Should You Join the Schoolbook Borrowing Program?

'Au boulot!!' photo (c) 2008, Elvire.R. - license: Nati asked me whether I knew of a downside to participating in the education ministry’s  new schoolbook borrowing plan.

Parents have been complaining about the high cost of schoolbooks as long as I’ve had kids in school. The books get pricier every year, the schools change curricula regularly, and there are too many workbooks. So the education ministry has allotted a budget for a nationwide book-borrowing project, implemented by individual schools.

It works like this: The schools have sent out letters to all parents. Sixty percent of the parents need to agree before the school can implement the program. Parents do not have to participate.

To kick-start the project, they are asking parents to donate the books from this year instead of selling them back. Even if the children are graduating, the ministry points out that you are likely to get only 20% of the book’s value.

If your child loses or damages a book, you’ll need to pay for repair or replacement. Workbooks will be included, fortunately, but some schools will not allow children to write in them.

Schools can ask parents for a maximum annual amount of NIS 280 for elementary school and 320 for high school.  The rest of the money comes from the government (i.e. our taxes). I think it’s worth it. Even with recycling books and borrowing, I usually spend at least NIS 4-500 per elementary school child and more in high school.

The schools might still try to find ways to require parents to buy extra books, but why be a pessimist? I’m expecting a few bugs but let’s hope this project gets off the ground with few problems.

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Source: Education ministry website.


  1. Great post! This is a big issue here in our community right now.

    Personally, we voted against the project for our elementary school kids for several reasons:

    1) Apparently (I say “apparently” because different parents got different answers), the kids will NOT be allowed to write in their workbooks. (In other words, the kids are going to have to copy all their math problems into their notebooks…)

    2) At this point, we own nearly all the elementary school textbooks (including, of course, the sifrei kodesh) and usually only have to buy the workbooks. Thus we generally spend less than 280 NIS a year per elementary school child on books.

  2. I have been agonising over this very point, not realising it was a nationwide thing.

    I have 3 girls, all of whom will be in the same school, and (potentially) using the same books throughout. Question is: If I buy the books for my eldest, will I save money eventually by the time 3 of them have used it.

    Thanks for the food for thought.

  3. I haven’t heard about anything like this…

    So many of my daughter’s second grade books were series of workbooks (math, Torah, lashon). It’s hard to imagine kids copying the questions and answers to a separate book, plus there is definitely some “ktav” practice at this age.

    Maybe by 7th grade it would seem more doable. I know that’a long time to wait, but I still do the math of what we’d be spending in the US for tuition and feel like we’re coming out ahead. (Just for this!)

  4. If I understand correctly, the books will be “recycled” for 5 years. Is that correct? If so, I see 2 problems:

    1. There is no way a book is going to stay in decent condition for 5 years, even if no one writes in it.

    2. What if, at the end of the first year, the school or teacher decides they don’t like the book? Will they be stuck with it for the next 4 years?

    • In the US we used textbooks for about that amount of time. But they were hardcover and bound to last. I doubt the ones here are.

      Also we didn’t have workbooks, except maybe in grades 1-3 I don’t remember. If they would start with real textbooks earlier, that could be passed along, that would ultimately save money.

      I’m not sure if this system is going to put enough burden on the schools to buy good books and keep them. I guess if only as a motivation for them to *make* money maybe it will.

  5. I said yes for both kids (two different schools). Even if it doesn’t save me huge amounts of money it’s still far better for the environment than being forced to buy (often new because used aren’t available) books each year.

  6. Our schools have always been well organised. Grades 1 – 6 needed new books every year for a lot of subjects because they were workbooks, but the school bought them en masse (hopefully geting a discount and at least preventing us from having to run around to buy them). From grade 7, they’ve had the system of borrowing books for at least several years. I don’t know how long the books are around before they get “recycled” but I guess it depends on the condition. And I’m not so sure that 5 years is too long. This was the system we had in England and some of our books, while a little dog-eared, were old and in reasonable condition.

  7. Mrs Bore says

    To back up Julie, in the UK we never paid money for books. The school would issue us with textbooks, we would write in notebooks only, never on the textbook and the system worked fine. Everything was paid for by the school.

    Books always seemed to be kept in a good condition.

    It actually seems a bit shocking to me that it isn’t this system everywhere and that parents have to buy books. Seems bad for the parents and bad for the environment.

  8. In my sons school, for second grade the cost of buying the books in the system is 56 NIS and for the program it costs 280 NIS. go do the math there. For my fifth grader it may be more worth it, except for that he is extremely absent minded and I could see him constantly losing books which I’d have to replace anyway (as he does now).
    so I have to think about this one.

  9. We enjoyed it for years in high-school (Tihon Masorati Braunshveig). It is very convenient (not to say environment friendly). When some problem arise, you can always buy spare one. It is still cheaper (and I bought second-hand everything I could) So we are looking forward to its extension on the elementary school.
    Two problems I am worried about are:
    -lesser availability of schoolbooks for emergency purchase (7.30 in the morning). We had two stores next to our home selling those (and having lists for each grade of each nearby school)-convenience school store (sweets- coffee- cigarets (????)-school T-shirts and hoods-books-writing supplies) and book store both care to open early to accommodate us. I am afraid it would be less interesting for them after the reform, and I would have fetch and search where to get the MISSING book.
    -writing in notebooks AND carrying around huge quantities of paper inside schoolbooks meant for writing in it. We already had one like that this year ( teacher banned writing in the book for “educational reason: it is a nasty habit to write in a book”

  10. Agree with Mrs S.
    Our school seems to keep the same books all the time.
    I have a son going up to 6th grade.
    I already have all the books needed for 6th -8th grades in his school including Sifrei Kodesh.
    I am not sure that I will be paying less money if we use this system

  11. Maybe it’s a good thing that kids learn not to write in any books. I never wrote in books as a kid. I even kept my workbooks pristine and traced everything. I just hope the teachers take some responsibility. I don’t want the teacher to stand by idly watching my kid write in/tear/loose a book, just to send home a note saying I need to pay for it.

    Right now, my daughter has no cubby or good safe place to keep things, so I have had to replace many lost items. And last week, my daughter doggy eared a page in her siddur. *GASP* No child of mine should be writing in books and doggy earring pages!!

  12. Allan Katz says

    The question parents and of course teachers should be asking is whether textbooks have a role in education other than reference or resource material in a educational system driven by kids ‘ questions and curiosity and project based learning. If we want kids to look at thing s with some depth and understanding throw out the textbooks