IRELAND is among a small number of EU countries where the Government does not contribute some or all the costs of children’s schoolbooks.
In Britain, Northern Ireland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden and parts of Germany and Spain, the state pays for textbooks from primary through to second-level.
But despite bills of more than €350 for some students in second-level, particularly those starting first-year and fifth-year, Ireland is one of just two countries – the other is Portugal – out of more than a dozen analysed by RTÉ News where parents bear the full cost.
Irish primary and second-level schools are encouraged to use a book grant from the Department of Education to set up book-rental schemes whereby a nominal amount is paid each year towards books bought by the school, given to parents at the beginning of each year and returned to be handed on to the next class the following year. The department pays primary schools €11 for each child towards book costs, with those supported under a scheme for the most disadvantaged schools getting €21 per pupil. Equivalent sums of €24 and €39 are payable to second-level schools, but they are free also to use the money to expand libraries or other reading facilities.
The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation claims the grants are not enough to allow schools run rental schemes as many primary pupils’ book lists come to €100 each summer.
Austrian parents benefit from a book-rental scheme which costs them just €30 a year, with the rest coming from the government. In France and Finland, parents do not have to buy books until a student reaches the age of 15. Italian and Belgian families get free books for primary pupils, but must pay when their children move into second-level.
Last month, the Teachers’ Union of Ireland criticised schoolbook publishers for issuing revised editions of textbooks too often whenever there are minor changes to the syllabus.
However, the companies claim they limit the number of updates, and some have kept prices at 2008 levels.
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