No Math Textbooks? Try Online Open Math Resources (OOMR) and Create a Community of Practice (CoP)
With very few exceptions, African countries are confronted with an acute shortage of textbooks in all subjects and at all levels of the education system. There are even countries where no textbooks exist in one or many subject areas. This state of affairs has further compounded an already dire situation regarding education quality as unqualified and poorly trained teachers are more often than not in charge of African classrooms. The importance of textbooks is underscored by the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) in its Policy Paper 23 entitled Every Child should Have a Textbook (published in January 2016) as they are seen as “especially relevant to improving learning outcomes in low income countries with large class sizes, a high proportion of unqualified teachers and a shortage of instructional time.”
The “picture” of the shortage and absence of textbooks in Africa in both primary and secondary schools is dissapointing. At primary level in Cameroon, for example, the GPE reports that in 2012 “there was only 1 reading textbook for 12 students and only 1 mathematics textbook for 14 students in grade 2. Mathematics textbooks are often scarcer. In Togo, in grade 2, there were 3 students for every reading textbook, compared with 8 students for every mathematics textbook.”
At the secondary level, an analysis of 19 Sub-Saharan African countries carried out by the World Bank in 2008 revealed the following situation: (i) only Botswana had adequate textbook provision, close to a 1:1 ratio for all subjects and all secondary grades and (ii) in the other 18 countries, including Lesotho, Mozambique and Zambia, secondary textbooks, particularly in non-core subjects, were in very short supply.
In the poorest African countries such as the Sahelian countries (Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal) the situation is even worse. In Mali, for instance, there are no math textbooks for upper secondary students in a context of a major curriculum and pedagogical reform that introduces competency-based teaching and learning. This is the situation that a group of dedicated and creative math teachers and trainers of teachers have been trying to address by setting up an online platform of open math resources (booklets and exercise books) and creating a community of practice (CoP) to enhance teacher professional development.