Although foreign publishers have extended a discount on the books sold to the government for its national textbook distribution exercise, Education Minister Priya Manickchand says the prices remain steep and producing books locally is being considered as an alternative.
At a press conference yesterday, Manickchand said that in keeping with international copyright laws, the ministry had embarked upon a process of purchasing textbooks directly from the publishers.
Still, she said, the prices are quite high, and the ministry is therefore only able to purchase five of the textbooks required for the secondary level at the cost of $50 million (1,000 of each of the books have been purchased). In light of this challenge, Manickchand said that the ministry is already looking at writing textbooks.
Last year, the government came under fire from local and regional critics for purchasing pirated textbooks. The government had attempted to defend its actions by arguing that the photocopied books were cheaper but eventually bent to the pressures and called for all photocopying establishments to cease the illegal reproduction of the texts.
Local book stores, including Austin’s Book Services, had said that the practice of pirating the books were having a severe negative impact on their businesses, since persons were opting to purchase the photocopied versions of the books offered at several establishments, as opposed to the original books.
Meanwhile, Manickchand yesterday also took the opportunity to make parents aware of the exercise books their children are to receive at the nursery, primary and secondary levels. In grades one (1) and two (2) at the nursery level, children are entitled to three plain sheet exercise books.
When students enter the primary level, those in grades one (1) and two (2) are entitled to nine single line books, three double line books and three plain sheet exercise books for a total of fifteen books each.
Children in grades three (3) and four (4) are entitled to twelve single line books, three double line books, three checkered line books, and three plain sheet books for a total of twenty one books each.
Those in grades five (5) and six (6) are entitled to fifteen single line books, three checkered line books and three plain sheet books for a total of twenty one books each. Finally, students at the secondary level (grades 6-12) are entitled to fifteen single line and three checkered line books for a total of eighteen books per student.
Teachers are also entitled to a number exercise books yearly.
Manickchand said that those at the nursery level are given six single line books, while those at the primary and secondary levels are given nine and twelve single line books each.
In all, a total of 1,028,850 books will be distributed across the ten regions. Most of these regions, the minister said, have already received these books in anticipation of the new school term in the coming months.
In relation to the payment of Graduation Fees, Manickchand said that no contribution to be made by students for a graduation exercise should exceed $3000. She said that students should not be asked to rent or purchase caps and gowns for graduations and that the cost of these items ought to be borne by the school if it is mandated.
She said that students should not be made to miss out on such activities due to the non-payment of fees and that students should be encouraged to wear their respective uniforms for graduation ceremonies.
Manickchand said that the ministry has received numerous complaints from parents regarding the amount of money some school Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) have been demanding for various school-based activities and said that if schools fail to comply with the outlined stipulations they will be dealt with.
She said that in one instance it was discovered that a school had required that students pay $5,300 for a graduation ceremony. She said that though the school’s head and fellow administrators explained where the money was spent, they were still in violation of the stipulations, which were circulated to all schools, and will be brought before the “Disciplinary Committee” of the Teaching Service Commission.
Manickchand said that students are also not to be asked to make any donations towards tests or end-of-term examination papers.
Manickchand also used the opportunity to encourage everyone with issues concerning the education sector to call the ministry’s hotline numbers: 223-7891, 623-4010, and 623-0550. She said that since the system became operational on May 20th, there have been 32 reports so far, 21 of which have already been addressed.
The minister said that it is important for persons to voice their concerns as it will help to make the system better.