Role of design in primary school textbook publishing in Kenya: a case study of Nairobi Book Publishing Scene
The main purpose of this study was to establish the Role of Design in Primary School Textbook Publishing in Kenya. The study was conceived due to the fact that the majority of learners in Kenya are at the primary level of education. Since the introduction of free primary education in 2003 by the government, there has been a rapid increase in the pupil enrolment and a serious shortage of teachers and learning materials. According to UNICEF Kenya 2006, pupil versus teachers ratio was 1:100 by 2006. This calls for more user friendly and pupil centred learning materials. Such materials would help in the reduction of teaching load for teachers and learners dependent on teachers. It will also increase learners participation in the education process. Most school textbook publishing surveys conducted in Kenya have concentrated on curriculum! syllabus coverage. They have rarely taken into consideration the general appearance ofthe book; book cover, quality and level of illustrations, colour usage and suitability, types of fonts used, legibility, layout, size of the book and type of paper used. These design related elements do affect the way a textbook communicates with the user. They also influence the way a textbook is perceived. Textbooks compound our experiences and shape our knowledge, just as our cultures and traditions determine our identities and personalities. It is through books that individuals gain critical thinking skills to observe and analyse a broad range of cultural, practical and abstract issues. A book has power to expand cognitive horizons and to bring meaningful changes in a person's life. It is out of books that today we have great innovations and inventions taking place. The technology that amazes people today is more often than not a direct result of reading books from different sources, arousing imagination to think of new possibilities. In Kenya, the school textbook category is the most profitable and safest investment for both publishers and authors. It constitutes 90% of Kenya's publishing industry (Chakava 1996). The six mainstream school textbook publishers namely, The Jomo Kenyatta Foundation, Kenya Literature Bureau, East African Educational Publishers, Oxford University Press, Longhorn and Macmillan Kenya Limited are mainly thriving on school-based curriculum publications. However, not all textbooks published by these publishers are preferred by learners, teachers or recommended by the Kenya Institute of Education (KIE) for use in schools as the main instruction textbooks, There is little data on factors influencing school textbook preference. It is partly for this reason that this study was conceived. The study was conducted through case study and survey design using self administered questionnaires and interview schedules to 188 respondents. These were randomly selected from public primary schools, a public institution, public and private enterprises. The research was conducted in Nairobi City at the institutions where the respondents were. Nairobi was selected because it is the biggest city in Kenya and therefore has the highest concentration of publishing firms, learning institutions, learning materials, learners, teachers and many stakeholders in primary school textbook publishing and education. Population consisted of 4 book publishing houses in Nairobi (The Jomo Kenyatta Foundation, Macmillan Publishers-Kenya, Mountain Top Publishers, Longhorn Publishers), 4 public primary schools in Nairobi (lmara in Kayole, Donholm in Donholm, Nairobi Primary along Mamlaka Road, Oshwal Primary School in Parklands) and 1 School Curriculum Development Center (Kenya Institute of Education). The population selected comprised major stakeholders in school textbook publishing and consumers of educational materials in the country. These are pupils, teachers, book editors, book designers, administrators, sales personnel and curriculum developers. The data was analysed using qualitative and quantitative techniques then presented in frequency distribution tables. Findings show that school textbook users prefer textbooks with good content based on a given syllabus, attractive illustrations, attractive covers, legible text, good layout and logical book size. The findings also show that the level of a textbook in any given set up or system affects its design, It dictates on the book's suitability. A well designed textbook addresses needs of particular levels in an education system. Lastly, the findings show that school textbook publishers consider design important element in the publishing process and is highly placed in the production of good books within the publishing houses. It is employed in the composition, layout and general presentation of textbooks. The study concluded that design in primary school textbook publishing process has influence on the way a textbook is perceived by users. Design dictates on factors which make school textbooks better. The more design is taken seriously in school textbook publishing process, the better the final products, the better the reception of these products by the users. The research recommends that authors and school textbook publishers must learn from the responses and strive to make their publications better. To make this a success, school textbook publishers should invest more in research on school textbooks writing, design and production. Such studies should take into consideration changes in technology, professional requirements and the end users. Publishers of school textbooks should invest more in design as a process by employing or contracting qualified book designers, acquiring up-to-date design equipment and being sensitive to school textbook production specifications. The publishers should also be more active through the Kenya Publishers Association (KPA) to help advocate for good school textbook design policies and practices. Due to the scope of the issue and the limitations of this research, further studies could focus on the whole country and also to include pupils from rural schools for comparison.