Romania's 'unique textbook' law risks 'killing' publishing industry

Romania's 'unique textbook' law risks 'killing' publishing industry

The Federation of European Publishers (FEP) has sent a letter to the President of Romania reacting to a draft law it believes will "kill what was left of educational publishers in Romania".

The "unique textbook" law requires all textbooks for Romanian pupils be published by one single state-owned publishing house, Editura Didactica si Pedagogica, sparking fears around cultural diversity and freedom of expression in the sector. 

FEP president Henrique Mota's letter, also sent to the Romanian Prime Minister, Education Minister and Romanian Members of the European Parliament, protested the law's introduction, slated for next year, which he said would give Editura Didactica si Pedagogica monopoly on the market and mean "killing what was left of educational publishers in Romania". The announcement directly follows an order to fire any teacher using supplementary teaching materials with their class.

Addressing the Romanian president, Klaus Werner Iohannis, and speaking on behalf of the FEP, Mota's letter begins: "Starting from next year a single publishing house, Editura Didactica si Pedagogica, wearing the stigma of the former communist regime, will be publishing all textbooks.

"This means that Romanian teachers and pupils will no longer have the chance to choose among a variety of textbooks and that the emulation between various publishers to produce the best textbooks will be gone."

Mota, a publisher in Portugal for Principia Editora, said he spoke from personal experience, having studied with a "unique textbook" approach under Portugal's "severe regime" pre-1974. He branded it a "unilateral and devastating decision" for Romania, going on to say it is "crucial" that European pupils are educated from a variety of sources. 

"We are startled that while European Institutions discuss copyright legislation to allow some uses of additional material in classes, the Romanian government might take such a unilateral and devastating decision," Mota continued.

"It is crucial for all European pupils to be confronted with a variety of sources and diverging views, in order to be better equipped as informed citizens. it is crucial for all European pupils to be able to access the best possible educational material, published by a diversity of publishers, competing for excellency."

He added: "I personally experienced studying with a ‘unique textbook,’ during the severe regime we had in Portugal before 1974. Fortunately, since then we have had a competitive market allowing teachers to choose the best possible textbooks for their pupils.

“I, on behalf of the community of European publishers represented by the Federation of European Publishers, respectfully ask you to review these policies and to allow the private sector’s publishers to continue providing the best possible educational material for Romanian pupils.”

However, according to Romania Insider, Romanian education minister Liviu Pop argued the monopoly would "help the students benefit from school books on time". 

Meanwhile, the country’s Profit Insider reported that Pop argued that auxiliary materials “hindered” school children. 

Following reform in 1990, the government currently bids for textbooks from private publishers for use in schools. 

A draft law for the proposal will be created next week and a two-week public debate on it will launch on 12th September. The Romanian government will need European Commission approval to reinstate the monopoly.  

A joint venture between Romanian education publisher ART Publishing Group and Germany’s Klett Gruppe, ART-Klett, was reported by Publishing Perspectives last week in a bid to bring Romanian education "to a new level, a European one". ART admitted then: “Lack of financing, political interference, lack of access to European formation courses, are some of the issues that have constantly plagued the Romanian education system.”