Ethnic diversity and Gender bias in EFL textbooks

| June 30, 2003
Ethnic diversity and Gender bias in EFL textbooks

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Marcus Otlowski B. Ed. M.A.
Lecturer, Kochi University Japan

This paper discusses the importance of textbook selection for EFL students with regard to the portrayal of gender and the representation of the various ethnic groups in the targeted culture. Studies of the portrayal of women in EFL/ESL textbooks (Ansary and Babii 2003; Hartman and Judd 1978) have shown that the stereotypical role of women as mothers and homemakers is still being perpetuated in many current language textbooks. Furthermore, the ethnic make-up of many of the cultures depicted in these textbooks is not accurately represented. In many cases, substantial sections of the society presented in these textbooks are underrepresented, or at worse, ignored.

A current English language textbook used throughout Japan, Expressway A, was examined for (a) gender bias – the depiction of women in stereotypical roles, and (b) ethnic group portrayal – the visibility and depiction of ethnic groups in the text. The conversations and illustrations in each chapter were examined with regard to the above criteria. The results showed that Expressway A, while better than many earlier EFL texts, still depicts women in roles that no longer accurately represent their role in society. The text also gives a very sanitized view of the ethnic make-up of the societies and, in one case, shows a large degree of cultural insensitivity. It is suggested that more detailed notes on the sociolinguistic usage of certain expressions, on the role of women in society, and on the cultural make-up of the targeted societies are needed if this textbook is to be effectively used by a nonnative teacher of English.


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Category: Quarterly Journal