Sub-standard textbook printing: Where will this is fiasco end?

Questions are raised about the printing quality of textbooks every single year. This year hasn’t been any different either. Handing over textbooks to the students at the beginning of the year is wonderful, but this wonder turns into disappointment when the books are full of errors and the printing is substandard.

The National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) is in charge of printing the textbooks. They get the job done through enlisted printing houses. NCTB and the printing houses try to avoid the responsibility by blaming each other for the delay in printing of books or the poor quality of printing and paper.

Prothom Alo reports that the new textbooks that have been handed over to the students for free have been printed in a shoddy and careless manner in many cases. The quality of the printing papers has deteriorated while the printing quality has been substandard as well.

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On page 66 of the Class 7 textbook on ‘History and Social Science’ there is a picture of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman with a few others. But it is impossible to identify Bangabandhu without reading the caption. The others in the picture cannot be identified in any way either.

Not just the ‘History and Social Science’ textbook, there have been complaints about poor quality of paper and printing in several other textbooks. Due to printing mistakes, more than 31,000 Islamic Studies textbooks, distributed among students in Satkhira have been sent back.

After much debate over mistakes and discrepancies in the textbooks last year, two books of Class 6 and 7 (History and Social Science) were suddenly withdrawn within the same academic year. Those two books have not been included in the syllabus this time.

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These errors and inconsistencies bear proof of ultimate irresponsibility on the part of NCTB officials. The question is that will the institution which is directly linked to the education of millions of students keep running just like this? Why does this fiasco concerning textbooks continue every year?

Prothom Alo had already published a report and editorial on the slow pace of printing textbook back in December. While the pace of printing textbooks accelerated a bit following the report, the drop in quality is unfortunate. NCTB, failing to find quality pulp in the global market, had reduced the brightness of the paper from 85 per cent to 80 per cent.

The NCTB chairman quoting physicians said that the paper’s brightness being 80 per cent is better for students’ eyesight. But Mr Chairman, could you please tell us how good the unclear and blurred print is for their eyes or for their mental peace?

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NCTB has committed an unforgivable offence by handing over substandard-quality printed textbooks to the students. The explanation NCTB chairman Md Farhadul Islam has given to Prothom Alo in this regard is completely unacceptable. He said that the quality of print is substandard only in a few of the 310 million (31 crore) textbooks.  

When textbooks have been taken back from Satkhira district due to printing errors, fuzzy and blurred books can also be found in many other districts. It’s in the rule to examine the sample copy following the printing of each textbook. Was the rule not followed here or those who were responsible for scanning approved it without even checking?

In that case, the liability of substandard-quality printed textbooks being handed over to students cannot be blamed onto the printing houses alone. NCTB too has to take responsibility for this. Instead of a showy investigation committee let those responsible for shoddily and carelessly printed textbooks being handed over to students be brought to justice.