Rising costs of non-school educational guides in Egypt catch families off guard

Safeya Mounir , Wednesday 23 Aug 2023

A recent surge in the cost of non-school guide books — which include simplified explanations of the curriculum in addition to exercises and which are published by private publishing houses — has shocked millions of families with children of school age.

Extra-curricular cost
The price of learning guides increased by 35-40 per cent this year


“The price of learning guides increased by 35-40 per cent this year,” said Ahmed Gaber, chairman of the Printing and Packaging Chamber at the Federation of Egyptian Industries (FEI).

Sama Ibrahim, an employee and mother of two in elementary school, has been asking her friends who have children a year older to borrow their non-school guides after learning of the new price hikes from social media platforms.

Wessam Ismail, a housewife with one child in elementary school and another in high school, bought all the educational guides her children needed despite the increase in cost.

Gaber attributed the increase to the elevation in the price of paper by 350 per cent. “A ton of paper hiked from LE10,000 last year to LE445,000 this year,” he noted.

The surge is the result of the depreciation of the pound against the dollar, Gaber said. The US dollar increased from LE27 in March to LE31 at present. Moreover, ink and printing costs have also increased. The price of learning guides normally increases by 10 per cent annually, he added.

There is no specific entity that puts a price tag on extracurricular guides. Each book is priced by its publishing house.

Competition dynamics are taken into consideration in the process of pricing, Gaber pointed out. “If Selah El Telmeez, a leading learning guide if not a staple in every house, is sold for LE100, Al-Adwaa, its competitor, has to be priced similarly or else people will think the latter is of lesser quality.”

Gaber insists the number of printed and sold non-school learning guides has not been affected by the price rise.

The mathematics learning guide for the third secondary school year has seen one of the highest price increases, rising by LE95 to LE210. The Arabic language guide for the same school year is the most expensive, standing at LE290.

Mustafa Ebeid, a member of the Printing and Packaging Chamber at the FEI, said the timing of the printing of school book guides was the reason behind the rising prices as it coincided with an increase in the cost of paper. With the local paper supply not meeting demand, paper was imported. At that time, he said, a ton of paper stood at between LE50,000 and LE52,000.

Moreover, there was a backlog at ports, and an increase in shipping and insurance fees and printing cost, in addition to the depreciation of the pound against the dollar, Ebeid added.

Some 75 per cent of the learning guides were printed using imported paper, he noted.

A stationary owner in Cairo’s Dokki district said sales of learning guides have not decreased this year. He added that a language guide for Thanawiya Amma (12th grade) has stood at LE250, pointing out that the price of high school language guides increased by 30 per cent.

Barakat Safa, a member of the Stationary Division at the FEI, said sales have not been affected by the price rise, indicating that students need those guides and will likely buy them even if their price increases.

He attributed the price surge to the growing curriculum which requires more paper, saying at times part of the curriculum is cancelled after the books are printed.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 24 August, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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