IPA Alert: Dominican Republic Is Nationalizing Textbooks

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Another instance of governmental incursion into the educational space: The Dominican Republic’s publishers hold a news conference.

Schoolchildren in the colonial zone — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — in Santo Domingo. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Paul McKinnon

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Borghino: ‘Educational Resources Can’t Be Improvised’
Another instance of governmental overreach in the educational publishing sector seems to be at play, this time in the Dominican Republic. And the Geneva-based International Publishers Association has issued a statement of “extreme concern” today (September 28) to its 76-country membership of 92 publishers’ organizations.

Publishing Perspectives readers will recall our report earlier this month about how the administration of president Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico has created its own textbooks, creating a loss for legitimate, longtime publishers in that market of as much as US$80 million in revenue.

And prior to that, São Paulo in Brazil had a major scare when its state government tried to veer into creating its own educational materials, intending to adopt an entirely digital distribution mechanism—once more, of course, cutting out publishers and running up red flags for educators, parents, and students. In that instance, finely coordinated and relentless pressure achieved a court victory, the state being forced to realign its own approach to the national plan.

Karine Pansa

In that case, an energetic, intelligent response was mounted by the book sector, the educational community, and families—with the International Publishers Association‘s (IPA) secretary-general José Borghino and its president, São Paulo-based Karine Pansa sounding the alarm.

Now, in a message to its international member-associations—many publishers of which are preparing to participate in the association’s programming at Frankfurter Buchmesse (October 18 to 22)—the IPA reports that the Dominican Republic’s ministry of education “will be nationalizing textbook production, thereby eliminating choice for teachers from a range of educational resources” normally produced by the island-nation’s publishers.

Borghino’s statement today reads:

José Borghino

“We urge the government of the Dominican Republic to re-assess the situation and urgently change its approach.

“High-quality educational resources can’t be improvised, they take years of investment to produce, test, and verify. Educational publishers are the lifeblood of local publishing in many places around the world. Undermining them can undermine the whole publishing landscape of a country.”

“We stand with the educational publishers of the Dominican Republic and remain willing to work with the government to find adequate and appropriate alternatives to their current policy.”

‘Approval and Acquisition of New Textbooks’

IPA has flagged an August 8 article by Jhangeily Durán for the Listin Dario in which Durán writes, “The Association of Publishing Industries of the Dominican Republic [has] called on the National Council of Education to stop the approval and acquisition of new textbooks in the public system.”

The publishing association’s leadership in a news conference has warned of an education ministry plan to approve 79 new textbooks, circumventing the usual procedure established for “learning media and resources.” The process said by the publishing community to be underway is bent on putting substandard textbooks into place, setting up the need for “a transparent and exhaustive” review.

The president of the Association of Publishing Industries, Pablo Cuello, is cited by Ronny Dela Rosa in Hoy saying that the Dominican education ministry is falsely claiming cost savings in its efforts to have state  production of textbooks.

In another report, this one without byline from Z Digital, a report given during the publishers’ news conference indicates that pre-K, kindergarten, and first grade classes “are seriously affected by not having educational materials, either in physical or digital formats.” Books in art, physical education, and French are said to be absent from classrooms. And the publishers’ association is alleging that only some 10 percent of books needed in the opening of the school year have been delivered.

It’s worth noting—as in so many troubled markets, which frequently find their educational messaging overtaken—that all this in the publishing sector is taking place against a backdrop of what humanitarian agencies continue to allege is systemic racism. Amnesty International on September 22 writes, “The InterAmerican Court of Human Rights has twice condemned the country for arbitrarily depriving Dominicans of Haitian descent of their nationality.”

Amnesty asserts, “National laws and practices must not violate the right to non-discrimination and the obligation to prevent statelessness, and all people within the territory or under the jurisdiction of the Dominican state must be guaranteed the enjoyment of their human rights.”

Those human rights, as codified in the Universal Declaration of Human rights, include the right to education.

A programming note: At Frankfurter Buchmesse (October 18 to 22) on Frankfurt Friday, October 20, our Publishing Perspectives Forum will welcome guests to a two-hour academic publishing program developed by Charleston Conference.

Discussions include Research Integrity: Technology, Trust, and Transparency and Sustainability, a panel/fireside chat with moderated questions to a panel of experts on topics such as the recent Wiley/Hindawi and MDPI/Clarivate retractions, paper mills, AI-generated content, AI-manipulated images, and how can libraries become involved?

Also featured: The Future of Scholarly Communication: Looking Forward at Business Models, SDGs, and Beyond, a session looking at the many types of sustainability, from sustainable business models to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and more. This hour-long session will include a series of short presentations followed by panel discussion and audience Q&A.

The program that morning starts at 9:30 a.m. with a networking breakfast and runs to 12 p.m. Speakers include Peter Brantley, Rachel Martin, Vivian Berghahn, Stuart Whayman, Sven Fund, Heather Staines, Rafael Ball, Richard Gallagher, and Leah Hinds, the Charleston Hub executive director.

All Publishing Perspectives Forum events are set again this year in Room Spektrum on the second level of the Congress Center, and are free of charge for all registered Frankfurt Book Fair attendees.

More from Publishing Perspectives on educational publishing and textbooks is here, more on the Dominican Republic is here, and more on Latin American markets is here. More on the work of the International Publishers Association is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the International Publishers Association’s world media partner.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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