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Sexism in ESL textbooks in Sri Lanka: A case study of the G.C.E. O/L textbooks


L. M. S. Wijetunga

University of Colombo, LK
About L. M. S.
Department of English
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As per the Sapir-Whorf theory, languages determine thought. Thus, whatever the atmosphere created by a language, be it first or second, determines the outlook of the learner towards the society. Textbooks are a key factor in exposing learners to a new language, especially in Sri Lanka, where the majority of the lesson time in English is allocated for studying the textbook. It then becomes imperative that the textbooks be analysed for their use of language as textbooks are often the only mode through which learners get to view the world associated with the English language. Textbooks prescribed by the Ministry of Education for grades 9, 10 and 11 were therefore analysed using a combination of quantitative and qualitative methodologies. The purpose was to determine whether the textbooks were partial to one gender or sex and if so, understand in what way it was biased. It was identified that there are clear demarcations of sexism in the texts analysed, with the males being given a dominating, powerful and central role while females were relegated to a secondary supportive role. It was also identified that representation of female role models was inadequate and severely out of date. The findings have considerable implications in that the female students studying these texts would not only be unable to relate to the content, leading to poorer performance in studies but also in that the females would be embedded with the incorrect notion that the role of a woman is secondary. This trend could have a grave impact in terms of creating the next generation of Sri Lanka as the exposure provided to the learners does not expose them to a more gender-sensitive society.

How to Cite: Wijetunga, L.M.S., 2017. Sexism in ESL textbooks in Sri Lanka: A case study of the G.C.E. O/L textbooks. OUSL Journal, 12(1), pp.45–69. DOI:
Published on 31 Jul 2017.
Peer Reviewed


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