The use and abuse of economic and public affairs (EPA) textbooks: The impact on teaching and learning
AbstractTextbooks have long been very important tools for the relevant subject teachers in Hong Kong. But very few teachers and researchers have discussed and investigated the role of textbooks in the teaching of Economic and Public Affairs (EPA). The aim of this paper is to highlight important aspects of the characteristics of EPA textbooks in Hong Kong and examine the ways that teachers have used EPA textbooks. In Hong Kong the shortage of time means that teachers often rely on textbooks to help them to present the teaching points to the students. This should not constitute a hindrance to the teaching process if textbooks are well written and teachers are aware of the limitations of textbooks and appropriate steps are taken to overcome these limitations. But when the case of EPA teaching and learning is examined it is found that the situation is deplorable. One of the reasons is that EPA textbooks have not been written in such a way that enquiry learning is promoted. After a content analysis of EPA textbooks is made, it is found that most writers of EPA textbooks are concerned with providing great amount of information to the students. Few attempts are made to give students the opportunity to probe and reflect on the controversies associated with the issues in public affairs in Hong Kong. Moreover, the issue of depth versus breadth is also aroused. In short, the writers of textbooks consider that breadth is more important than depth. Hence few single issues are discussed in greater depth in EPA textbooks. This shortcoming of textbooks can be overcome if teachers use EPA textbooks more appropriately. But due to shortage of time most teachers just overwhelmingly follow textbooks and they are not willing to supplement the use of textbooks by other resources and materials. Worse still, in many cases the teaching and learning of EPA is reduced to underlining and short explanation of important and key sentences in textbooks. The issue should cause concern among textbook writers, researchers and teacher educators and serving schoolteachers. In this paper, the issue will be addressed in greater detail. It is hoped that the paper will raise concern about the teaching and learning of EPA in Hong Kong.