Publishing giant Pearson has denied that a GCSE textbook on Middle East conflict showed an anti-Israel bias despite updating it to give it more “balance”.
Schools are being contacted and offered the latest edition free of charge after organisations such as the Zionist Federation, UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) and the Board of Deputies expressed concerns.
Last year Pearson Education, which publishes textbooks, revision guides and workbooks, withdrew an Edexcel International GCSE title called ‘The Middle East: Conflict, Crisis and Change, 1917-2012’ after blogger David Collier published a report alleging that it “indoctrinates children”.
Collier, whose report was commissioned by the ZF, said the author was “clearly driven by a post-colonial mind-set” in discussing, among other things, the massacre in the village of Deir Yassin, and UKLFI concurred that the book was “full of anti-Israel bias”.
In October UKLFI also raised concerns about another Edexcel title called ‘History Conflict of the Middle East, c1945-1995 Student Book,’ at which point Pearson withdrew both titles to carry out the review.
Reacting to news of the update, UKLFI director Caroline Turner said: “We are pleased that Pearson withdrew, reviewed then revised the problematic textbooks. We hope the new versions will be more balanced in their approach to history.”
However, a Pearson spokeswoman this week denied that there had been any anti-Israel bias to begin with.
“An independent review of the texts by an educational charity found no overall evidence of anti-Israel bias,” she said. “It identified some areas where the balance of sources could be improved and we are updating the texts and offering existing customers the option of replacing them for free.”
She added: “We always welcome feedback and are committed to creating engaging, accurate and objective content. We are the only awarding body that tackles this subject matter at both GCSE and international GCSE level. We do it as we think it is an important topic, even though it is likely to provoke emotive responses.”
All education centres taking GCSE History have been contacted and offered a new edition, she said, but changes to the text will “not affect teaching and there are no changes to the examination specification”.