Two weeks ago, Le Thi Hoa, a cleaner at an apartment building in district 10, HCM City asked for help from a relative of hers to post an ad on seeking jobs in a Zalo chat group.

Hoa is in charge of cleaning the hallways of 15 stories of the building and the garbage disposal area. This is a hard work and she only gets home at 10 pm.

“Some months ago, I only worked overtime if I had to. But now, I am ready to work overtime as I need more money,” she explained.

Asked about the reasons, she said the expenditures for the upcoming academic years for three children who live with the father and grandparents in Dong Thap are very high. One of the biggest expenses is for textbooks and reference books.

Her eldest child is going to the sixth grade after the summer, while another to the second grade and the youngest to first grade.

She did not have to spend too much money on textbooks for the first child some years ago as textbooks were cheap when the child began going to school.

When the second child began school last year, Vietnam began applying the new general education program. The textbooks for the first grader alone cost her hundreds of thousands of VND.

“My husband said a set of textbooks for my eldest child, a sixth grader, is VND300-400,000. The same amount of money will be spent on the second child,” she complained.

Nguyen Van Thanh from Dak Lak earns his living in HCM City as a taxi driver. He is the major breadwinner in his family with old parents and two children, a fourth and a sixth grader.

Thanh is worried about his future as the petrol price is increasing rapidly.

“My wife, who lives in the countryside with two children, told me that I need to make efforts to earn more money, because the expenses on textbooks will be very high this year,” he said.

Not only parents but teachers have also expressed their concern about the high prices of textbooks which are unaffordable for many parents.

According to T.N, a primary school teacher in Bao Lam district of Cao Bang province, said that the high prices of textbooks don’t fit the pockets of local parents.

“Local parents earn their living with field work. For the families with two children going to school, this is a heavy burden,” N said.

Some parents whose children are students ar a primary school in district 12, HCM City, told reporters that the school has provided a list of textbooks and reference books for fourth graders, with cost of VND800,000.

Meanwhile, the Vietnam Education Publishing House, the publisher of two sets of new textbooks – Ket noi tri thuc va cuoc song (Knowledge and Life) and Chan troi sang tao (Inventive Horizon) - for students following the new general education program, has reported fat profits.

The publishing house printed 164 million of textbooks in 2021, or 40 percent more than planned. Its total revenue reached VND1.828 trillion, 97 percent of which was from textbook distribution.

The post-tax profit of the publishing house was VND287 billion, or 250 percent of the figure set by its governing body – the Ministry of Education and Training. This was the highest profit the publishing house has ever gained. In previous years, its profits were just VND120-150 billion.

In the 2020-2021 academic year, when the new general education program began in Vietnam, the prices of new textbooks used for the program became 3-4 times higher than old textbooks. The textbooks for third, seventh and 10th graders this year are also 2-3 times higher than old textbooks.

According to the publishing house, the textbook prices are high because the four factors that form the selling prices are high, including the number of textbooks in one set of textbooks, the cost for drafting, the cost for materials, and marketing costs.

On July 1, the HCM City Education and Training Department released a document requesting teachers and managerial officers at different levels not to abuse their positions to force parents to buy publications under any form.

Ngan Anh