For the 2013-2014 school year, the Ministry of Education and Science will supply 2,084 schools and around 650, 000 students with free textbooks. The Minister of Education, Giorgi Margvelashvili reported this on April 8th.
Free books for 650, 000 students
By Keti Arjevanidze
Wednesday, April 10
This initiative will only affect the public schools of Georgia, although the Ministry of Education and Science promises that in the 2013/2014 school year, the books will be available for every family. In providing free textbooks for students the Education Ministry will allocate GEL 12 million.
The decision triggered protests from publishers. According to them, this decision will lead to the closure of the publishing business; they will not be able to create any new literary products, which will also result in book store bankruptcy.
"The Ministry of Education is attacking publishers," said Kakhmeg Kudava, the director of publishing house Intelekti. He assures that publishers are not going to let the ministry get away with this decision. Kudava stated that they are going to appeal the decision to the court.
According to Inteleqti's director, the ministry plans to print the books by bypassing publishers, which contradicts the Georgian constitution, which implies that intellectual property rights are inviolable.
In 2011and based on the change in the rule of approval, the Ministry of Education was given the right to print the school books bypassing publishers. The minister explained that the rule of approval obliges the ministry to pay 10% of circulation value to the publishers.
Minister of education excluded any possible crisis and bankruptcy of publishers by this kind of decision, as "everything is within the limits of the law, because state law gives the authors and publishers a determined amount of money," said Margvelashvili, adding that the targeted pauperisation of the population must be ended.
The education minister contacted the publisher and expressed hope of cooperation with them. "Segments stay in the market for you too," he said, adding that the Ministry could not satisfy private schools.
Publishers applied to the business ombudsman Giorgi Gakharia, who said, on the one side, there is a problem connected with approval regulations and on the other side, the problem of public procurement. He said that the problem needs time to be resolved.
Gakharia also added that there are certain copyright infringements. He welcomed the government's decision about free books, although admitted that this should not happen at the expense of the publishers.
Former Minister of Education Khatia Dekanoidze welcomed the decision of distributing free books for students, but estimated this decision as "populism" and predicted that it will negatively affect the publishers.
However, the Ministry of Education has already ordered the printing of the books.