Last week, a picture of the table of contents of a recently-released Filipino textbook went viral on social media.
According to the book, the Epic of Gilgamesh came from Egypt though it’s from the former Mesopotamia while the mega-popular Harry Potter book series is included in the section on American literature even if J.K Rowling, the book’s author, came from the United Kingdom.
The images were uploaded separately on Facebook by two Ateneo de Manila University professors, Dr. Joseph Salazar (who also chairs the Filipino Department) and Dr. Alvin Yapan. Based on the picture, the book was developed by the Department of Education and was printed by Vibal Group.
The issue of error-filled textbooks has been around for two decades now, thanks to the efforts of Mr. Antonio Calipjo-Go, the academic supervisor of Marian School in Novaliches, Quezon City. A lot of readers probably remembered that infamous Asian History textbook released to public schools in 2004 where hundreds of errors were discovered.
Apart from the fact that error-filled books misinforms its readers, this situation is all the more alarming because the government spends taxpayers’ money in procuring these.
As someone who worked in the publishing industry before, I am mind-boggled as to how it happened. If a blatantly wrong information appears on the published version of a book, then it means that all prior security checks failed. The situation is like a team of robbers being able to attack a jewelry store on the fifth floor of a five-storey mall despite the tight security.
Ideally, textbooks sold in bookstores and distributed in schools should undergo rigorous rounds of editing and revising. Below are the different steps in the book production process (this may vary from one company to another, of course):
1) Author submits the manuscript to the editor, complete with suggested illustrations
2) The manuscript undergoes initial editing
3) The project goes to the creative artists for layouting and illustrations
4) The project will go back-and-forth betwen the editor and illustrator for revisions, with the author’s inputs if necessary. This process may go on for as much as four times.
5) The project is endorsed to the managing editor for approval.
6) With the endorsement of the editor-in-chief, the project will go to the printing press.
Apart from that, the Department of Education as well as schools have in place a mechanism to evaluate the books, usually by experts in the concerned subject matter.
Now having said that, it is clear that something went terribly wrong in the production of the above-mentioned textbook. Apparently, sloppy editing failed to correct the fruits of sloppy writing and researching.