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All private and community schools in the country have been asked by the education sector regulator, the Supreme Education Council (SEC), to include Qatar’s history in their curricula from the current academic year (2012-13).
Tagged with the main textbook (on Qatar’s history) is an ‘activity book’ and they are collectively priced at QR180.
“This is an exorbitant price for a book and this would cause tremendous financial hardship to parents,” said Hamad Al Marri, a prominent consumer activist.
The SEC should have actually ensured that the book is available to students at a nominal price. “This is a brazen example of commercialising education”, Al Marri told this newspaper yesterday.
Already, schools are taking parents for a ride as they have commercialised education, he said. They are selling uniforms and text books for profits. “They are exploiting hapless parents.”
Text books should be sold at subsidized rates — like public health services. Education is key to social and economic development. It must be supported by the state for all sections of society.
Asked if the state-run Consumer Protection Department (CPD), which operates under the Ministry of Business and Trade, should be authorised to monitor the pricing of text books as well, Al Marri said that, unfortunately, the role of the CPD is too restricted.
“It is not an effective agency at all. Its role is quite limited,” Al Marri said of the CPD. People who want to lodge complaints about price rise in general are, in fact, discouraged by the long process it takes to redress — if at all — a grievance. “It’s too time-consuming.”
Meanwhile, according to sources in various communities, the price of Qatar’s history books has literally come as a shocker for most parents as they are not used to such high rates for school books.
A textbook for most subjects on an average costs QR30 to QR40 on a higher side and the price tag of QR180, naturally, is quite prohibitive for many.
For this reason, at least one Indian school has decided to make photocopies of the book and give to social science teachers who would be teaching Qatar’s history so they can ‘at least introduce the subject from the current academic year’.
Since the academic year of Indian schools ends in April, students of this particular school might be asked to buy the history books from the next academic year (beginning September 2013). The school has, though, issued circulars to parents about the book pricing.
Several parents have complained about the high price of the book to schools, it is learned, but school officials maintain they are in no way to blame. “Go to the SEC with your complaint,” is the standard answer of the schools.
Qatar’s history is to be taught from grade 1 to 12. The syllabi for grades 1 to 9 have been announced, while those for grades 10, 11 and 12 are yet to be made public, sources said.
The books for every grade — from 1 to 12 — have different contents, sources said. The SEC could not be immediately contacted for comments.