Authority initiates proceedings for sudden study platform price hike

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The homepage of Opiq digital study platform. Source: opiq.ee

The Competition Authority (Konkurentsiamet) initiated proceedings over the sudden price hike of digital study resource platform Opiq. The cities and municipalities association and the education ministry turned to providers for a reasonable price, which would allow schools to use the digital platforms next year as well.

Ministry of Education and Research vice-chancellor Robert Lippin told ETV's daily affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" that a two-year procurement for basic school digital study platform use was completed in 2019. Considering the number of users and monthly fees, the procurement ended up costing €0.69 a month per student. In the fall of 2020, a new procurement was conducted for high schools, which ended up costing €1.54 per student.

"We had a valid contract and in the frame of that contract, we held discussions from fall of last year, asking if they were ready to continue on these same conditions. They gave a clear signal that they were not," Lippin said.

Both tenders will end in August. In the letter sent to digital platform providers, it is deemed unfortunate that the prices for use have been multiplied for the new study year. The new prices are not considered affordable.

Schools are offered a monthly price of €3.70 per student and local municipalities are provided platforms at €3.20 per student a month, if the license is acquired for 50 percent of the school's students.

"There are 12,500 students in Tartu. If we multiply that by 3.20, the additional cost to the city is €40,000 monthly and €400,000 for the study year - ten months," noted Association of Estonian Cities and Municipalities work group chairman Riho Raave.

Digital study platform providers explained in their response that the use of study materials and it expected increase in schools was accounted for for the initial state procurement. The sudden increase stemming from the coronavirus and its significant effect on use could not have been foreseen. In order to offer platforms and materials sustainably, they must be priced accordingly, explained Opiq and Foxcademy providers.

Robert Lippin said schools would prefer flexible packages and not just whole purchases. "If we look from the perspective of state high schools, then the package we would purchase would also include basic school materials, but we only have high school students. This begs the question: why should we buy basic school materials if we do not require them?" Lippin asked.

He said schools are free to decide, which materials to use and who to acquire it from. For this purpose, the state pays €57 per student yearly and another €10 years for this transition year. "That €10 can be used to only acquire Opiq and Foxcademy licenses for three months at current prices," Raave noted.

The Competition Authority did not wish to make comments on Tuesday. Discussions about digital study platform prices are ongoing.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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