Friday 25th November, 2005

 

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How textbook rental plan works

By Brenda R James

Continued from yesterday

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 of students.

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 country.

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 Education’s 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 ministry’s 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 year.

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 ministry’s 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 reading materials.

The TRP is only one aspect of the ministry’s 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, L’Anse 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 for all.

Brenda R James is programme co-ordinator of the Textbook Rental Programme Unit

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