Your views scotletters@tesglobal.com

19th December 2014 at 00:00

Reading the riot act on donating books abroad

I read with interest the article on schools sending out their old books to the Caribbean ("Ahoy! Old books set sail for Jamaica", 12 December). The container included "a reading scheme to see one class all the way through primary". However, no mention was made of whether the reading scheme was linked to the Jamaican education system or whether the content of the books was culturally appropriate.

I have just returned from visiting primary and secondary schools in Malawi where we are starting libraries to help children develop a love of reading. One secondary school library was full of old geography and maths books, untouched by any young person but making the shelves look full. At an orphanage the library was crammed with ancient books sent by well-meaning donors who didn't need them any more. The children told us they didn't use the books because they weren't "very interesting".

We work hard in Scotland to choose books for our children that will keep them interested, making sure they will understand and relate to the stories so they want to read and learn more. Why do we think that our unwanted, out-of-date books would interest children who are culturally so different?

I spent months researching a reading scheme that Malawian children would be able to relate to. In an education system with few books and a society where the priority is ensuring your child is fed rather then well-read this was no easy task. I have settled on a reading scheme from South Africa, written for children acquiring English as an additional language. The children tell us they enjoy the stories, which they can relate to and understand and which have illustrations of children who live similar lives.

We buy the books from Anglia Books based in Blantyre, Malawi. Using a local company means we are building relationships locally, contributing to the economy and supporting local employment. It also means we are not wasting money paying for transportation halfway round the world.

So please, before your school packs up its old rubbish and sends it out in a container to a far-away country, imagine you are a teacher there. Is it worth sending those books or is there something more purposeful you could do to improve children's education?

Maureen McKenna

Executive director of education, Glasgow City Council

Short and tweet

Who has the best Christmas jumper for tomorrow?

@S6High

Watching #SPOTY [BBC Sports Personality of the Year] with my hockey- and netball-daft daughters - inspiring for them to see women in sport being recognised.

@lblackstock23

Two nativity performances, visit to pantomime, party, singing at local care home. Another quiet week ahead!

@millymermaid

It would be great if we were known as the country with the lowest violence figures. We wouldn't have thought it 10 years ago. #bestplacetogrowup

@karynmccluskey

Schools can't be evaluated accurately from outside in a few days. Improvement can't be imposed from outside. Everything starts from within.

@GilchristGeorge

Schools must be very careful that in striving for the consistency so loved by inspectors they don't kill off creativity.

@RiscaCCS_Head

Uncertainty is powerful. Embracing "I don't know" is wisdom. Don't mistake it for a lack of confidence.

@danpallotta

Letters for publication in TESS should arrive by 10am Monday. Send your letters, ideally of no more than 250 words in length, including contact address and phone number, by email to scotletters@tesglobal.com or by post to TES Scotland, Thistle House, 21-23 Thistle Street, Edinburgh EH2 1DF. Letters may be edited

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number

Comments

The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now