LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
A sombre scenario It is difficult to believe that the shortage
of textbooks and other learning materials in many parts
of the world will disappear in the second decade after the
Jomtien declaration, or that - without major efforts of
national and international will - the rate of improvement
will be any greater than in the first decade.
On the positive side, one may predict that:
The trends towards decentralization and liberalization
will continue to reduce the inefficiencies of centralized
Competition and local choice will produce better textbooks,
pedagogically innovative and more appropriate for the
students who will use them.
Commercial forces should tend to level out the peak-and-valley
provision of textbooks and teachers' guides that has been
a feature of many state-based systems - that is, the replacement
of books in core subjects in one or two grades per year,
followed by minimal attention to those grades while the
needs of other grades are addressed, followed by the wholesale
need for replacement in the original grades. Textbooks
produced by the private sector for sale should be steadily
available as long as they are in demand.
Partial (occasionally full) cost recovery will relieve
the burden on government and reduce dependence on external
· Targeted subsidies and demand-side funding will ensure
that assistance is directed towards the needy and is not
spent on those who can afford to pay for learning materials.
The rate of increase in the primary school-age population
worldwide will decrease in the first decade of the 21st
century, relieving the strain on some national economies.
The decline has already started in Eastern Europe and
Central Asia and will occur in the next decade in East
Asia and Latin America (World Bank 1995, 36).
these hopeful signs from the first post-Jomtien decade must
be weighed the following:
Government support for education will continue to be restricted
by national poverty, fiscal austerity related to structural
adjustment, conflicting priorities, inefficient collection
of taxes, poor management, and, in many countries, war.
The disarray in the educational systems of the post-communist
countries that have been undergoing abrupt transition
may be expected to sort itself out, but the economies
of many of the countries will remain weak.
The policies of cost recovery will penalize the most disadvantaged
sectors of society. Targeted subsidies may reduce the
impact on some of those affected, but not necessarily
all. In the Philippines, for example, education projects
funded by the World Bank and Asian Development Bank are
directed only at the poorest provinces of the country,
containing little more than one-third of the country's
poor. The government is left to find the money for the
rest. A concentration on rural poverty does nothing to
assist the urban poor who populate the slums of Manila.
peak-and-valley provision of textbooks and teachers' guides
will continue in countries that depend on occasional infusions
of large amounts of external aid. · Supplementary reading
and other learning materials, and school libraries, will
continue to have a lower priority than textbooks and work
books in straitened fiscal budgeting. The textbook will
remain the sole resource in education, for teacher and
The population of primary-school-age children will continue
to increase in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, the Middle
East, and North Africa, albeit more slowly than during
the 1990s. These regions include the countries where the
book shortage is greatest and poverty most severe (World
Bank 1995, 36).
Population trends mask the absolute increases in net enrolment
- and the consequent need for learning materials - required
to achieve the target of UPE by 2015. Watkins (1999) calculated
that, projecting from 1990-5 rates of increase in enrolment
for each country in sub-Saharan Africa, only 10 countries
were "on track" to achieve UPE by the target date. To
get on track, other countries would have to increase enrolments
rapidly. By 2005, Ethiopia would have to enrol an additional
5.3 million students, tripling its current net enrolment
ratio; Tanzania would have to enrol an additional 1.7
million; Mozambique, another 1.2 million, doubling its
net enrolment rate; Sudan, an additional 1 million; Rwanda,
an additional 500,000; Zambia, Burkina Faso, Ghana, and
Mali, just under 500,000. These are all numbers over and
above existing trends. In many countries, achieving UPE
means repeating the rapid advances of the post-independence
What can be done?
Respondents to the ADEA/UNESCO survey were asked to suggest
future actions by government, the private sector, and funding
agencies that would improve access to books in developing
countries. Nearly every respondent had at least one suggestion,
and some had several. Only about 10%, worldwide, favoured
free provision of textbooks. Relatively few suggested that
governments should be directly involved in book provision,
and most of those referred specifically to procurement and
distribution rather than publishing. These are the major
recommendations that have come from Africa and, in fewer
numbers, from South and East Asia, the Pacific, the Middle
East, and Latin America.
governments should do
the publishing/bookselling/printing market if it is government-controlled.
Encourage publishers to invest in education. Show less
fear of what might go wrong and see what can go right
when commercial forces are allowed to play their part
in an unhindered three-way relationship between publishers,
booksellers, and teachers.
the market is liberalized, allow the private sector to
operate freely. Provide incentives to publishers. Specifically,
remove duties and taxes on imported paper, other printing
materials, printing/publishing equipment, and imported
the process of decentralization.
more as a facilitator than as a player.
curricula regularly, but not too frequently. Every five
years was suggested.
that education is adequately funded, and that funds areavailable
within the system for the purchase of books - if necessary,
with external assistance. Alternatively, provide subsidies
to keep book prices down.
partnerships between local and foreign partners.
a policy environment that places a high priority on the
production and supply of books and encourages the writing,
translation, reading, and use of books. Organize book
fairs and other book-related activities. A few respondents
recommended encouraging the production of books in local
and maintain school and public libraries.
roads and transportation, and other elements of general
money on books and libraries instead of bombs!"
What the private sector should do
more involved in textbook provision, through investment,
greater professionalism, and expansion of existing operations.
· Work alongside governments in developing practicable
national book policies.
more, better-quality, relevant books.
teachers in the selection of appropriate materials.
workshops for teachers on ways to make the best use of
the textbooks they have selected - an "after-sales" service.
together in national professional associations to lobby
governments and share experiences.
sales and marketing skills and effectiveness.
support for worthy publishing ventures from foundations,
corporations, and other non-publishing parts of the private
funding agencies should do
steps to share information, avoid duplication of effort,
and work for common objectives in individual countries.
common policies with governments to ensure that their
programs and projects form part of an overall long-term
book development strategy.
projects effectively to ensure that funds channelled through
governments are spent properly and that the benefits reach
the intended recipients.
Recognize the skills required in publishing and consult
more with experts in the field. Consult with publishing
experts at an early stage in any new project design.
capacity-building initiatives, working within establishedstructures
and supporting existing organizations, in order to ensure
sustainability in the provision of textbooks and learning
small indigenous publishers through purchase or subsidies
so that books can reach intended readers who cannot afford
to buy them.
flexibility to funding schemes and reduce strict conditions.
· Support training in publishing and other book trade
skills, particularly in new technology.
or sponsor professional organizations within the book
more books for educational institutions, including books
for school libraries; support the development of rural
libraries and national library systems.
grants for the writing of high quality textbooks and commission
works in certain areas.
micro-credit programs in communities to finance the making
of puppets, cloth books, models, work cards, recorded
children's music, and other teaching and learning aids.
intensive training programs for teacher-trainers in educational
technology and techniques.
governments to develop sustainable mechanisms to ensure
and monitor the quality of learning environments, including
adequate and appropriate reading materials and teaching
and learning aids.
educational initiatives that incorporate local culture,
including reading materials, musical instruments, traditional
storytelling, and folk theatre.
of the recommendations is impossible. They have been made
by men and women - civil servants, publishers, consultants
- with practical experience in the development and provision
of learning materials. They require action by all partners
in the book chain, from curriculum developers through to classroom
teachers. But mostly they require governments to recognize,
with actions as well as talk, that the basic tools of education
are not a drain on the national budget but a powerful investment
in the economy and the future of the nation. When the political
will is present, the shortage of learning materials will disappear.