered as interdisciplinary.

‘Classical’ critical pedagogy is highly influenced by the critical theory of the Frankfurt School in the late 1960s, and as it has developed so far, consist an alternative paradigm to the so-called dominant empirical and hermeneutic paradigms. The critical-pedagogy approach looks upon the dependant relations of mainstream educational practice with social and economic processes as well as the ways towards emancipation from what assists an oppressive condition. In this broad context the school text-book is studied -as a product for ideology control or as a social construction that aims to deliver dominant social, economic and political beliefs as established and contracted- is studied through the ideology critique lens at four levels. In this process the researcher through a sequence of critical questions and self-reflection on the various distortions (cognitive, psychic and scientific) that the dominant ideology poses, is implicated to an ever critical condition that is dialectical in its foundations, but with practical aspects within it, aiming to ‘uncover’ the taken-for-granted realities of what is considered as dominant and unaffected. This paper presents examples of this process, based on the content of Greek school text-books after the civil war period.

In recent years critical pedagogy is developing through alternative critical pedagogical discourses in reference to other critical social theories such as post-structuralism, post-feminism, cultural studies, queer theory etc. In this broad context school text-book is approached as social constructions that -as a medium of teaching- literally force into students’ realities the dominant ideology (assisting a dominant literary approach in reading and writing) as something non-negotiable, while serves the realities of those who represent the dominant culture (namely politicians, religion, people with economic power). The purpose of the researcher in this case is to put in use methodologies that provide ‘critical space’ for alternative meaning-making of what is considered or delivered as non-negotiable in our society. This aims to empower students to read from a different perspective. The most commonly used methods to assist the researcher’s effort towards this direction are critical discourse analysis and social semiotics. Based on the acknowledged work of Ν. Fairclough and S. Jäger the paper attempts a critical analysis of language text-books that are in-use in Greek schools, focusing on the construction of national identity. The example used is further amplified with reference to the ‘Grammar of Visual Design’ that was developed by G. Kress and Th. van Leeuwen.

Due to the essential work that school textbooks perform in learning today and the fact that a variety of interesting views have been expressed about the characteristics of a good textbook lately, an attempt is being made in this paper to present an alternative proposition about the evaluation criteria of quality textbooks, that is a synthesis of research outcomes and personal experiences.

Thus the main question that has to be answered in this paper concerns the existence of generally accepted criteria upon which textbooks could be evaluated. In the discussion that follows the author argues in favour of four pillars of criteria based mainly on the perceptions of teachers, pupils and parents. Namely, 1) the content, in which the following sub-criteria are examined: 1.1 the correspondence between the content of the textbooks and the curriculum, 1.2 the scientific validity of the offered knowledge in textbooks, 1.3 the educational and social function of them, and 1.4 the structure and organization of their content; 2) the learning and teaching appropriateness in which are analyzed the sub-criteria of: 2.1 the learning and teaching methods, 2.2 the learning activities, 2.3 the pupils΄ motivation, and 2.4 the role of teachers and pupils; 3) the language and readability of the text; 4) the final form and printing of the manuscript which comprises the sub-criteria of: 4.1 the text, 4.2 the illustration, and 4.3 the aesthetics of the printing.

Having in mind the abovementioned criteria: a) the authors of the textbooks can proceed in writing successfully their manuscript, b) the evaluation committees can evaluate textbooks based on stable qualitative criteria, and c) teachers, pupils and parents can make the right selection of textbooks each time increasing thus the efficiency and joy of learning.

The intense concern for the efficient application of illustrations in teaching which is dominant at the research level is not equally present in Greek educational practice. History textbooks traditionally utilize a stable set of images which is fixed in time. As a consequence, the chosen illustrations fail to meet the criteria which render the teaching process fruitful for the achievement of the two main aims of the history lesson, namely the development of historical thinking and consciousness. In other words, a specific mode for choosing illustrations has been adopted, one that excludes an alternative choice of illustrations which could function independently or beyond this practice.

The present study investigates the possible contribution of illustrations towards the achievement of the main purposes of historical education. Specifically, the study intends to pinpoint the shortcomings as well as to reveal the potentials of illustrations appearing in history textbooks. In addition, it offers paradigms of successful exploitation of images in lesson planning, teaching and student assessment. There is an emphasis on the particular principles which must be met so that the selection and utilization of images could serves the aims of stimulating student interest and speculation. This results in student formulating questions and producing answers concerning crucial issues of historical study. Towards this end, the fourth grade history textbook is examined as a case study.  The potentials and shortcomings of the illustrations appearing in this textbook presented. The presentation of these weaknesses aims to project the multiple roles that images could take on within the context of the history lesson. The chosen illustrations are examined as far as their consistency to the functions they are called upon to carry out. Reference is made regarding the extent to which the chosen illustrations a) function as historical sources, b) are exploited by students as bridges that connect their pre-existing knowledge and experiences with the new historical content, c) aid students in organizing, retaining and recalling the sequence of historical events, d) guide the students to identify the philosophy, the ideology and the manners of the era and its creators. Finally, it is examined whether and to what extent the illustrations encourage and involve the students in empathetic investigative procedures.

The study as a whole ascertains that the illustrations of the textbook are not chosen nor are they dealt with as historical sources to the desired degree. As a result, students are restrained from searching, constructing and retaining historical knowledge. Instead, illustrations are mainly used as descriptive visual aids which support the content of the historical narratives. The insufficient exploitation of images in the historical textbook in question degrades the multiple functions which they could accomplish so that they could become efficacious teaching tools.

The author looks critically into the new compulsory education textbooks in an attempt to find out “what is new with the new school textbooks”.  He states that, although much progress has been made in terms of their content, the teaching methods they are associated with and the processes related to their authoring and approval, much still needs to be done. To his point of view present difficulties and drawbacks should be attributed to the lack of relevant research in the field.

Family is considered to be a social institution, which not only follows the pace of the progress society is making but also influences it through the application of personal choices and expressions. 

By studying family throughout centuries, it has been found out that it is constantly changing and taking various forms. The form of nuclear family has been dominant nowadays, coexisting, though, with other alternative forms such as the expanded one, the single-parent one, the adopting one, the reformed one to name but a few, since contemporary societies appear to be more flexible as far as the needs, the values, the institutions and mostly the choices are concerned. 

In order to find out whether school projects the family institution, refers to its constituent parts or analyses its forms helping thus, towards their acceptance and consequently contributing to children’s smooth adaptation in school and society in general, it is considered of pivotal importance to study the frequency and the way the family institution and its forms appear in the new textbooks of Greek Language and Anthology that are currently being taught in Primary Schools.

For the purposes of the present study, the New Cross-Thematic Curriculum and the corresponding syllabi have been under scrutiny in order to find out whether family and its forms are included in their aims and objectives. More specifically, the method of content analysis has been chosen for the textbooks of Greek Language and Anthology for all grades of Primary School. 

For the statistical analysis of the results, descriptive statistics, cross-tabulation statistics, independent sample t-tests and analysis of variance have been used, based on S.P.S.S.

According to the results of the study, the family institution has sufficiently been presented among other psycho-pedagogical and sociological issues. Family and its nuclear form in particular are sufficiently presented in the textbooks of Greek Language and Anthology. Its members equally participate in all activities. Not only do parents support the younger family members but also grandparents and they are presented in a way showing affection, interest and love. 

However, the other family forms, such as the single-parent one, are not satisfactorily presented, a fact which is not in compliance with the aims and objectives of the New Cross-Thematic Curriculum and the contemporary ‘trends’, according to which  the particular form is fast gaining grounds.