Morocco’s Competition Council called on the government to conduct a “comprehensive” review of the school textbook market, arguing that it is rife with irregularities relating to pricing, production, and regulations.
In a recent report, the council shed light on a number of structural issues within the market and called on the Ministry of Education to review its role as a regulator of the market.
School textbooks should be considered a matter of “national interest,” the report said, adding that reforming the textbook market should become part of national education reforms.
The council described the market’s business model as being driven by “artificial” government-supported demand and offer that does not “reflect the reality of the market.”
In 2022, the government allocated nearly $10 million (MAD 103 million) in support for textbook publishers to mitigate the effect of rising prices on the national purchasing power. After demands from publishers, the government agreed to subsidize 25% of the selling price of textbooks.
The council has warned that the market is highly concentrated, with the top four publishing houses controlling over 53% of the market. As of 2023, all publishing houses in Morocco are based in Casablanca and the capital Rabat.
According to the council, the status quo of the market is resulting in a handful of publishers controlling the market, which offers them little incentive to improve quality.
“Many publishing houses, printing companies, and bookstores are managed by the same individuals or owned by people with close, sometimes familial, ties,” the report says.
The council continues that while “the interconnections” of publishers are not inherently illegal, they “may negatively affect the independence of offers made by publishing houses in response to the Ministry’s requests for proposals, potentially misleading the Ministry regarding the diversity and independence of the offers.”
The report equally drew attention to the high number of textbooks being produced every year, as publishers resort to mass production to increase profit margins.
The ministry’s requirements for updated copies, coupled with publishers’ attempt to increase profit margins by boosting production are resulting in the production of 25 to 30 million textbooks on an annual basis.
This led to what the council describes as “turning textbooks into disposable commodities,” as the low quality of pages and design makes it impossible for some to be reused.
Source: Morocco World News