In the implementation of the world-wide programme designed to provide Education for All, the provision of books is a priority for improving the quality of basic education. For many years, UNESCO has assisted its Member States in the reform process, by providing assistance in the fields of curriculum development, teacher training, and the production of reading materials. While substantial gains have been made in raising the standard of learning materials, it is now acknowledged that long term strategies are also required, to ensure that Governments can provide materials in sufficient quantities to meet learning needs, both in formal, and non-formal, education. Furthermore, if people are to stay literate, they must have access to a wide range of written materials, and maintain the reading habit throughout their lives.
Such a strategy presumes the existence of strong national planning and co-ordination infrastructures, and the existence of a healthy local publishing industry. It also assumes an understanding of the dynamic processes involved in the transition from a centrally planned, to a market-oriented economy, and one which many developing countries are currently undertaking. Unfortunately, Ministries of Education are often hindered by a lack of reliable information on the industrial aspects of textbook and learning materials production. The local publishing sector itself is also often weak, and lacks access to relevant trade and market information.
The UNESCO/DANIDA Basic Learning Materials Initiative has adopted a holistic approach, and seeks to broaden the understanding of all national level publishing stakeholders, both on issues of concern in the formulation of sustainable policies, and the actual processes involved in the development, production and distribution of learning materials. Most importantly, the programme considers that strengthening national infrastructures, and creating forums for dialogue and partnerships between all the players in the book chain, are important steps forward in the development of a well functioning system for the production and distribution of basic learning materials.
The present manual has been written to assist UNESCO National Commissions and Ministries of Education, in the organization of the logistical aspects of National Book Sector Consultations. Since its first conception in 1997, it has been revised several times, after the experiences gained in several African countries. The manual mainly gives the basics, while details and practical experiences will be provided both by the facilitators and the participants. The best way to benefit from Consultation is through the active involvement of all Ministry of Education officers and private sector stakeholders, who are interested in, and care for, the sustainable provision of basic learning materials to schools, and the promotion of literate societies