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On 18 May 2015, the Minister of Education and Science of Georgia, Tamar Sanikidze, on air on GDS TV’s talk show, 20/30,

discussed the dispute between the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia and publishing companies. It has been two years already since the publishing companies started to accuse the Ministry of infringement of intellectual property rights and demand the removal of the Ministry from the school textbook printing process. According to Ms Sanikidze, new amendments will be introduced into the school textbook approval law and this will eventually regulate the relations between the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia and the publishing companies. According to the Minister, after the state had taken the responsibility of printing the school textbooks itself, it appeared that: "The price of a school textbook, which costs GEL 12 on average, is, in fact, GEL 3."

FactCheck

took interest in the Minister’s statement and verified its accuracy.

On 8 April 2013, the then Minister of Education and Science of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili, declared that every pupil throughout Georgia would receive free school textbooks. For the 2013-2014 academic year, 5,819,778 school textbooks were printed for which the state allocated GEL 16,323,630. If we divide the total cost of the printing by the total amount of printed school textbooks, we shall see that the state paid GEL 2.8 on average per one school textbook.

According to the information of the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia, there were 3,863,090 school textbooks printed within the framework of the free school textbooks programme for the 2014-2015 academic year. The amount of money allocated for this purpose was GEL 12,251,685. In this case, the average cost per one printed school textbook was GEL 3.17. Of particular note, however, is that the cost of certain levels of English-language textbooks was GEL 5.69, the cost of an eighth-grade bilingual textbook was GEL 12.16, the cost of a ninth-grade bilingual textbook was GEL 15.13 and the cost of a Georgian language textbook and bilingual textbook was GEL 5.33 each. The least expensive textbooks for the Ministry were the second-grade Georgian and bilingual textbooks at a cost of GEL 1.71 each.

In previous years, Dimitri Shashkin, as a former Minister of Education and Science of Georgia, also spoke about the problems with the price of school textbooks. On 23 January 2012, in his interview with the newspaper, 24 Saati,

Mr Shashkin gave three main reasons for the dissatisfaction of teachers, pedagogues and pupils; namely, the school textbooks were replaced every year, their content and technical quality were poor and, at the same time, they were overpriced. He remarked that the Ministry had hoped that the market would regulate the process and that only quality textbooks would be produced but this did not happen. He explained that the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia decided to negotiate with the publishers in order to solve the problems concerning the issue of the school textbooks and added that most of the publishers took the decision to thwart any efforts at cooperation and only "make money" at the expense of the pupils. Consequently, the Ministry decided to take the responsibility for the school textbooks upon itself and amended the textbook approval law. In this direction, the school textbook assessment criteria were changed and refined and a price ceiling for first to sixth-grade school textbooks was established at GEL 10. Additionally, the new school textbook approval law would contain a five-year period for the validity of approved school textbooks with no changes to take place within this time. According to Mr Shashkin, the total cost of the school textbook package decreased by almost half from GEL 100 to GEL 52 per pupil.

In his 23 January 2012 interview with 24 Saati,

Dimitri Shashkin also mentioned that the school textbook approval process was to have been completed by 2012 and the maximum price for any seventh to twelfth-grade textbook would be GEL 10.

As of September 2012, the maximum price for each textbook of every grade was GEL 10 although this still met with the dissatisfaction of some parents. They cited the example that a workbook was included with some of the textbooks which meant that their combined price exceeded GEL 10. They also stated that some of the school textbooks were divided into two parts and their total price was also more than GEL 10. This said, the parents did not dispute the fact that school textbooks became less expensive as compared to previous years and that this was a positive factor. Finally, the price of school textbooks was established within the margins of a minimum of GEL 5 and a maximum of GEL 10 with the average price fixed at between GEL 8-9.

FactCheck

verified the school textbook prices on the book market. These aforementioned prices are still being maintained.

In conducting research for this article, FactCheck

interviewed the Director of the Intelekti publishing company, Kakha Kudava. According to Mr Kudava, the statement of the incumbent Minister of Education and Science of Georgia, that the average price of school textbooks is GEL 3, is a lie. He further asserts that the Ministry used the computer disks containing the content of the school textbooks which were submitted by the publishers for approval and transmitted them to the printing companies for printing. These particular printing companies, then, only had to purchase paper for the school textbooks which made the production costs much less expensive. If the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia were not to pay the printing companies for their work, this would mean that the Ministry managed to print the school textbooks for free.

As clarified by Kakha Kudava, a school textbook is not created by itself and requires an author, an editor, a proof reader, a designer, an illustrator and so on. These very individuals take part collectively in the creation and production of a school textbook. Afterwards, the textbook participates in a competition process to be approved for use in schools. A publisher pays the fee of GEL 1,600 for each of the school textbooks it enters into the approval competition which, then, represents another expenditure. Additionally, the cost for a school textbook in the Azerbaijani language exceeds GEL 10 owing to the cost of translation but the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia demanded that the maximum price should be GEL 10 like the others. Mr Kudava also clarified that even though the price on the textbook covers was indicated as GEL 10, the maximum price established by the publishers was GEL 8 whilst GEL 2 was supposed to be for distribution. Apart from this, the authors of the school textbooks had their own contracts and were eligible to receive a quarter (25%) of the textbook’s price including taxes. As well, publishers have other expenses which, in addition to the actual printing, need to be included in the price of a school textbook.

Kakha Kudava indicates that the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia printed 100% of the school textbooks in 2013 itself. In this case, the price of a single school textbook became much less expensive. The publishers were printing school textbooks in lesser amounts which meant that the prices were higher. He also gave the example of paper quality, stating that a publisher is required to print a school textbook on 70% offset paper which means that the weight of 12

paper should be 70 grams. The printing houses used by the Ministry, however, were allowed to print books on 51 gram paper. This creates a difference of 19 grams which also reduces the overall cost and money spent.

Conclusion

The average cost of school textbooks printed by the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia was GEL 3.17 per book. The cost was even lower (GEL 2.8) for the 2013-2014 academic year. In 2011, the price ceiling for first to sixth-grade school textbooks was established at GEL 10 and this ceiling was extended to each school textbook by 2012. The average price of a school textbook ranges from between GEL 8-9. The context of the statement of the Minister of Education and Science of Georgia that the government prints school textbooks for a less expensive price as compared to their market price within the framework of the free school textbook programme is correct. However, the claim that the average price of a school textbook was GEL 12 in previous years is not correct. Since 2012, the minimum price for a school textbook has been GEL 5 and the maximum price has been GEL 10. Moreover, apart from the printing costs, publishers have additional expenditures (fees for authors, editors, proof readers, designers, illustrators and so on) which are summed together and also reflected within the price of a school textbook.

Therefore, FactCheck concludes that Tamar Sanikidze’s statement is HALF TRUE.