Mixed views on keeping old booklist for new school year

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Marsha Perry, centre, tries to find books for her daughters at Ishmael N Khan Bookstore, Henry Street, Port of Spain on Tuesday. She was assisted by, Jovani Dottin, left, and Avion Romain. – ROGER JACOB

THE Education Ministry has said the list of textbooks issued to students for the 2022/2023 school year should remain the same for 2023/2024.

But parents and bookstore workers have mixed views.

In a press release on Monday, the ministry said, “Textbooks should neither be added nor should editions change at any class level on schools’ booklists for academic year 2023/2024.”

The ministry said it will review textbooks, including e-books and e-resources, “the outcome of which will be used to inform the policy regarding the formulation of schools’ booklists.”

It said in collaboration with iGovTT, it was also having an e-book platform set up. It said principals and stakeholders will be updated.

When Newsday visited Ishmael M Khan and Sons on Henry Street, Port of Spain, mother of two Marsha Perry said when she was at school, booklists never changed as frequently as now.

“Now every year, they are changing the books, the author – everything. So it’s a lot of expense. What about the people who are not fortunate and cannot afford to buy all these different books?

“In my time, your (younger) siblings could have used the books you used. That is how it was and I believe it should have stayed.

“And sometimes it is only just a page or a word that is different (in the revised edition).”

When asked about the e-book initiative, she said while it sounds good, not every student has access to a device on which e-books can be used.

“Just as how they were supposed to provide computers for children during (lockdown owing to) covid19…I know students who, up to this day, never got a device. So it they couldn’t fulfil that…”

Employees at the store told Newsday that on average, parents spend between $1,500 and $2,000 on textbooks alone.

Assistant store manager Zorina Mohammed said not all levels of students and types of learners may benefit from e-books. She said physical books have some advantages .

“For example, little children who are learning phonics and how to sound out things and write them out. I can’t see that being done for pre-schoolers and primary schoolchildren. Maybe secondary and university students.”

On revised editions of textbooks, she said some publishers put a stamp on textbooks to indicate there will be no refunds on them, without letting them know if the book will soon be revised.

“Then they revise the books and you are stuck with it.”

At Unique Books and Sports Centre, Rishard Ali – a worker – said this move will affect the store’s sales, since it also sells used books.

“They don’t tell us in advance when they’re revising a book, so we get stuck with them. When it stays too long, we have no choice but to get rid of them.”

He said the most he’s seen a parent spend on a booklist, including stationery, is around $4,000.

Verdell Stuart, another parent, said the ministry has said this before.

“And here we are still buying revised books. So I not feeling any kind of way.

“Next year, I’m sure I am going to have two new booklists with a bunch of revised books. That’s just talk.”

But she said if the ban on new editions is put in place, parents will save a lot of money.

Another parent, who preferred not to be named, said the move is “excellent.

“That will save us a lot of money.

“It seems like nowadays it is not about the students’ education any more, but it’s like a marketing strategy to get more sales. Because when you check the revised edition, it’s just a few pages different for exorbitant prices.”

National Parent-Teacher Association (NPTA) president Kevin David told Newsday he thinks the ministry’s decision is “commendable” and “bold.”

“On behalf of all the parents, we thank her (the minister)for this.”

He said he understands this cannot be a permanent move since, “Our books would have to change (eventually) to meet the needs of the curriculum,” but he is interested in seeing which direction this goes.

As for e-books, he said the topic has “been on the table for a while” but looks forward to continued discussions.