These days, teachers are expected to fulfil many roles: target-setters, study supporters, curriculum leaders... the list is endless. And so are the textbooks, especially in modern studies. A viable textbook must cover many stages of the Scottish curriculum, such is the relatively small size of the market.
This textbook is a clear sign of Pulse Publications' continuing strength in that market. It hits many targets because it is aimed at Standard grade and Intermediate 1 and 2, but there is much here also to enhance a Higher course, or even an S2 unit.
The focus is on the United States, China and South Africa - the three countries most commonly studied at various stages. The format is bright, upbeat and focused, and its very strong text elucidates even the most complex issues. Modern studies teachers have been crying out for such a resource, and now they have it.
The US section is a treat. Although similar to the "old" black book, colourful graphics and good layout strengthen an updated analysis of economic, social and political issues. Topics such as the US's political system are clear and concise, while controversial issues such as school shootings are handled well.
My department recently introduced China at Standard grade. Without this book it would have been impossible. Modern studies teachers know the broad issues relating to the new superpower, but this text will help them to teach with authority. It is as much teacher resource as student guide.
As a "South Africanist", I used parts of the final section recently with Higher students, and it complements existing resources extremely well. But its real strength will be in motivating Intermediate students in a difficult but worthwhile topic.
The tasks sometimes mimic exam-style questions or follow a get-them-through-the-text format, and this is perhaps the book's only weakness. Some sections feel as if those tasks have been added on, but this is not a major problem, and many teachers will often go their own way anyway.
Without Pulse's continued material support for modern studies, the subject would not be as strong as it is today. Any chance of a new Higher international relations text?
Gavin Clark is principal teacher of modern studies and history at Dunbar Grammar School