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Textbook market: monopoly is behind all the problems

The Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) takes on all the work, including compiling, verifying, approving, and printing and distributing textbooks. In other words, it holds a monopoly.

Textbooks now can be used only for one year
Textbooks now can be used only for one year

Hoang Thi Hoa, deputy chair of the National Assembly’s Committee of Culture, Education, the Youth and Children, said a survey conducted on the observation of the laws on textbook publishing, printing and distribution has found problems.

Textbooks are a special publication covered by many legal regulations, including the Education Law. Article 99 of the law on MOET’s competence is the major reason for the monopoly in the textbook compilation, printing and distribution.

The law also stipulates that general education establishments use a single set of textbooks for every grade throughout the country.

The provision is contrary to the National Assembly’s Resolution 88 on reforming the general education curriculums and textbooks, which says that there is one curriculum, but there can be many sets of textbooks.

The Education Law, which stipulates that MOET has the competence for organizing the compilation, examining, editing, printing and distribution of textbooks, creates the monopoly, which has been criticized.

The existence of only one textbook publishing unit led to the abuse of the monopoly position to cause restricted competition, which hinders quality and lower prices.

This is contrary to the 2012 Publishing Law and the growing trend in the world under which state agencies are not involved in textbook compilation and publishing.

In addition, textbooks can be used for only one school year. The Education Publishing House belonging to MOET every year prints 100 million textbook copies worth VND1 trillion.

The problem lies in the design of questions and exercises. Students are requested to circle answers in textbooks, make diagrams, color charts and write answers in the textbooks.

MOET’s report shows that a huge amount of textbooks were published in 2012-2017. In 2017 alone, there were 107,807,120 textbook copies out of 312 million print publications.

If counting reference books for students, the ‘Tieng Viet 1 – Cong nghe giao duc’ textbook (Vietnamese language for first grade – new education technology) and the textbooks specifically designed for VNEN program, the number of publications by MOET would account for 75 percent of total publications.

Textbooks are printed at 90 printing houses in 63 cities and provinces. After printing, they are put into storehouses and then carried to book and education equipment joint stock companies before being delivered to local book distribution companies. From the distributors, books are taken to education establishments and sales agents.