2 weeks of schooling – but where are the books?

© Provided by Free Malaysia Today Bookshops are out of stock and parents are running around trying to get copies of textbooks for their children, or even photocopying them. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: Two weeks into the new school year, and many parents are still struggling to obtain textbooks for their children learning from home as bookstores face a delay in receiving stocks from suppliers and publishers.

A bookstore owner in Melaka told FMT that Form Five books were in high demand this year, as there was a new curriculum and set of textbooks for the 2021 Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia cohort.

Unfortunately, his customers have been left waiting for stocks as his suppliers were unable to give him a definitive answer on the next batch of textbooks.

“They promised that the stocks would arrive by mid-January, but until now some books still haven’t arrived. Many parents have ordered the books but I have nothing to give them,” he said. “We also requested for reprints of the Malay and English literature books, but have not received anything yet.”

Another bookstore owner based in Selangor said textbook sales had increased since the beginning of the year, as many parents are still unable to collect their children’s free textbooks from school.

“Not many of them can afford to have three to four devices for each of their children to access the e-textbooks. Sometimes the Wi-Fi connection is bad so they would need to refer to physical books,” she said.

The owner also claimed that a government publisher had temporarily closed in January for stock checks over the course of two weeks, which caused further delays in stocks.

Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education chairman Mak Chee Kin said the issue of parents not being able to purchase textbooks, both online and offline, had gone on for many years.

With schools closed due to the high number of Covid-19 cases, Mak said some parents had resorted to photocopying textbooks, so their children’s studies were not affected even as they continued with online classes.

a person smiling for the camera: Mak Chee Kin.© Provided by Free Malaysia Today Mak Chee Kin.

“Parents have to make countless enquiries and trips to bookstores but sadly, the books are not available. Some are still waiting although they have ordered and paid online,” he said.

He added that foreigners and private school students were also not entitled to receive free textbooks from their schools, while others still had to purchase textbooks to replace the ones they had lost or misplaced.

Claiming that some suppliers received their publishing contracts through the back door, he called on the government to investigate the matter and to take appropriate action against irresponsible suppliers and publishers.

Parent Action Group for Education president Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said many students still relied heavily on physical textbooks, despite the assumption that online learning had been a success.

a man holding a sign posing for the camera: Noor Azimah Rahim.© Provided by Free Malaysia Today Noor Azimah Rahim.

“Physical textbooks should have been returned at the end of 2020. Current year textbooks should have been distributed in the first week of January 2021. Had this schedule been adhered to, stocks of books could have been replenished early,” she told FMT.

“It is now February and many schools have not distributed books. For schools that have begun to distribute books, there is not enough to go around. The education ministry has failed in ensuring the prompt distribution of physical books.”

According to Noor Azimah, the list of Form Five e-textbooks for the 2021 SPM batch are also incomplete, the same problem faced in previous years with printed textbooks.

She pointed out that not every student had the luxury of viewing their e-textbooks from bigger screens, adding that some had to squint while reading on their mobile phones, which could lead to more problems.

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