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The findings > Thematic Studies> Textbooks and Learning Materials > Part 6
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VI. 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 government operations.

· 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 assistance. · 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).

Against 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.

·The 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 student alike.

· 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 1960s.

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.

What governments should do

Liberalize 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.

Where 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 books.

Accelerate the process of decentralization.

Act more as a facilitator than as a player.

Revise curricula regularly, but not too frequently. Every five years was suggested.

Ensure 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.

Encourage partnerships between local and foreign partners.

Develop 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 languages.

Establish and maintain school and public libraries.

Enforce copyright legislation.

Maintain roads and transportation, and other elements of general infrastructure.

"Spend money on books and libraries instead of bombs!"

What the private sector should do

Get more involved in textbook provision, through investment, greater professionalism, and expansion of existing operations. · Work alongside governments in developing practicable national book policies.

Produce more, better-quality, relevant books.

Improve distribution systems.

Encourage authors.

Educate teachers in the selection of appropriate materials.

Run workshops for teachers on ways to make the best use of the textbooks they have selected - an "after-sales" service.

Work together in national professional associations to lobby governments and share experiences.

Improve sales and marketing skills and effectiveness.

Seek support for worthy publishing ventures from foundations, corporations, and other non-publishing parts of the private sector.

What funding agencies should do

Take steps to share information, avoid duplication of effort, and work for common objectives in individual countries.

Develop common policies with governments to ensure that their programs and projects form part of an overall long-term book development strategy.

Monitor 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.

Support capacity-building initiatives, working within establishedstructures and supporting existing organizations, in order to ensure sustainability in the provision of textbooks and learning materials.

Support small indigenous publishers through purchase or subsidies so that books can reach intended readers who cannot afford to buy them.

Add flexibility to funding schemes and reduce strict conditions. · Support training in publishing and other book trade skills, particularly in new technology.

Support or sponsor professional organizations within the book industry.

Purchase more books for educational institutions, including books for school libraries; support the development of rural libraries and national library systems.

Provide grants for the writing of high quality textbooks and commission works in certain areas.

Support 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.

Support intensive training programs for teacher-trainers in educational technology and techniques.

Assist 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.

Support educational initiatives that incorporate local culture, including reading materials, musical instruments, traditional storytelling, and folk theatre.

 

A more optimistic scenario

None 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.

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