School textbooks are not cheap.
And with new editions often being published merely to correct typos or include new material, sometimes students have no other choice but to buy new textbooks at full price, instead of purchasing less costly second-hand ones.
The purchase of school textbooks is a major financial commitment many parents and guardians are faced with annually during the July/August vacation period as they prepare for the new term.
It is, therefore, heartening to hear that there may be some financial reprieve being offered to parents and guardians for next academic year.
That reprieve comes in the form of the Ministry of Education’s announcement on Monday that for the next academic year, there will be no changes on school booklists at any class level.
This textbook freeze, which will kick in for the 2023/24 academic year, parent/guardians having already purchased textbooks for the current year, is indeed welcomed.
It is, of course, particularly welcome to parents/guardians who have been complaining for years that some schools make unnecessary changes to booklists, with the additional books sometimes not even being used by their children after they expend money or them.
In addition to this, the Ministry of Education has announced that in collaboration with iGovTT, it is currently engaged in the procurement process for an e-book platform for use in the education sector.
So far, the Education Ministry has said it has received 42 responses to the publication of a Request for Information on e-books last January.
The Education Ministry said it also held a meeting with booksellers to discuss and clarify certain issues surrounding the provision of e-books.
The Request for Proposals document should be made public next month, the Education Ministry has noted.
The Education Ministry said the provision of e-books is one of just 13 projects which comprise the Digital Transformation Plan 2022-25 of the Ministry of Education.
“Integral to the success of the e-book initiative are other projects currently ongoing, such as the digitisation of all records for our over 250,000 ECCE, Primary and Secondary School students on the Student Management System (SMS), and the creation of e-classroom accounts for all students and teachers on the School Learning Management System (SLMS),” the Education Ministry stated.
We applaud the Education Ministry’s initiatives, as we believe that there are necessary changes that need to be made.
But at the same time, we urge the Education Ministry to ensure that all concerns with respect to the rollout of e-books and the others be properly addressed before they are implemented.
Some of those concerns include the need to ensure there are devices and infrastructure in place to ensure a smooth rollout, as well as ensuring students have online accessibility, an absolute requirement for ensuring full access to ebook facilities.
We therefore call for continued communication and consultation with stakeholders to ensure we achieve the best for our children.