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Free textbooks would cost Georgian publishers a pretty penny09.04.2013 | 22:37
Georgian school students receive textbooks for the 2013-2014 acade
mic year for free. This was announced by the Minister of Education of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili. 650 thousand students in 2084 public schools across the country will get the textbooks. At what expense this humane act of the Ministry of Education takes place? Whether there are those deprived of this, it would seem, merciful action of the Georgian government? And why many today say such words as "populism", "Bolshevism" and "communism"?
Generation born until the 80s of the last century well remembers the public schools and the distribution of books in them. Books were free. But not always in such condition in which it was pleasant to touch them and study. But the teachers-communists had the answer: you can study with the old and tattered textbooks if you have a genuine burning desire to get an education. Excellent pupils had more chances to get more or less decent textbooks. Mediocre pupils and bad pupils got textbooks in any condition.
And yet the distribution of free textbooks had a lot of positive things. Parents were not to worry about the fact that they have not enough money to buy all the necessary books. This equated all of them, and the equality distinguished socialism from the capitalism.
Now, in 2013, Education Minister George Margvelashvili makes a loud statement: "From now on, no student has to pay for textbooks." "Until now, there was no precedent of free distribution of textbooks to students of public schools by the Georgian government. This year, for the first time all the students in public schools receive free textbooks," said the Minister.
The fact in itself is pleasing. It would seem that everyone should be happy. But the indignant voices of the publisher and the author sound more and more loudly. And all this takes place because free distribution of textbooks occurs with the violation of their rights.
The Minister said that at this stage the government itself prints the textbooks. According to him, the relationships between the state and the publisher are regulated by law. "We give publishers and authors the amount determined by the law. I think this amount is more than enough," said Margvelashvili.
We asked a few publishing houses, what is the sufficient amount, and whether they are satisfied with it.
Publishing house "Pedagogy" issues textbooks on mathematics for students of 1-6 grades, which are widely used by students across the country. The author and publisher of "Pedagogy" Irina Rukhadze, Doctor of Education, has shared with us her concerns about the decision of the Ministry of Education on the distribution of free textbooks.
"In fact, we welcome this step of the government. However, we have concerns that this step is done at the expense of our rights. The edition of each book involves copyrights, intellectual resources, and work of editors, proofreader and designer. I'm not afraid to look pretentious, but we put into it our soul. And now what we have? After compulsory government's request we presented the electronic versions of our textbooks to the Ministry for the competition, and now they are going to print and copy books having agreed only with printing-houses. I do not know whether this is based on the government's desire to save money or they have other arguments, but the fact remains that the publisher and author ultimately get a tiny amount - 15-20 tetri per textbook. This affects the quality of textbooks. The foundations of this system were laid by the previous Government, the Minister Shashkin. And the current government is using the same flawed system. We could agree with the Ministry and come to a compromise that would suit everyone. And they just stepped over us."
The principal of one of the largest publishing houses in Georgia "Diogenes", Tamar Lebanidze believes that free textbooks - this is good, but the question is whether they should apply this decision to all students.
- It would be correct to conduct differentiation, to find out who really needs free textbooks? The State is going to pay only for printing services. This is an average of 1 lari 80 tetri; royalties of the publisher and author will be 10% of that amount. Imagine a situation when they pay only for the machine, for equipment, for the computer, while ignoring human labor. I have a feeling that there's a sort of campaign against publishing houses. But we're not going to give up. We will fight. Certainly, we do not want to bring the matter to the proceedings in the court, but if it's necessary, we will go to that. Legally, we are in favorable terms, we are right. The last 3 years were hard for us. This is the time of monopoly for distribution. The former government had their favorites and preferred to work with several publishers, and many were left outboard. The Ministry of Education, headed by Mr. Shashkin, never wanted to approve our textbooks.
- Do you have books in stock? Surely you were preparing for the new school year and issued a lot of books?