The government, in cooperation with the municipalities, should provide free textbooks for all elementary students to comply with the constitutional provision on compulsory and free primary education, according to the Center for Civic Education (CCE).
The CCE's analysis, "Why Do Student Textbooks Cause a Headache?" States that changes to the textbooks each new school year did not lead to a qualitative improvement in formal education and represented a financial burden for parents.
"And reform processes are mostly now chronically unplanned, affecting teaching staff, textbook deficiencies and huge costs," the analysis concludes.
According to CCE data, the Government has allocated a minimum of 7.3 million euros for textbooks over the past six years, of which 6.3 million for printing, about 864 thousand euros for authors' fees and 135 thousand for reviewers’ fees.
Expenditures for textbook editors should be added to this, as the Institute for Textbooks and Teaching Aids (ZUNS) has such a systematic job vacancy, so editorial expenses are paid through monthly earnings.
Expenditures for textbook editors should be added to this, as the Institute for Textbooks and Teaching Aids (ZUNS) has such a systematic post, so editorial expenses are paid through monthly earnings.
The CCE said that the prices of textbooks do not change much, and that for the last school year the kits, depending on the grade in the elementary school, were from 43.1 to 94.2 euros, and for the upcoming year betweeen 39.8 to 94,2 euros.
In gymnasiums, these prices range from 59 to 106.8 euros for the previous year, and from 50.5 to 106.8 euros for the upcoming one.
The prices of textbook kits for secondary vocational schools are unavailable because they vary depending on the school and the direction. Therefore, for analysis, the CCE took an example of the second grade of law school in the Secondary School of Economics and came to the figure of 110 euros.
"Given that textbooks are being sold, parents and several municipalities are paying for textbooks, only €4.63 million was paid for primary school kits for 2018/2019, which is significantly more than the annual cost of producing and printing of these textbooks," the analysis states.
To that, the amounts for secondary schools should be added, where it is difficult to reach the indicative figure.
The CCE said that the lack of transparency in certain segments of ZUNS's work is also something to worry about.
This NGO did not receive a list of all paid authors and reviewers that were engaged, with the explanation that ZUNS does not have such lists for the period before 2018.
"However, data for 2018 also indicate that a number of persons participating in the development of the school curriculum appear as textbook reviewers in various segments, and up to 12 times in some examples," the analysts said.
It is stated that there is no clearly defined fee for authors, but this varies considerably, as does the number of authors hired per textbook, and there are no published tenders for obtaining manuscripts for the period before 2018.
According to CCE, Obod Cetinje Printing plant has been the leader in the amount and volume of funds allocated for the last six years which is 1.5 million euros, and is the only one that has been publishing textbooks for years, while other suppliers print smaller volumes and with less allocated resources.
Allegations from that NGO state that errors and omissions in the printed textbooks were noted, but also that there was no revision of the printed copies, nor is it known that anyone was responsible for this.
In addressing these problems, the CCE also made a number of recommendations.
"First of all, the Ministry of Education needs to make an estimate of how much money is needed at the yearly level to provide free textbooks for elementary schools, and the Government, in cooperation with municipalities, to provide free textbooks for all elementary schools," the NGOs said.
Thus, according to the CCE, the constitutional provision on compulsory and free primary education would be respected, would contribute to equal status among students, but would also lead to a more rational approach of the Institute of Education, that would stop it from changing the content of textbooks for each new school year.
"Also, in the five-year period, future options for plans and programs should be strategically determined to define textbooks for primary schools, in order to avoid continuous changes to the content of the textbooks. It would also be savings for the Montenegrin budget, and would also allow for a "textbook inheritance", according to the CCE recommendations.
The NGO also believes that the procedures for selecting authors and reviewers must be regulated, so that one circle of the same people do not constantly write and review textbooks, as this can lead to corruption.
In particular, they said, responsibility should be taken for all authors found to have plagiarized textbooks or syllabuses, and they must be excluded from all further engagements.
"The Institute of Education must determine from the professional assets of secondary education institutions a list of missing literature and textbooks for secondary vocational education and hire authors to produce the missing textbooks," the CCE stated.
According to them, printing plants that make errors and mistakes in printing textbooks must bear responsibility for the mistakes made and compensate for the damage, as well as those who coordinate the process in the competent institutions.
The CCE believes that the ZUNS should provide a sufficient number of printed editions of textbooks for vocational courses in secondary schools for the library fund of the school, namely those textbooks that are in PDF format on ZUNS website.
In this way, they explained, they would rent the same number of textbooks to new generations every year, with the obligation to return textbooks at the end of the school year, similar to the Slovenian model.
“Finally, in order to make the process transparent, the CCE appreciates that textbooks should be published annually on the ZUNS website with precise amounts and names of the companies or authors and reviewers who were paid, indicating for what exact purpose, as well as all accompanying payments in the textbook design," the analysis concludes.
Text by MINA News, on August 14th, 2019, read more at Vijesti