Hungary nationalises textbook market

Hungary nationalises textbook market

Hungary has nationalised its school textbook market, meaning a state-owned body will now create school books to be provided to schools, free of charge.

Critics have condemned the move, claiming that it will "destroy educational publishing" in the country.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban justified the law, which will come into effect in September 2014, by saying the current system allowed publishers to generate profits through over-supplying schools. Under the new system, only two books will be available per subject and class.

The move has been condemned within Hungary, with Zoltan Pokarni, the head of Hungary's Committee for Education, Science and Research, and a member of the governing party, among those to vote against the law.

Péter László Zentai, director of the Hungarian Publishers' and Booksellers' Association, said in a statement released through the International Publishers Association (IPA): "The publishers that have been deprived of their market will presumably have to turn to the Strasbourg court. The sad thing is, even if the court finds in their favour in three or four years’ time, they will all have gone bankrupt by then."

IPA members also spoke out against the moves. Graham Taylor, chairman of the IPA's education committee, said. “This used to happen all the time in Africa in the 1980s, invariably leaving a wasteland of under provision when the state scheme collapsed under its own weight. I never thought I would see anything like this in Europe. Teachers should be free to choose the textbooks they use with their students, not have then imposed by state bureaucrats."

Jens Bammel, secretary general of the IPA, said: “This measure will destroy educational publishing in Hungary. These policies have failed so often that we did not seriously expect any government to even consider them."