Textbooks full of errors, blurred pictures, books sent back from Satkhira

'Book distribution festival 2024' to handover new textbooks to school children for the new yearAshraful Alam

The printing of the school textbooks handed over free to children, in many cases, has been done in a shoddy and careless manner as the quality of paper has deteriorated and the printing quality is poor too.

For instance, on page 66 of the Class 7 textbook for history and social science, there is a picture of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on a boat with a few others. But the picture is so blurred that it is impossible to identify Bangabandhu without reading the caption. The others in the picture are indistinguishable too.

On page 73 of the same book, there is a picture of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman among the people, delivering a speech during the 1971 election campaign. That too is totally unclear.

After collecting copies of textbooks of four different classes, it was learnt from teachers, guardians, printers and officials of the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) that it was the government decision this time to reduce the brightness of the paper used for the books. And the printing quality of textbooks of two classes was poor due to a last minute rush to print the books, the printers aiming at higher profits, errors, and lack of supervision. Not everyone has even received the books as yet as the printing has not been completed.

Due to printing errors, over 31,000 Islamic Studies books distributed among the students have been sent back.

The NCTB chairman Md Farhadul Islam, speaking to Prothom Alo, said that it is not impossible for there to be a few errors and the printing to be a bit poor in a few of the 310 million books or so. But according to the regulations, if there are any printing errors or mistakes in the books, these are fixed within 15 days. He said that only a few books in Satkhira had printing mistakes, not in all places. An inquiry committee will be formed to look into the matter.

Many children are getting substandard books due to the carelessness of those in charge of the printing and supervision. Children's books should have high quality printing on high grade paper.

Such discrepancies in textbooks are nothing new. After must debate over mistakes and discrepancies in the textbooks of the 2023 academic year, two books of Class 6 and 7 (on history and social science) were suddenly withdrawn the same year. These two books have not been included in the syllabus this time. The Class 6 and 7 books of the 2023 academic year were rife with mistakes, and later NCTB made amendments.

Tk 14bn spent on free books

The government began providing school textbooks of Class 7 to Class 9 for free from 2010. A book distribution festival would be organised on the first day of the academic year to hand over the new books to the students.

This year the government had to spend around Tk 14 billion (Tk 1400 crore) to provide these new books. The number of books totalled around 307.1 million (30 crore 71 lakh). This time the students of classes 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8 and 9 received books based on the new curriculum. The remaining classes received books of the previous curriculum.

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Persons involved in education say that it is a very good decision to provide books free of charge. This has led to increased enrollment in schools and a decrease in drop-outs. But many children are getting substandard books due to the carelessness of those in charge of the printing and supervision. Children's books should have high quality printing on high grade paper.

NCTB is in charge of preparing the curriculum as well as printing and distributing books. Two officials of the board, on condition of anonymity, told Prothom Alo, it can't be denied that the printing quality of certain books this time was bad.

There were apprehensions from beforehand that the printing quality might be bad this time. Last time the brightness selected for the paper had been 85 per cent. This was reduced to 80 per cent this time. The NCTB chairman Farhadul Islam claims that the brightness had been reduced upon advice of eye specialists.

Sources, however, say that the cost of high quality paper pulp is the global market is high. High quality paper pulp is required for a brighter degree of paper. Towards the middle of last year the printer claimed that they could not avail good quality pulp and so asked for concessions on the brightness of the paper. NCTB acquiesced.

Former chairman of NCTB, Narayan Chandra Paul, speaking to Prothom Alo, said that the printers cannot always be trusted. So if you want good books, these must be produced according to the samples provided. If the printers cannot provide the books as per the sample, the books must be rejected of the printers must be fined. This must be done if quality books are to be ensured in the future.

Complaints about the books

After the books were distributed countrywide on the first day of the year, complaints started pouring in from all over about the quality of printing and paper. A teacher of a school in Segunbagicha of the capital, wanting to remain unnamed, told Prothom Alo said the printing quality of some of the books that arrived at their school seemed poor. The binding was shoddy too. Some of the books started falling apart on the very first day.

A parent whose child studies at Manipur School and College in the capital, remaining anonymous, said that his child studies in Class 6. He received his English textbook, but a part of it was blurred.

A look through the books of classes 6,7, 8 and 9 show that the paper and printing quality of the covers are good. But in many cases the quality of the paper of the inner pages is poor. In some instances, the paper is of extremely poor quality. The pictures are fuzzy too. Parts of page 121 of the Class 6 English book are blurred and unreadable.

Former president of Bangladesh Mudran Shilpa Samity (Bangladesh Printing Industry Association) Tofael Khan speaking to Prothom Alo, said that he had seen some of the books. The quality was poor. They had informed NCTB in advance about certain matters, but things were not resolved. As a result, many students were deprived of good quality books.

The major task of NCTB is to prepare and create the textbooks. But many officials of NCTB are more interested in the printing of the books

Books withdrawn from Satkhira

After the Class 3 book on Islam and Moral Education was distributed in Satkhira, 31,472 copies of the book were returned. A few hours within distributing the book on 1 January, the upazila primary education officer and assistant officer instructed that the books be taken back from the students and immediately sent back to the education office.

On condition of anonymity, a number of teachers told Prothom Alo that they learnt that there were mistakes in the inner covers of the book. But not all books had the errors.

Primary education officer of Satkhira Sadar upazila, Muhammad Abdul Ghani said that 8,150 books were distributed in the Sadar upazila. Of these, there were topics unrelated to the Islam and Moral Education book in the inner covers of 233 books.

Satkhira's deputy commissioner Mohammad Humayun Kabir said, after scrutiny, the books will be soon handed over to the students again.

Not all books delivered

While printing of primary level textbooks is complete, the printing of secondary level textbooks has not been completed as yet. The year has begun, but many students are yet to receive the full set of books.

Headmaster of Segunbagicha High School in the capital, AKM Obaidullah, told Prothom Alo that while the books of other classes were delivered on the day, some books for Class 8 and 9 have still not arrived.

According to NCTB, of the over 100 million books for Class 8 and 9, a large number were still not printed on 31 December. The NCTB officials hope that the students will receive the books by 10 January latest.

'Good quality books should be given'

The major task of NCTB is to prepare and create the textbooks. But many officials of NCTB are more interested in the printing of the books. There is much discussion among the NCTB officials about this matter.

BRAC University emeritus professor Manzur Ahmed says that it would be better to give the responsibility of printing the books to a different organisation rather than keeping it with NCTB. Speaking to Prothom Alo, he said that NCTB's fundamental tasks are developing the curriculum, research and so on. Book printing should be separate.

Manzur Ahmed said, the objective to providing books for free is good. But the children should be given good quality books.

[Staff correspondent, Satkhira, provided information for this report.]

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