textbook rental plan works
Brenda R James
Under the Textbook Rental Programme (TRP) itself, which
started in the 2003/4 academic year, students are loaned
textbooks for the entire academic year. The textbooks are
returned at the end of the year for loan to the next class
This system of return and reuse of textbooks is one which
is in place successfully all over the developed world in
primary and secondary education. In some countries, students
are not allowed to take the textbooks home. In T&T,
however, this feature was considered to be unacceptable.
Students are encouraged to take good care of the textbooks.
This is relatively easy for many students who are accustomed
to selling their textbooks to secondhand dealers for resale
to other students. The secondhand book trade has been a
very lucrative one for the few secondhand dealers in this
While making notes in the textbooks and underlining in pencil
is permissible, defacing the books is not encouraged. Schools
are provided with new textbooks to replace those which are
lost or irretrievably damaged during the academic year.
With this system in place all students should have textbooks
which are in good condition.
Principals are charged with the responsibility of making
the programme work with their schools.
The exception to the one-year loan period is at the Form
IV level. The textbooks loaned to students are kept by these
students for use in Form V where their O-Level programme
is completed. They are required to return the textbooks
to the schools at the end of the year in Form V.
In those schools where the CXC programme begins in Form
Three, steps are already being taken to factor this into
the programme to loan the textbooks required for the O-Levels
from that form.
At the secondary level, the TRP was conceptualised as one
in which students would have been required to pay a small
rental fee annually for the use of the textbooks. However,
in response to feedback from parents, the Ministry of Educations
knowledge of the financial position of some families, in
addition to the UNDP report of the economic levels of some
households in T&T, the ministry has decided that the
introduction of a rental fee was not prudent at this time
and may well serve as a barrier to accessing the necessary
learning materials for our students.
In addition, with the book grant programme operating at
certain levels of the secondary system and the book rental/loan
programme at other levels, such a system would have been
contrary to the principles of equity.
This year, the number to textbooks provided under the programme
increased from four, in 2003, to eight. This is in addition
to Spanish and English dictionaries, atlases, past papers,
syllabuses and study guides. The cost to the ministry has
increased significantly over previous years.
The ministry has effectively doubled its budget over last
year by increasing the number of textbooks in Forms I to
III to eight books and by acquiring eight textbooks for
students of Form IV at an average cost of $1,500 per set.
This illustrates the depth of the ministrys commitment
to our students.
The ministry plans to include in the TRP student and teacher
resource materials in mixed media which assist in the effective
use of the textbook and conduct of the teaching and learning
strategies of the curriculum.
The programme of textbook provision does not prevent those
students from owning textbooks if they wish to do. Instead,
it attempts to ensure that all students are provided with
textbooks for their respective academic years.
Systems have also been put in place to accommodate those
classes which did not complete the curriculum in any academic
Schools have reported that the TRP has made a positive impact
so far on the student participation in the teaching/learning
process and in student performance. Now that the programme
has been extended to all levels of the secondary system,
that is, from Forms I to V, the evaluation cycle for the
textbooks for each level will harmonise with the TRP to
afford a more timely implementation of the programme.
It must be noted that the world of information and knowledge
is an extremely dynamic one. Not only has information been
increasing at a rapid pace but the social imperatives of
the curriculum are also changing in direct proportion to
treat with the new knowledge and requirements of the global
environment. Most textbooks used in 2005 will hardly be
relevant in ten to 15 years.
Ensuring that students are empowered with skills to access
and treat with information from a variety of sources, to
synthesise it and make it a product uniquely theirs is the
long-term goal of the ministry. Information literacy is
therefore a critical part of the ministrys agenda.
This is in addition to the literacy in general and numeracy.
It is for this reason that under the TRP, the ministry is
also providing a wide range of remedial materials to assist
teachers and students to deal with the challenges of literacy
especially in this age of universal education. In fact,
this aspect of the programme deals with the provision of
appropriate materials for students regardless of their challenges,
be they physical, mental, social, psychosocial, and emotional.
As the issue of ensuring that our students are literate
starts at the early childhood level, through the TRP the
ministry has treated with the provision of materials for
the learning and development of students at 168 Early Childhood
Care and Education Centres in 2004. This figure has moved
to 175 in 2005.
The school library programme is another way through which
the ministry promotes access to books and information resources
in a variety of formats in support of the curriculum and
the holistic development of the student. This programme
is also generously funded each year.
It must be pointed out here that the ministry is not responsible
for the development of the public library service and this
is not to be juxtaposed unfairly with the TRP.
The TRP is about ensuring that all students have access
to the basic learning materials to assist them in their
academic work. It utilises a system by which students return
their textbooks at the end of each year for use by the next
class of students.
If new textbooks were to be provided for each student each
year as some people have suggested, the cost will be unnecessarily
exorbitant, unsustainable and wasteful.
The TRP, by relieving parents from bearing the high cost
of academic books, enables a situation by which parents
can have more disposable income to purchase reading and
other educational materials for home use. It therefore facilitates
homes to foster the love and ownership of books and other
The TRP is only one aspect of the ministrys comprehensive
programme of activities to promote excellence in education.
It is supplemented and complemented by a number of other
programmes, such as those geared for providing remedial
reading and math resources for school.
As a result of the TRP, all students are able to participate
fully in curriculum activities and are not put at a disadvantage
because of academic, social or economic constraints.
All students, whether they are from Charlotteville, Icacos,
Matelot, Manzanilla, LAnse Fourmi, Mayaro, Morvant,
St Augustine, Chaguaramas or Crown Point, have their textbooks
and support materials delivered right to their schools,
their parents being spared the high cost and the hassle
of searching from bookstore to bookstore, sometimes unsuccessfully,
for these learning materials.
To call this tyranny is nothing short of being divisive
and scandalous. This is equity, progress and equal opportunity
Brenda R James is programme co-ordinator of the Textbook
Rental Programme Unit