To market, to market…the black market in highschool textbooks

The difficulty of distributing textbooks in Cambodia was highlighted recently by an audit of high school textbooks, in science and chemistry for example – which found many school books ending up in the marketplaces. This caused acute embarrassment for the Minister of Education who felt obliged to explain the situation to the Asian Development Bank which had underwritten the purchase of thousands of these textbooks for use by schools which have been – and still are – chronically short of texts in high school subjects.

We might speculate how the books had ended up being sold in the markets. Had teachers started trading books to supplement their incomes? Were students borrowing the books and selling them on for a quick dollar?

Whatever the stories, the Ministry has evidently clamped down on the black market in textbooks – as explained in the Minister;s letter which I republish in full.

HE Eric Sidgwick
Country Director
Cambodia Resident Mission
Asian Development Bank
29 Suramarit Blvd. (St. 268), Phnom Penh

September 2014

Subject: Management and Use of Textbooks.

Dear Excellency Sidgwick:

I am writing to brief you of actions and progress on the issues of textbooks. The Ministry established a joint working group with the Ministry of Interior (attached). The working group conducted investigation of sales of textbooks marked with State property “Not For Sale” in the provinces of Kampong Chhnang, Pursat, Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Siem Reap, Kampong Thom, Kampong Cham, Prey Veng, and Phnom Penh. The findings confirmed that there were indeed textbooks marked with State property “Not
For Sale” printed in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 of almost all subjects and levels being sold at markets and/or book stores.
To address the issue, MoEYS has taken and plans to take the following actions:

1. All Provincial Offices of Education have met with district offices of education, school principals, and teachers to disseminate the Instruction No. 29 dated 12 May 2014 on Management and Use of Textbooks. In all meetings, all education staff concerned were requested to manage textbooks properly to ensure that they would not leak to the market.

2. The Battambang Provincial Office of Education has collected about 900 textbooks marked with State property “Not For Sale” from the market and book stores in the province. The textbooks will be distributed to students in the coming academic year 2014-2015.

3. MoEYS cooperates with the Ministry of Interior and the Phnom Penh prosecutor to deal with the issue. We were informed that Phnom Penh court will issue shortly a warrant authorizing the seizure and confiscation of textbooks marked with State property “Not For Sale” in Phnom Penh. Following the issuance of the warrant, actions will be taken in close collaboration with law enforcement agencies to confiscate textbooks marked with State property “Not For Sale” being sold in Phnom Penh.

4. Seizure and confiscation will be carried out in provinces across the country in close collaboration with sub-national law enforcement agencies.

5. Strengthening the implementation of the Instruction No. 29 dated 12 May 2014 on Management and Use of Textbooks.

We look forward to collaborating with ADB to address the issue of textbook use.

Sincerely yours,

Dr. Hang Chuon Naron
Minister
Archive / documentation

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