Hilary Kemeny sifts through four GCSE text books on South Africa. KEY HISTORY FOR GCSE SOUTH AFRICA. By Hamish McDonald and Barry Williamson. Stanley Thornes Pounds 6.50. 20TH-CENTURY HISTORY SOUTH AFRICA. By J F Aylett. Hodder Stoughton Pounds 5.50.
CAMBRIDGE HISTORY PROGRAMME SOUTH AFRICA 1948-1994. By Rosemary Mulholland. Cambridge University Press Pounds 5.95. LONGMAN HISTORY PROJECT SOUTH AFRICA 1948-94. By Martin Roberts. Longman Pounds 7.99.
These topic-based texts for the new GCSE Modern World depth studies can be used with core texts or as a stand-alone resource. They include full coverage of recent events in South Africa, up to the end of apartheid and the election in 1994, and provide a basis for developing work on this interesting and relevant topic.
Perhaps one fascinating indication of how times have changed is the limited reference to Winnie Mandela, which would have been an unthinkable omission just a few years back in any book on the apartheid period in South Africa. Coverage of South Africa post-1994 is also fairly limited, although the Longman and Hodder books offer brief sections.
A broadly chronological approach is used, beginning with introductory sections which outline major events and issues pre-1948. These sections range in length from seven pages (Hodder Stoughton) to 38 pages (Stanley Thornes) perhaps reflecting the greater overall length of the Stanley Thornes and Longman books. However, format and style also vary and it's worth considering how appropriate they are for different classes.
The Stanley Thornes book is for pupils whose attainment is average or below (a teacher's resource guide accompanies each pupil's book in the series). A "key questions" approach is adopted, supported by effective sub-headings throughout each chapter. A combination of strong narrative sections and source material is used and each chapter has colour-coded headings.
The range of sources includes photographs, maps, journals, newspapers, personal accounts, cartoons, paintings and anti-apartheid material. Occasionally, unattributed lists of key events are labelled as "sources", which may be confusing for the target audience. Overall, the pages are very busy with boxes, bullet-points, colour-coding and symbols.
Some of the more complex sources provide opportunities for interpretation by higher-attaining students, but the target audience is likely to need support to make full use of them.
Nearly every double-page spread has questions, with a stronger emphasis on recording information and source analysis than interpretation.
The Hodder book also adopts a strong narrative approach and makes use of a full range of sources, including some which are presented in a picture format, eg to demonstrate different school class sizes between the segregated groups under apartheid. The written sources are frequently personal accounts, which make the material more immediate and interesting and there are fewer extended written extracts.
All this helps less confident readers or lower-attaining students. Questions accompany each section, usually one each on factual recording, analysis of sources with some opportunities for developing interpretation and empathy.
The Cambridge History Programme book is different in that each chapter is split into either investigation, briefing (there are usually several of each of these) or review - a one-page summary at the end of each chapter.
The briefing sections are just that - overviews of events - and each investigation begins with a heading, a statement and a key question. A two-column format is used and there are fewer sources, although the pictures and photographs tend to be larger and each source is accompanied by an explanatory note.
Information boxes appear alongside the narrative sections and questions occur as either discussion points or activities. In practice, these are the usual questions, with little to fulfil the promise of more active-sounding exercises. However, the book's structure could be used to support an enquiry approach.
The Longman History Project book is split into thematic units, for example, economic and social trends 1960-90, rather than strict chronological order. The pages are organised in a single-column, linear fashion, and are much less busy and consequently more dense and challenging, despite the use of subheadings and questions.
The overall style is clear and straightforward, but could become rather boring and repetitive after a while. Each sub-section finishes with questions - some comprehension and some more open-ended. Review questions which are more challenging and give more opportunity for meeting the new GCSE criteria on interpretation are given at the end of each unit.
Overall, this book supports a thematic approach or "dipping in" to the topic more readily. A useful index of organisations and a timeline of events is given at the end.
The publishers have used different approaches to meeting the demands of the new syllabuses. Which one you choose will depend on the styles of teaching and learning in your classroom and the level of accessibility your students require.
Hilary Kemeny is an education staff tutor at the Open University