Media reports and practical situation clearly hinted that students are not going to get new textbooks on the first day of the New Year (2022). The NCTB has released the news that pre-primary students usually don't get free textbooks, they get only scripts, that are ready. To print books for grade seven and eight, the owners of press and NCTB developed a contract on November 9 which means the textbooks for these two classes will not be ready before the first day of the new year. Besides these two classes, the textbooks for other classes have been printed partially.
Our experience says distribution of textbooks free of cost among the students comes up against some common types of anomalyevery year. Students from all parts of the country don't get books timely that sparks discussion, criticism and counter discussion. As books are free, the students and guardians do not react much. Many students and even teachers do not use the textbooks as some companies publish helping/guidebooks on the basis of NCTB textbooks. When the text books are torn or lost after several months or in the middle of the year, students don't have any option to get new books. They can not procure them from book shops. So, this system of reading the text from notebooks might be the only alternative for them.
Failure to decide the market price in time, inviting tenders again and again, starting printing work after the stipulated time, giving responsibility to inefficient officials, the sluggishness of the ministry and the NCTB can be attributed to partial book printing and getting late to distribute books among the students. It is learnt that the Prime Minister's Secretariat has also got involved in distributing process of textbooks. This has made NCTB active; they have developed 39 monitoring teams along with ten teams from prime minister's secretariat. NCTB has got involved in publishing, printing and distributing a largenumber of books instead of developing, thinking, conducting research, revising quality books for the young students. NCTB authorities take pride in uploading textbooks on its website but they don't get to think how much user-friendly it is! Being in the city of Dhaka, one takes several hours to download a text. What happens to those who live in remote parts of the country?
In the education year 2022 for the primary and secondary level students, 34 crore 70 lac 22 thousand 130 books will be published. Out of these, 9 crore 98 lac 58 thousand 874 copies are for primary and 24 crore 71 lac 63 thousand 256 copies for secondary level students. NCTB statistics show that on December 15, 2021 only 16 crore books have been published and 10 crore of them have already been sent to the district level offices and the rest will be completed by December 31 as NCTB desires or claims, which seems impossible. Bangladesh Textbook Printer and Supplier Association president,Tofael Khan, says the children who are going to school for the first time in their life are not going to get the textbooks on January 01, 2022. It has been learnt that a companysituated in Noakhali has got the order to print 60 per cent of the primary level textbooks. It sounds strange how this company got the order for printing such a huge volume of books.
Though NCTB has been entrusted with the responsibility to develop curriculum and revise curriculum as per the needs of the time in keeping with the changes taking place aroundhe globe, it has turned itself into a textbook printing and distributing organisation with commercial motive. To speak the truth, they have become book publishing and printing industry.
If we really want to further strengthen and upgrade NCTB, it should be given full autonomy to work freely and independently with the advice and support of education experts, educationists and specialists.
Masum Billah Works for BRAC Education as an expert and is the President, English Teachers' Association of Bangladesh (ETAB). [email protected]