Par­ents are pay­ing more for chil­dren’s ebooks than old text­books

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - NEWS - By Bill Tyson

A LACK of State pol­icy on dig­i­tal learn­ing is leav­ing par­ents hun­dreds – and even thou­sands of euro – out of pocket, the chil­dren’s char­ity Barnar­dos has warned.

Many cash-strapped schools are ask­ing par­ents to cover the costs of pricey iPads and lap­tops.

And ebooks, which it was hoped would slash ed­u­ca­tion costs, are prov­ing just as ex­pen­sive as pa­per books, af­ter a con­tro­ver­sial state VAT levy is added. All this re­sults in al­ready cash-strapped par­ents pay­ing much more for ebook

‘Lack of dig­i­tal pol­icy is cost­ing par­ents’

learn­ing than they did for a tra­di­tional ed­u­ca­tion with pa­per text­books. ‘It’s a crazy sys­tem, a nutty sys­tem. No other ju­ris­dic­tion would have it,’ said Barnar­dos boss Fer­gus Fin­lay.

‘Swe­den in­tro­duced dig­i­tal learn­ing decades ago with the state sup­ply­ing what chil­dren need. British law re­quires a child must have wait­ing for him in school all the re­sources he needs.

‘Here, there’s no pol­icy at all, there’s noth­ing put down any­where, noth­ing about what they would like to see hap­pen.’

He called on the Gov­ern­ment to ful­fil an elec­tion prom­ise – first made by Fine Gael in 1937 – to make all pri­mary books free, and fol­low this up for sec­ondary books in a three-year pro­gramme. In the mean­time, un­der-funded schools op­er­ate vary­ing poli­cies on dig­i­tal learn­ing. Some shun it al­to­gether be­cause of the costs.

Oth­ers are ask­ing par­ents to cough up hun­dreds and in some cases thou­sands of euro to pay for of­ten pricey lap­tops and tablets. Par­ents are re­port­ing that they have to fork out €700 on av­er­age for lap­tops, and up to €800 for iPads pre-loaded with ebooks.

One mum, Anne-Marie Murtagh, told the Ir­ish Mail on Sun­day how she had to pay €2,400 for three iPads loaded with school books for her daugh­ters at­tend­ing sec­ondary school.

Ebooks also can’t be ‘passed down’ in the time-hon­oured tra­di­tion that has cut fam­ily school­book bills for gen­er­a­tions. ‘And we only get to li­cense the books once for a cer­tain pe­riod,’ she added. The sys­tem also elim­i­nates the small cash bonus par­ents used to get from sell­ing books.

Mr Fin­lay said the Min­is­ter for Ed­u­ca­tion Richard Bru­ton should, for starters, he be­lieves, sub­sidise dig­i­tal ex­penses. The com­pul­sory use of dig­i­tal de­vices in sec­ondary schools has reached 25% with the fi­nan­cial bur­den placed on par­ents, ac­cord­ing to the Barnar­dos re­port. Some 81% of par­ents fund the de­vices needed, with an­other 77% cough­ing up for apps and soft­ware. The av­er­age cost of a lap­top is €700. Ebooks cost 30% less to pro­duce than pa­per ver­sions, ac­cord­ing to pub­lish­ers.

But their cost ad­van­tage is gob­bled up by the 23% VAT the State levies on eBooks alone.

But a spokesman for the De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion said un­der EU law the VAT rate on ebooks must stand for now at 23%. How­ever, a new pro­posal to al­low states’ lee­way to change VAT rates is un­der dis­cus­sion at EU level.The Na­tional Par­ents Coun­cil Sec­ondary has called on the Gov­ern­ment to set up a com­mon plat­form where ebooks can be made avail­able to all schools.

‘There should be a com­mon plat­form that’s suitable for an­droid de­vices which are much cheaper than Ap­ple,’ said spokesman Ross MacMa­hon.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.