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Dubai: Parents at a prominent Indian school in Dubai are upset with a new initiative under which digital textbook access is being provided only to those students who purchase regular books from the school, not outside.

The father of a Class 8 student at Our Own High School, Al Warqa, said a circular issued by the principal to parents of students from Grade 3 to 8 last month informed them about the “digital textbook solution” which would enable students to access the digital versions of prescribed textbooks in core subjects on their tablets.

The parents, he said, were apprised of the benefits of the next-generation digital textbooks which would, through videos, audios and quizzes, enhance the regular textbook offering.

Supplementary learning aid

“However, the circular made it clear that only those students who buy print copies of the books from the school will be able to purchase the digital textbook solution as a supplementary learning aid,” said the Dubai-based parent.

“We see this as a veiled attempt to make parents buy books only from the school,” the man alleged, claiming that the same books were “cheaper” outside.

“Moreover, it is common practice for parents to preserve and pass on textbooks of older children to their younger siblings which not only makes sense from the point of view of ecomonics but also the environment.”

The mother of a Grade 6 child echoed his words. “I don’t understand why we cannot buy the regular textbooks outside and get the digital solution like the others. Why this selective access? The book prices in the school are high compared to shops outside. For example, the Hindi book for Grade 6 is Dh32 at a Bur Dubai bookshop but the same is sold for Dh55 in the school.”

Another parent said the school had informed him that the option of getting the digital version for those who buy books outside could be explored at a later date, but probably at a higher price.

Discounted rate

A spokesperson for the GEMS Education Group, which runs the school, told XPRESS, “Ensuring that our students are able to benefit from the innovations available to us, Our Own High School has provided their students with the option of adding digital textbooks to their educational resources.

“Every student who purchases a notebook from Our Own High School will be given the option to also purchase the digital version of the notebook at a special discounted package rate. Unfortunately those families that do not purchase the books from the school will not be able to only purchase the digital version, as this has not been provided as a standalone option from the supplier.”