All families in the Comunidad Valenciana containing primary and secondary education pupils will be eligible to receive a subsidy of 200 euros from the regional government to help cover the cost of textbooks this academic year, a policy which will benefit an estimated half a million families.
This represents a total cost of 100 million euros, which will be met in part by the regional government and in part by provincial government delegations and the 541 Town Halls in the region.
The “cuesta de septiembre” (the uphill climb of September) is a struggle for many families as they attempt to meet the costs of equipping children for the new school year, with bills of up to 500 euros per child quite common even at schools where uniforms are not required. The main expense is normally on textbooks, and while on the one hand we definitely live in a digital age it seems that the education authorities in Spain still insist on the need for physical textbooks to be used.
According to the president of the regional government of the Comunidad Valenciana, Ximo Puig, who announced the decision this week, families who stand to benefit from the scheme will be able to qualify for the subsidy by presenting the bill for their textbooks at the local Town Hall, where they will receive 100 euros. ( Final details of where and when to be confirmed once schools are once again up and running) The other half of the money will be forthcoming next June for families who return the books to their schools in good condition, providing an incentive for the books to be looked after well enough to be used again the following year as part of a “book bank”.
An additional incentive to look after school books is that those families who contribute to the book bank will qualify to receive free books next year, a considerable relief for parents who year after year find themselves paying at least 300 euros per child.
Ideas of this kind have been mooted in the past but there has been some reluctance to set such schemes up. However, the regional government in Valencia is confident that it will work, and the objective is for school books to have a useful life of “at least four years” according to regional Education minister Vicent Marzà.
In the UK the re-use of textbooks was common in the past, but in Spain this idea is not far short of revolutionary.
Although the scheme requires an important initial cost, Ximo Puig sees this as an investment rather than an expense, and underlines the fact that education is one of the priorities of his government.
If the plan of the regional government in Valencia works then the only ones to lose out will be the publishing houses and booksellers whose profits are boosted every September by the sale of textbooks, and in order to offer them alternatives Sr Marzà plans to discuss with them the possibility of promoting reading to help learning in the region’s schools.
Image: Getty, buying school supplies
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