Parents need help over costs of textbooks, says watchdog

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 September, 2008, 12:00am

The Consumer Council yesterday called on schools and the Education Bureau to consider helping parents with the rising costs of primary and secondary school textbooks.

One solution, the watchdog said, was for schools to purchase textbooks and pass them along from one group of students to the next.

'This is environmentally friendly, it can also ensure students will get the right edition,' said Ambrose Ho, chairman of the group's publicity and community relations committee. 'Students will learn to value property which would be commonly shared, [they will] learn to recycle and learn to treasure precious resources.'

The council has already put its suggestion to the bureau, which is 'considering various options', Mr Ho said.

A bureau spokesman said it was 'in the process of setting up a working group to look into the rise of textbook prices and use of e-textbooks'.

The council's annual survey on textbook spending found costs have increased over the past year. 'Based on data from 53 primary and 45 secondary schools, the council has found the average textbook expenditure was HK$2,153 for primary and HK$1,947 for secondary,' Mr Ho said.

'This year's expenditures have shown an increase of 5.9 per cent for the primary sector and 6 per cent for the secondary sector compared with last year's expenditures of the same sampled schools.'

Mr Ho said some schools invited bookstores to hold sales on their premises and parents were offered discounts if they bought a complete set of textbooks. But there were drawbacks - other bookstores may decide not to stock the books and parents may not easily find places to buy used textbooks, he added.

There was, however, 'a welcome trend', Mr Ho said. 'More schools now are organising their own ... second-hand sales and encourage second-hand donations.'

The bureau spokesman said schools could decide whether to invite bookstores into their facilities but 'before making a decision, schools should solicit support from parent-teacher associations, and should take into account the pros and cons'.

'Schools should also keep parents and students well informed of details of such an arrangement, and let them know they have every right not to purchase textbooks in schools,' the spokesman said.

'With regard to the suggestion of schools purchasing textbooks, the bureau notices some schools are working this way and hopes more schools would consider following suit.'