Thursday 20 July 2017

Schools must try harder to end the annual books farce

The 'robbing Peter to pay Paul' approach stifles any incentive to find a better way, writes Eilis O'Hanlon

There's a title on the Leaving Cert book list for some schools this year called the Student Yearbook & Career Directory 2012 which lists "hundreds of career options" for young people to consider as they head into an uncertain future. To be honest, there's only one profession so reliable and recession-proof that it should be top of every ambitious teenager's list of possible careers, and that's the production of school books themselves.

This year's Career Directory costs a whopping €15, for what is basically just a glorified pamphlet containing information which anyone could easily find for free on the internet in seconds. Nice work if you can get it. And that's only one subject. The book lists which schoolchildren are expected to acquire are now so extensive that they could practically open their own libraries. Each year there are new editions of the same textbooks too, often incorporating minor changes which make little difference to the curriculum but which have the side effect of rendering all previous textbooks redundant, meaning that older siblings cannot pass their books onto younger brothers and sisters, and seething parents have to fork out for another expensive set of books with built-in obsolescence. It's €20 for this one, €30 for that. Add it all up and -- kerching! -- the publisher makes another killing.

I know of one parent whose second child has recently started secondary school, where only one book was suitable for transferring to his younger brother. In my house, we managed to pass on just three. The rest were now worthless. It can't be right to pour so much money down the drain, so why do we repeatedly put up with it? Why, every single year, do we have another anguished discussion about Back To School costs without ever doing anything to remedy this intolerable and farcical situation?

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