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PEPCon 2 Tackles Head-on Issues in Educational Publishing

The 2nd Philippine Educational Publishers Conference (PEPCon 2) focused on opportunities for educational publishers via shared insights and best practices from experienced local and foreign speakers in the publishing industry.  The conference coincided with the Manila International Book Fair last September 18, 2015 at the SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia Complex. Close to eighty PEPA members, their chief executives and managing editors, authors and foreign publishers attended.

This year’s theme as discussed in the opening address of PEPA President Toots Policarpio is  “Re-Writing The Textbook Business: Enhancing The Viability of Philippine Educational Publishing” following PEPCON 1 which tackled “Technology in Education”, posits that the paradigm shift in mass communication and technology is by far , the greatest challenge to the future of the printed word.

PEPCon 2 presented major issues for the publishers such as: the challenges arising from the implementation of the Grades K-12 in Basic Education and the New General Education Curriculum for college.

The country’ DepEd has taken to publishing its own modules for grades 1-10 and has ceased purchasing supplementary references. These actions contradict the provisions in RA 8047 that stipulates textbook development and production must be handled by private publishers so DepEd can focus on curriculum development and teacher training.  This was thoroughly discussed by Atty. Dominador D. Buhain, former Chair of the National Book Development Board, President Emeritus of PEPA, and President of Rex Bookstore, Inc., in his presentation, “A Review of RA 8047 and Its Impact on the Publishing Industry.”

Textbooks are at the core the K- 12 curriculum, as crucial to the teacher as a blueprint is to a carpenter. 

However the rising cost of these educational materials, due to the scarcity of paper and the increasing cost of content development are the major challenges facing the industry.   Furthermore, improved trade in the ASEAN region is also viewed as a potential threat.   Realizing this the National book Development Board and the Department of Trade and Industry spearheaded the creation of a road map for publishing.  This was presented in   “Updates on the Publishing Road Map: The Path Toward Economic Fulfillment” by Ms. Graciela M. Cayton, Executive Director of the National Book Development (NBDB). Cayton updated the group on the developments on the road map and the logistical support from the Department of Trade and Industry.  Although Cayton, acknowledges that educational publishing is the largest contributor to the book business in the Philippines and that the government is the biggest buyer of books, she posits that publishers should seek other business opportunities for distributing their content here and overseas.  The DTI and NBDB are supporting all these initiatives.

Meanwhile, Dr. Greg Pawilen, a Curriculum Development Specialist and Technical consultant  at DepEd, shared the latest news on preferred formats for Senior High School instructional materials  in his talk Dr. Pawilen noted that the Deped is now studying what formats (e.g. textbooks, skill books, modules) will be best suited.  These formats will be released to the publishers as soon as they pass approval with the Deped leadership.

While printed publications are essential to learning, there is increasing pressure from the academe to improve ways on delivering content because of increasing production costs.  Educational institutions are experimenting on and developing new modalities suited to their standards. While some of these materials still involve print; a growing number are electronic or digital.  These were presented by Mr. Gaspar Vibal, President of Vibal Publishing House, and Dr. Brian Belen, President of Diwa Learning Systems.

Also affecting the educational publishing industry is the 2015 ASEAN integration which will reduce the geographical and cultural barriers in the region, enabling closer collaboration among neighbors. Sharing knowledge and information in the region is an opportunity for educational publishers who can offer affordable and regionally compatible learning materials.  Mr. Hasri Hasan, Senior Manager of Perbadanan Kota Buku of Malaysia described how Malaysia is assisting publishers to be more responsive to their schools‘ needs and those of others in the region through digital publishing and online learning. Malaysia is also building a BOOK CITY that will form the locus for all publishing organizations, corporate and otherwise.  Ms. Trasvin Jittidecharak, Member of the Executive Committee of the International Publishers Association (IPA) and Director of the Publishers & Booksellers Association of Thailand (PUBAT), talked about the activities of the IPA to support educational publishing.  She noted that PEPA can learn from other countries’ experiences in educational publishing.

The demand among ASEAN librarians for Philippine-authored books brought about by the improved trade in ASEAN will certainly be a blessing for educational publishers.  Books and literature promote peace, understanding, and collaboration among the neighboring countries. A recent international census of libraries notes that there are at least 400 thousand libraries spread all over the region. 

Some best practices and alternative business models in educational publishing were shared by Mr. Melvin Choo, of Alkem Company Pte. Ltd.,  Alkem is the distributor for Asia Pacific of the highly successful Singaporean publisher MARSHALL CAVENDISH whose mathematics and science programs are being adapted in schools across the continent. Rex International General manager Ms. Sonia A. Santiago, shared valuable tips on how to negotiate for rights and the prevailing costing models recognized internationally while stressing the need for respect and mutual understanding among publishers because negotiations are hinged on trust and credibility.

Former Partylist Representative of Akbayan, Liza Hontiveros, in her keynote expressed her admiration for book publishing and its role in education. She requested PEPA for more sessions, so she may be further enlightened on the cause of publishers.               

The sessions are moderated by Mr. Anthony Coralejo, President of Brilliant Creations.  The Synthesis and Closing was prepared and presented by Mr. Jerry  Catabijan, President of St. Mary’s Publishing and Vice President of PEPA.