The decision by the Ministry of Education not to buy BRC reader books for the school year 2014/15 is a bad decision which should be reviewed.
BRC reader books have been well established in the lower grades of the Belize Primary Schools System. For the better part of 30 years BRC has been refining and fine-tuning its readers to make them more attractive to the formative minds of the infant divisions.
The books are in competition with an older reader book produced by officials of the Ministry of Education. In the view of the Ministry, this older reader is pedagogically correct in its approach to teaching phonics to beginners, though in practice the book has been a dud with students and teachers.
BRC efforts to produce a better reader which is more student-friendly has not sat well with the Ministry, which has been looking for ways to debunk BRC and its books.
Last week the faceless backroom gnomes won out, and the Ministry of Education cut BRC off at the knee. The Government of Belize will not be buying any more BRC readers for free distribution to our primary schools.
This is a badly flawed decision, hopelessly biased and devoid of due process. The decision came at the end of the school year, but after BRC had invested time and labour and talent to produce some 50,000 reader books for the new school year!
BRC has never had a formal contract to produce books for the Ministry of Education. It has always operated on a good-will basis, but with the expectation that if the Ministry should decide not to use its books, it would provide at least ample notice.
This failure to provide due process for a supplier which has been so long in the business of producing textbooks has given the Ministry of Education a bad name.
Ministry officials now say that the BRC books do not conform to Ministry standards; that the books are not parent-friendly, and that the Ministry has tried to work with BRC, but found the company unresponsive.
The truth of the matter is that the Ministry of Education has an exaggerated opinion of its own ability to judge the adequacy of a good textbook.
Textbook technology for beginners is constantly being revised in the light of new research. Ministry officials have been caught in a time-warp and are too proud to admit it!
The claim that BRC books are not parent-friendly is especially inane. If the books are intended to be student-friendly, parents who want to help their children should not be at a disadvantage. If students can get it, with a little bit of effort, parents also can.
There is a wider, more troubling problem. Government is always saying that it wants to encourage enterprise, and innovation. But when a publishing house comes along which is innovative and enterprising, resentful backroom mediocrities look for ways to debunk it.
In the interests of truth and even-handedness the Ministry of Education should create a small panel of experts from outside the Ministry of Education to evaluate the books. If after a fair evaluation, BRC books are deemed inferior or inadequate for use in our schools, BRC should lick its wounds and go home!
But if, as we are convinced, the books are a valuable resource for our infant students, BRC books should stay in our school system and the Government of Belize should support them with its free textbook policy.