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May 19, 2004

Ota School in Text Cost Shock!

The highly-anticipated new school planned to open next spring in Ota City, Gunma, hit an early hurdle - the cost of English-language textbooks. The school – the first one approved in a government reform zone – plans to use English translations of texts already approved by the education ministry for all subjects except Japanese, an approach officials think meets the expectations of parents. However, while the originals of such texts are distributed by the central government for free, the English translations will not qualify for such support. Since last summer, the Ota school has been working with publishers to reduce the projected cost of texts for the four subjects taken during six years of elementary school, but currently they still add up to around ¥215,000 per student.

The original estimate provided by a major publisher last August came to ¥216 million for 600 texts, 100 sets for each of the six years: ¥100 million for production and printing costs, ¥54 million for copyrights, and ¥32 to cover translation. The high cost was exacerbated by the need for royalty payments for the new English versions and the low production volume. To reduce costs, the school asked new teachers to contribute to the translation, renegotiated royalties, and increased the print run to 800 sets. The overall estimate fell to ¥172 million, which still works out at about ¥8,300 per textbook. With tuition fees at around ¥50,000 per month, the school is seeking further cost-cutting measures to reduce textbooks expenses to about ¥10,000 per year.

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