Jocelyn Sollano: The TPS principal, with the school textbooks - the parents are not reading from the same page as her Image Credit: Xpress

DUBAI Parents are accusing a Dubai Filipino community school of daylight robbery for selling overpriced textbooks and notebooks.

“We feel ripped off having to pay double for textbooks and triple for notebooks,” Mel, a parent of a student at The Philippine School-Dubai (TPS), told XPRESS. “The school is unreasonably charging a premium for textbooks.”

Mel cited, for example, that a grade school mathematics textbook that costs only 595 pesos (about Dh55) in Recto (Manila) costs Dh120 from TPS.

“I don’t mind paying because our child’s education is important, but not to this extent,” said Imee, another parent, who asked not to give her full name for fear of retaliation from the school. A parent has complained to the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) about the issue. The five-year-old TPS follows the Philippine curriculum and has about 1,800 students.

KHDA ranked TPS as “acceptable” in the latest schools assessment and had earlier ruled that parents were free to procure their books and uniforms from anyone in the market.

Irene, mother of a middle grader, paid Dh1,600 for the textbook set earlier this month. “The school forced us to just bite the bullet,” she said, adding the textbook cost had risen from Dh1,400 last year to Dh1,600 this year.

Maria, another parent, said that the school sells nine TPS-branded notebooks for Dh260, or Dh28 apiece, while other schools offer notebooks for just between Dh5 to Dh10. By comparison, a set of 13 textbooks in a CBSE-curriculum Indian school in Dubai costs about Dh540 for Grade 7, including the school-branded notebooks.

Other parents complained TPS released the textbook list too late, denying the parents the chance to buy from more affordable sources before the school opening in early September.

Most parents, however, said they are happy with the school’s teaching competence and also with the fee structure.

A senior TPS official said the school procures textbooks from four Manila-based publishers.

A copy of Noli Me Tangere (“Touch Me Not”), an anti-colonial 19th century novel and required reading in Filipino subject (with a CD), costs over Dh120 from the school while the same pack costs less than 700 pesos (Dh63) in the Philippines.

TPS Managing Directress Letty Maniaul said they don’t force the parents to buy textbooks from them. “The peso’s continuous rise against the dollar (dirham is pegged to the US dollar) and the high handling costs means our situation will be different from other schools.”

She said they also offer deferred payment to parents who cannot pay in one go.

Jocelyn Sollano, TPS principal, said the list was delayed this year because they waited for the latest edition from the presses and because of the K-12 curriculum changes in the Philippines.

“The availability of new textbooks on school opening is a top priority for us and we brought the required number to cover all our students by air. We’re just sharing the burden with the parents,” she said.