A parent of a second-grader of T.V.O Primary School in Binh Tan District shared that besides the official textbook pack she is asked to also buy workbooks, all of which are worth VND318,000 (US$13.7), along with the English textbook and workbook ‘Family and Friends’, worth another VND160,000 ($6.9); IT textbooks, worth VND54,000 ($2.3). In the registration form is also a list of learning tools like book covers, Math 2 practice tool pack, notebook labels, and 10 notebooks. The total cost comes to VND957,000 ($41), which is not at all a small sum to worker families.
This situation is common in many schools around HCMC. Although teachers have said that the school does not force its students to buy workbooks, many parents admitted they do not know which items are compulsory, so it is safer to buy all in case their children need them.
Some bookstores in HCMC separate the pack for formal textbooks from that for workbooks, and they even offer individual books for sale. But others compile these books into one large pack and force people to buy all, even with a discount of 5 percent.
Parents, who are usually uncertain of which books are necessary, decide to buy all of them for fear that when they truly need the books, they cannot find these books for sale anymore.
Receiving the report on several schools selling textbooks with workbooks and learning tools, Head of Binh Tan District Education and Training Division Ngo Van Tuyen responded that the registration form has a place for parents to tick ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’ with each item for sale. However, the display of the total cost is wrong compared to the regulations.
At the beginning of each school year, all divisions of Education and Training in HCMC remind schools to inform parents that the purchase of notebook covers, notebooks, schoolbag, uniform is not compulsory.
In the 3rd session of the 15th National Assembly this June, delegate Nguyen Lan Hieu from Binh Dinh Province voiced that the use of reference books in primary schools should not be mandatory.
Minister of Education and Training Nguyen Kim Son also requested that directors of all Education and Training Departments in all localities deliver proper directions to their sub-levels not to force parents to buy workbooks, reference books besides the formal list of textbooks approved by the Ministry of Education and Training.
What is worth mentioning here is the regulations do not clearly state the sanctions and responsibility of implementers, so in the reality there is still inconsistency among schools, especially when there are so many reference books out there.