The study issued January 19, 2015 which proposes an economic model that would help reduce the cost of textbooks and increase their availability to students in schools in sub-Saharan Africa said a tracking survey conducted in Ghana in 2014 found that 29 per cent of English textbooks could not be accounted for in 2010.
The study titled, ‘Every Child Should Have a Textbook’, noted that centralized financing mechanisms could allow for a $3 reduction in the price of each textbook and save almost $1 billion a year from the cost of learning materials in sub-Saharan Africa alone.
“Kenya, for example, could save $64 million from its textbook bill, and Malawi $33 million,” it said.
The report argues that improved financial models could help triple the number of textbooks available for children worldwide, thereby improving educational achievements, particularly in poor countries hampered by the high cost of textbooks today. According to the study, providing textbooks to all students could increase literacy scores by 5-20 per cent.
The study however, notes that in Ghana, an impact evaluation of a programme supporting basic education found that progress in mathematics and English test scores between 1988 and 2003 were partly due to the increased availability of textbooks, while in South Africa, students, especially girls, do better on reading tests when they have their own copies of textbooks.
The cost of textbooks the study says, can be reduced through a range of measures: from improving distribution and storage, and choosing to use fewer textbooks, adding that improving the logistics of distribution can reduce wastage.
“Costs increase because of poor security in transport and storage, and because books are stolen and resold to private schools,” it said.
The study also found that decentralized supply has had mixed success. In some countries, it notes, the ministry of education decides the quantities of textbooks that each school should be receiving. In a number of sub-Saharan African countries, there has been a shift towards decentralize textbook supply systems which allow schools to choose from government approved textbook lists and schools buying different combinations of textbooks in small numbers; this is often financed through grants to individual schools.
“There has been, in the case of countries like Tanzania and Zambia, a move towards district based choice, or in Cameroon and Ghana, the situation where choice for alternative approved textbooks for selected districts are at the national level,” it says.
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi