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Money from extra workbooks: Where does it go?

October 24, 2017

In a school with a student population of 2,500, publishers can easily earn half a million ringgit from the sale of additional workbooks.


vernacular-school-sjkc-1By Concerned Parent

I would like to know why some school principals are still acting in defiance of a directive by the education ministry issued 17 years ago regarding additional workbooks in schools.

Some schools have already collected money from parents for workbooks to be purchased for next year.

These schools should return the money collected based on the latest directive issued by the education ministry that they are not supposed to have additional workbooks beyond that prescribed by the ministry.

After all, workbooks are only meant to supplement school textbooks and should not overtake the proper teaching of the school curriculum.

When the performance of the children in these schools drops, we know that the teachers have failed to teach the curriculum; instead, they had been depending too much on workbooks as their crutches.

Strangely, the jobs of these defiant principals are still secure, and no drastic action has been taken against them by state education departments or local education offices.

Despite a second circular reissued in 2014, principals, especially in Chinese schools, continue to ask parents to buy additional workbooks.

In a number of schools, on average, parents fork out RM200 every year for additional workbooks per child.

Imagine schools with a student population of 2,500 children. This is easily a half-a-million-ringgit business that publishers can get from just one school.

The printing of booklists is done using government facilities. Teachers have to double up as the distribution channel for the workbooks. They have the honour of collecting money from children during school hours at the expense of quality teaching time.

An age-old formula for any book published and placed on the shelves of bookshops is: at least one-third of the retail price of the book goes to the bookshop. It is this final one-third which is not accounted for.

This means for every workbook priced at RM3 and bought directly by parents through the schools, at least RM1 could have been saved.

Unless this amount has been passed on to parents or reflected in the school parent-teacher association (PIBG) accounts, where has the money gone to?

Are the publishers profiteering from the parents on top of the normal profit margin they get when they sell through the bookshops?

Through the usual bookshops, publishers get the money only after the books are sold, probably six months later, but through the schools, they have been collecting cash in advance.

If publishers are not the only ones benefiting from the additional workbooks in schools, are there some other people with vested interests in such exploitation of ignorant parents who just pay without thinking further about whether these additional workbooks are good for their children?

The media recently reported that, in the case of a girl in Standard Five, her parents had forked out money to purchase a total of 29 workbooks suggested by the school.

One-third of RM500,000 is a handsome sum of RM160,000. If not a single sen has gone into the PIBG accounts, who has been taking the money?

It is time that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) conduct an investigation to determine where the money has gone.

Concerned Parent is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.


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