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Gopeesingh eyes e-textbooks

Wednesday, May 14, 2014
A schoolgirl walks along Independence Square, Port-of-Spain after school yesterday. PHOTO:CLYDE LEWIS

The Education Ministry is starting talks with textbook publishers on having textbooks provided in electronic form, says Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh. Replying to an Opposition question in the Senate yesterday, Gopeesingh said the Prime Minister had instructed that the ministry should work towards ensuring this, so that students’ burden of having to carry heavy textbooks at an early age will “be a thing of the past.”



Gopeesingh said the mandate was delivered at Cabinet. He added, “I’ve already started talks with the 24 (local) publishers we have and ten others internationally. “So far it seems to be relatively rewarding, but further discussions are taking place and further information will be given to T&T as far as that is concerned.” Asked by the T&T Guardian after the Senate how the e-textbook proposal will work, Gopeesingh said, “Discussions with publishers focus on if they can provide the textbooks electronically, in e-form and as many as possible.


“It’s not a matter of shifting the publishing from them, we’re simply exploring the e-textbook format and full consultation will be done.” 



On queries in the Senate from PNM senator Camille Robinson-Regis on the late delivery of textbooks, Gopeesingh said when Government entered office there were weak systems and absence of methods to determine which textbooks to use, and Government had to establish systems. He said some textbooks had to be imported and where some were being brought to T&T by boat before, they are now being brought in by air.


He said there were some delays by publishers in trying to print texts locally, but by 2012 the ministry had four established printers in T&T printing texts rather than the printing being done in India and China as previously. Gopeesingh admitted there were certain times it wasn’t completed for one reason or another, but the ministry aimed to ensure all students got texts in the best possible time.


On queries from Independent Senators Dr Kriyaan Singh and Ian Roach—both of whom use wheelchairs—about  provisions for special-needs students, Gopeesingh said the PM had also instructed that his ministry should assess special-needs equipment and material for schools.


Since T&T’s special-needs students comprised 30 per cent of the student population, he said attention is being placed on people with vision, hearing, cerebral palsy and disability issues. This includes getting textbooks in Braille. All libraries have Braille machines too. He added that ramps and facilities to aid disabled students were being factored into the construction of schools.