Outrage over sixth rise in book prices

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 May, 2007, 12:00am

Parents and educationalists have condemned the rising cost of school textbooks after publishers raised their prices for the sixth year in a row.

The list of recommended textbooks for the new school year, published last week on the Education and Manpower Bureau website, shows the cost of new primary and secondary textbooks has risen by between 50 HK cents and HK$5, or 2 to 10 per cent of the price of the books.

The biggest increases were recorded in textbooks for Chinese, Maths and Putonghua.

The price rise comes despite a survey of 691 parents and 58 primary schools, conducted earlier this year by the Hong Kong Council of Early Childhood Education and Services (CECES), in which 65 per cent of respondents said textbooks were too expensive and 80 per cent opposed price rises every year.

The price of textbooks continues to outstrip the consumer price index, which rose 2.4 per cent in March over the previous year.

Eastern District Parent Teacher Association chairman Raymond Jao Ming said publishers would use any excuse to justify raising prices.

'Every year they raise prices. Their rationale for it, the higher cost of paper, higher wages, rent, new content; they are regurgitated from year to year. They even twist government policies to justify their actions, like citing the 3+3+4 reforms, even when they are justifying the higher price of primary school textbooks that have nothing to do with the reforms.'

He accused publishers of squandering money on marketing and flashy packaging, and introducing subtle changes in content to render second-hand textbooks obsolete.

Mr Jao said they had been pressing publishers to produce digital textbooks so students could access them online and save the costs of printing.

Sansan Ching Teh-chi, chief executive of CECES, urged schools to consider price when choosing textbooks to reduce the burden on parents who had to spend more than HK$2,000 a year. She added CECES was co-operating with Minds Publishing, which specialises in primary mathematics, to reduce costs by sourcing cheaper materials.

'They have promised not to raise prices for three years,' she said. 'It is a risk for the company to adopt this strategy, and it is worthy of applause. We hope others will follow suit.'