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Promoting access to quality, safe, and relevant education for all persons affected by crisis

Textbooks are still essential

11 October 2018

by Paul Gibbings

A web-portal development securing better provision to schools

Until the time when all school children and schools have mobile phones and reliable internet, the hard copy textbook is still going to play an important role in initiating and promoting literacy.

Back in May, INEE published “A web-portal development securing better textbook provision to schools,” highlighting the efforts of a group of students from RMIT University in Melbourne in developing a web portal that encompasses data collection from all schools using a Returned Book Record (RBR). This data is input onto a web-portal known as the Textbook Requirement Information Management System (TRIMS).

From left to right, Yuchuan Hu and Haolong Zhi (China) Minh Hoang (Vietnam) Jinish Thakkar (India) and Yingqi Wang (China).
RMIT University isnow supporting a second group of undergraduates to take the development of the portal to the trial stage. Their hope is that they will enable other students to take advantage of the educational opportunities they have enjoyed by improving literacy levels worldwide. 

The RBR allows school principals or their staff to provide textbook information that gives the Ministry quick access to the requirements of the schools, the district, the province, and countrywide needs for the following school year. 

The RBR can be completed in 3 ways:

  • Hard Copy: For those schools without mobile or internet access, the RBR is provided by the District Education Office for completion by hand. It is then returned to the District under a stringent deadline for input onto TRIMS by the responsible District official.
  • Retro Mobile Phone: For those schools with retro mobile phones and transmission signal, the RBR can be completed by hand for the school records, and the data submitted to the District verbally or by SMS for entry onto TRIMS by the District official.
  • Smart Phones or iPhones: For those schools with internet access, the data from the RBR can be entered directly into the web-portal using their own access code or school ID. When data entry is complete, it is the responsibility of the District Education Office to check for errors or omissions, before providing access to the administration.

The TRIMS Web Portal will provide not just the textbook needs for the new school year, but also other information that will allow better planning and monitoring at every administrative level.

There are 5 critical questions for each school that will provide essential data concerning pricing, estimations, and weights/volumes for distribution:

  1. How many books have been provided from all sources? Not just from the Ministry but other donations.
  2. How many books are being returned? Some Provinces/Districts will need awareness campaigns to improve returns.
  3. How many books are in a reusable condition? Book quality can be monitored here, along with care awareness that the books need to be used multiple times.
  4. How many books are in stock? Counteracts hoarding and poor stock keeping.
  5. How many students are estimated to be in class for the new school year? Information often lacking in EMIS statistics as grade one new arrivals can only be estimated by the school staff.

The RMIT development has reached a stage whereby it is now necessary to identify a country and a Ministry of Education, perhaps with a supporting donor, willing to agree to trialling RBR/TRIMS in two Districts, over a period of two school years, at the end of the academic year. This would involve training the District and school staff responsible for textbooks at a two day workshop to familiarise them with the data entry required.

"The Australian Volunteers Program (managed by Australian Volunteers International) has reviewed the RBR/TRIMS proposal and can see the positive impact it could have on education in many countries in the developing world. Locally led development is encouraged, and as such we only accept requests from local organisations and Government Departments in our local offices of the 26 countries we work in. If approached by any organization ( Education Ministry), they would seriously consider a request to send a volunteer to help develop the RBR/TRIMS proposal in that country."

The RBR/TRIMS team would welcome enquiries concerning this development. We are looking for further interest and support for the project in order for us to achieve the aim of “…one child…one book…” even in most remote school.

Please visit the web portal currently under construction at - there is a short 3 minute video clip that will guide you through the most important aspects of the portal. Please also take some time to see the RBR/TRIMS presentation, where you can see how we arrived at our current stage.



Paul Gibbings, Consultant
Textbook Publishing, Production and Distribution
Melbourne Australia
Tel: (61) 3 9343 6421  |  Email: [email protected]  |  Skype: gibbings1
LinkedIn: Paul Gibbings