Now that the Ministry of Education has finally set a freeze on new textbooks until 2024, which means textbooks should not be added to booklists and editions not changed - educational stakeholders are calling for standardisation, textbook grants and more local content in textbooks.
Speaking to Guardian Media yesterday after the ministry announced the decision, Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha general secretary Vijay Maharaj said while he supports the textbook freeze, he was concerned the roll-out of e-books which the ministry has embarked on may not work in all schools.
“Not all schools will have the capacity to accommodate e-books. I think it will be successful only for those people who are IT savvy. Also, some schools may not have Wi-Fi. Right now, several areas are without one cable channel because the optic fibre cables are down,” Maharaj said.
He admitted e-books will be beneficial to some students.
Maharaj said he welcomed the textbook policy, noting that many parents have been burdened by the high costs of textbooks. This was why he said many SDMS schools had organised book exchanges to pass textbooks from higher to lower form students.
Meanwhile, Presbyterian Primary Schools Board chairman Vickram Ramlal also supported the new policy but also expressed concerns about e-books.
“It’s a good initiative but students should have devices and connectivity,” he said.
Ramlal also recommended some form of textbook standardisation.
“While there is a need for some form of standardisation, the principals must have choices as well because what is fit for one school might not be suitable for another school depending on culture and environment,” he explained.
Ramlal also lamented that the Textbook Committee of the ministry has been non-functional for years.
Asked what has been done to assist struggling parents, Ramlal said the Presbyterian Church had a Board of Social Responsibility which assists parents and students.
Meanwhile, Concerned Parents Movement president Clarence Mendoza said the policy was long overdue.
“We are happy to see the Ministry of Education is taking heed. Based on the cost of living, it is hard for parents to purchase books, even used books cost an arm and a leg.”
However, he said the initiative should be extended for three to five years.
“We should go to 2026, as a pilot project,” he added.
Social media influencer Nigel Watson, aka NCW, who made a public video recently about the “textbook mafia,” also commended the Minister of Education for the new textbook policy.
“As a parent, I spoke out against the textbook mafia and I am happy the ministry is taking steps to control this whole system when it comes to textbooks. It is a little too late but I appreciate it still because for years, parents have been struggling with textbooks. I applaud this move,” he said.
During back-to-school shopping, many parents complained about the costs of textbooks and new editions placed on booklists.
Contacted for comment yesterday, Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly said the ebook initiative is part of the Digital Transformation Plan.
“Connectivity at schools, along with the continued emphasis on the provision of devices, is another. They go hand in hand and are progressing simultaneously,” she said.
The Minister also said her ministry does not have a policy that guides the formulation of school booklists.
“I am a parent and I know from personal experience that the changing of textbooks and editions from year to year can be very costly for parents. In addition, the ministry must put a policy in place which guides which books are placed on booklists, as the issue of quality is a critical one,” she added.
She noted that while this policy is being addressed, which will include the use of e-books and e-resources, booklists will remain unchanged, allowing parents to reuse textbooks as much as possible.