It started with a boycott of cottage cheese. Next were protests against high apartment prices and rentals. Then there was daycare, baby items (!) and now electricity. Israelis are protesting high prices everywhere. I’m not sure there is an easy way to solve most of these problems. Health care is cheap here but apartments are not. Vegetables are cheap but dairy products are not. There are issues with corruption and cartels, yet we have a stable economy and low unemployment. The protesters seem to want the government to control prices, and have taxpayer money subsidize most of our basic needs. While I understand the motives for the protests, the ramifications concern me.
I’m no economic expert but I do know about the unnecessarily high cost of textbooks. I’ve been buying schoolbooks for 15 years now—I’ve written several posts on the topic—and this is the worst year ever.
The problems with elementary school texts remain the same. Too many workbooks with heavy covers, thick paper and colored pictures that require just enough writing to make it difficult to pass on to a younger child. There are always a few pages that require cutting, too. I had a few books for my 3rd grader as they didn’t change the series, but still ended up laying out around NIS 800 between the two of them including the cost of a few used editions. The article says that from a random list for a fifth grader, only five of seventeen books were available used.
But the bigger problems this year were in high school. They completely changed the math curriculum for junior and high school. Because my older 4 kids were born within 7 years I’ve been saving these books, which tend to cost about NIS 100 each. I ended up sending nine kilograms of books to the recycling bin. When I tried my luck with another ten or so used books in different subjects, only two were sellable. I got NIS 25. I heard that the math books are good for alternative explanations or extra practice questions so if you want one of these books, ask on your local email list or stand outside the local bookstore.
I just noticed that in 2006 I wrote: “The curriculum for high school math has changed, making all previous books for grades 10-12 obsolete.” It seems to have changed again at the beginning of 2010.
The story is the same with the physics and chemistry texts. High schoolers must choose a megama, or major. My oldest two chose math and physics. When the younger two did as well, I though I was lucky. But they changed the curriculum for both subjects and almost all of the books have to be bought new. At least with physics and chemistry you can argue that the material needed to be updated.
I was able to save some by passing down five books from my now tenth grader to a friend with a child a grade below in the same school. And a friend with a son a grade ahead swapped a few books with me. Some history books are used again and again.
The schools did try harder this year, with all three of my kids’ schools hosting summer book fairs. At the elementary school, a book store brought the textbooks to the school and sold them at a discount. I wasn’t able to attend the high school fairs, where there is more swapping, but they also listed a bookstore that would sell at a discount. Discounts are 5% at most, though.
According to this Haaretz article, the schools are completely ignoring the new guidelines:
. . . a few years ago the ministry issued a directive that schools had to stick to the same list of books for five years at least. That directive was enacted into law in the summer of 2008. The underlying concept was to let older children pass down their textbooks and encourage an active market of used books.
Another law enacted to help parents, in April 2010, bans the use of textbooks in which the children have to write out exercises or otherwise mark the books, rendering them useless for transfer. Exemptions to that rule include language-learning books for grades 1 and 2, English books for grades 1 through 9, and math books through fifth grade.
Three years after these guidelines were announced, I can hardly sell used books. And there are few to buy.
You know, I wouldn’t mind laying out so much money if the quality were better. I thought of copying out a few pages from the elementary school workbooks but I’m too embarrassed by the simplistic questions. Let them invest some more in the actual material instead of the paper and graphic layout.
So what has your experience been this year? The bookstores are already crowded, so don’t wait until the last minute.
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