Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Textbook List Mania in Jamaica

In these days of austerity, unemployment, recession, high light bills and IMF, parents should not be asked to buy, for their children, books they cannot afford, do not need and probably will not use. Where are the voices of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association and the PTA’s in this matter? The Minister of Educatio, has commented with concern, but my internet search for the Ministry of Education’s endorsed list drew a blank.

Below is a Textbook List for Grade 2 in a government primary school. The total cost for these books is $10,160.00. ( Ja $85 = U.S. $1; so that is about U.S.$ 120). Furthermore, they weigh 8lb 4oz, which a child has to carry every day on her back, since the teacher cannot say which books will be used.

In addition to the books listed below, each student is supplied with 6 Integrated Studies books (2 per term), one math book and an anthology, by the Ministry of Education.

Oxford Primary Dictionary $690.00

Worship in Words (hymn book) $325.00 (These should serve the student through grade 6.)

What a Fright and other stories by Maciver, Baker, Down and Down (Hodder Gibson) $995.00 198 pages. 45 stories each followed by comprehension questions and exercises.

Creative English for Caribbean Primary Schools by Clifford Narinesingh (Royards) $1,147.00 148 pages. 22 units with reading, talking and writing activities.

Practising Comprehension by Clifford Narinesingh (Royards) ($801.00) Instructions for Recalling facts, Selecting the Main Idea, Sequencing followed by 48 practice exercises.

New Caribbean Junior English by Haydn Richards (Ginn) $1,250.00 This is not called a workbook, but the student is expected to write in it, making it unusable to another student. 122 pages: Parts of Speech, Sentence structure, readings, comprehension questions etc.

Integrated Reader 2 by McLean and Fearon (Mid-Island Educators) $1020.00 155 pages. 38 reading passages on a variety of science and social studies topics, followed by activities.

There is a great deal of overlap in the content of these five books, and a total of 275 ‘lessons’—far more than can be completed in one school year. One of these five books, together with teaching, would cover everything in the syllabus.

Integrated Phonics Workbook by McLean and Fearon (Mid-Island Educators) $976.00 If the child needs a phonics workbook, he would not be able to read much in the books listed above!

Grade 2 Integrated Mathematics Workbook by Miles, Campbell, McLean and Fearon (Mid-Island Educators) $976.00.

Second Year Assessment Tests English by Hyacinth Bennett (Carlong) $990.00

Second Year Assessment Tests Mental Ability by Hyacinth Bennett (Carlong) $990.00

At this same primary school last year, a student in grade 1 was required to purchase two workbooks which were hardly used. One of the books had 200 pages—only 20 pages were used.

This booklist mania is not in the interest of parents, students or Jamaica. Many of these books are published overseas; publishers here have to buy paper and ink abroad, both using up valuable foreign exchange.

Let us make 2011 the last year of inflated booklist madness.


Natalie said...

That list is obscene!

This calls for some old-fashioned organising on the part of the parents. The parents should refuse to buy any of those texts, save the dictionary and the hymn book. If the gov't provides textbooks, then it must mean they are appropriate for instruction. And if none of the children have the "extra" books, then the teacher can't assign anything out of them and will have to actually teach.

I also notice that Carlong seems to be growing its share of the textbook market, and seems to be among those that are always on the booklists, even though they are not of the best quality (I have a few on my shelf here).

The interests of parents are not being served either by the silence of the PTA or the complicity of booksellers who push the books without regard for how they are betraying their own customers. This has got to stop.

Helen said...

Perhaps we could consult with teachers and parents before the bookshops place their orders for books with overseas suppliers, in about March I think. We don't want the bookshops to be left with a lot of dead stock. Working with PTA's from as early as September might be good, while 2011 costs are fresh in their minds.

P.K. Witte said...

I find it disturbing that there is a great deal of overlap in the content and way more lessons than the children are capable of finishing. Waste not, want not!

Wouldn't it be wonderful if the parents of these students could spend the money on books the children would actually want to read and enjoy?

These requirements truly annoy me as they appear to benefit others rather than the actual students who are burdened by both the cost and cumbersome weight.

Someone else’s agenda is at work here, not the teacher’s or the student’s.

You've got the tenacity to nail home this issue and stir things up! Hopefully, change is on the horizon.

Melanie K Wood said...

All I can wonder is, what is the rationale behind having the parents pay for the textbooks of their children? Or does the government give only financial reasons (that they cannot provide the funding)?

The United States works with the Free and Public Education concept, for every child through grade 12. The government wants to have an educated constituency.

It just strikes me as odd that Jamaica, which struggles greatly with its education system and literacy rate, would expect families to pay for their children's textbooks, when it might do them better to provide these materials. What do the impoverished families do who cannot purchase these items? ...Do only better-off families have students in school?

Helen said...

Melanie - the government does provide textbooks for all children in primary school. In grade 2 they get 6 integrated studies books, one math book and an anthology. I'm sure many students attend school without having the extra books on the list they are given. All children are supposed to go to school. There is a government assistance programme for the very poor, but they cannot receive it unless they produce evidence that the children are attending school.