Parents feel more pain over textbooks
Despite the government's high-profile battle over textbook prices, parents will yet again have to dig deeper in their pockets to buy their children's schoolbooks, the Consumer Council said yesterday.
Textbooks for the coming school year will cost 3.8 per cent more than last year for secondary school, and 2.1 per cent more for primary school, according to the watchdog's Choice magazine. The council's annual survey involved 944 commonly used textbooks produced by 31 publishers.
The two largest price rises were 5.3 per cent for a secondary school text on combined science and 5.1 per cent for a primary school textbook on general studies.
Rising textbook prices have upset many parents in recent years. The government has vowed to halt the publishers' practice of 'bundling' - giving teaching aids free to schools but adding their cost to textbook prices.
Some textbooks have been unbundled, but the Consumer Council said yesterday the average price of unbundled textbooks had risen by 0.8 per cent year on year. Of all the surveyed textbooks, 263 have been unbundled from teaching materials.
Among unbundled textbooks, the average price rose by 0.6 per cent for primary school books and 1.2 per cent for secondary school books.
The Consumer Council said that textbook publishers' associations attributed the price rise to the design of the new senior secondary curriculum, the falling number of pupils and increasing costs of rent, labour and copyright royalties.
But the Consumer Council disagreed, saying it expected prices to drop because of the publishers' pledge to unbundle all textbooks in three years.
Connie Lau Yin-hing, the council's chief executive, said: 'In the past, the publishers told us that the preparation of teaching materials made up a very significant proportion of their production costs. So it is very natural for customers to expect a substantial decrease in prices after unbundling [textbooks from teaching aids]. But this hasn't happened.'
The publishers should consider their sense of social responsibility, she said, because continuous price increases would add to the burden on parents. The government has rejected as unacceptable the publishers' target of unbundling all textbooks in three years.
Reacting to the council's findings, the Education Bureau said it was disappointed by the rising prices and hoped publishers would introduce substantial price cuts when they published new textbooks. In May, the bureau set up an online site providing learning and teaching resources, to reduce teachers' reliance on teaching kits provided by the publishers.
Price list of textbooks for 2012-13 released by publishers in May shows 30 per cent of books were priced this much higher on average