WITH a five per cent increase, on average, in the cost of textbooks this year, the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) has encouraged parents to find creative ways to ensure they are able to provide their children with the resources they need.
According to the 2012 Annual School Textbook Survey recently completed by the CAC, primary school textbook prices have seen a four per cent price increase while secondary school textbook prices increased by six per cent.
The survey report said that this increase is not only less than the inflation recorded over the 2011-2012 period of 5.9 per cent, but also represents a consistent trend over the previous survey period.
This is welcome news after a brief scare in May when consumers were warned to brace for a possible 25 per cent price increase on books, following the imposition of General Consumption tax (GCT) on the commodity to become effective June 1.
The Jamaican Government eventually rolled back the 16.5 per cent tax after fervent lobbying from the Book Industry Association of Jamaica, and instead imposed a two per cent non-refundable GCT on all imported books, except for religious material.
The CAC used a sample of a 130 textbooks and 59 book stores islandwide in its survey for this year.
The Ministry of Education has, meanwhile, provided an approved textbooks list for schools and urged them to make every effort to limit the number of books on the children's booklist.
At a recent press conference, the ministry also provided sample costs for books at each grade level. According to that sample, books for a grade one child should amount to $6,184; for grade two, $6,115; grade three, $7,134; grade four, $12,841; grade five, $11,839 and grade six $13,438.
Secondary school books should cost parents with children in grades seven to nine $15,147 and $17,657 for those with children in grades 10 to 11.
Director of research at CAC Charmaine Thomas has encouraged parents, in purchasing books for back-to-school, to plan the shopping experience wisely; use CAC survey online to check prices and availability of textbooks; call the stores before going there and finding out that they don't have the books; and to talk with other parents.
In addition she said they should:
* look very carefully at the books to ensure that the correct book is being purchased; title, edition, etc; and
* be unafraid to ask for assistance from store staff in identifying the books to be purchased.
For those parents, who may be struggling to afford books, she urged them to "buy used books, encourage older siblings to take care of the books so that younger siblings can use them [and] talk with the teachers to find out which books are needed first or that are most critical for the subjects".
"This will delay the cost of buying books as you can buy what is needed for the term," Thomas said.
She added that for literature books, parents should "buy them second-hand or borrow them".
"Also, they may not need to buy the latest edition in literature books as the only difference may be the textual notes and the teacher may provide these," Thomas said.