Criticizing someone or something may be one of the easiest tasks in the world. And to create something is one of the most difficult jobs. Our National Curriculum and Textbook Board have done a commendable job in terms of managing textbook printing and distribution. This year it has published twenty seven crore textbooks for primary and secondary levels of both English and Bengali Versions and Madrasa stream. Undoubtedly it is a difficult job. As I am closely related to education, I have some observations which I like to share and reflect here.
The burden of books from primary and secondary levels has been lessened by National Curriculum and Textbook Board. The number of pages has been reduced leaving the unnecessary parts from the text as NCTB authorities claim. Dr. Sarkar Abdul Mannan, chief editor of NCTB says, “We are in favour of lessening the number of pages more. We followed the direction of Prime Minister to lessen the number of pages of the books. The new books have been developed keeping this view in mind.” Yes we do appreciate Prime Minister’s concern about the burden of student with textbooks. Actually, our Prime Minister has said to lessen the number of pages of book. Does actually NCTB books contain all the necessary information? Is it the case that no supplementary books are necessary for developing our students’ knowledge level up to the global standard? Probably the PM indicated some unnecessary books the students of kindergarten or some private schools use for their students. So, this is area where the expert opinion is more important than the PM’s opinion. Curriculum and books must be developed according to the advice of education experts consisting of researchers, practicing teachers, students, and guardians. Before changing curriculum all the stakeholder’s opinion must be taken into consideration. Nationwide seminars and symposiums are the pre-requisites of changing any curriculum. Our students are overburdened with books is true but the National Curriculum based textbooks are not overburdened rather lack sufficient information and textbooks are not eye catching and user friendly because of many limitations. NCTB could have given attention to this area. Overburdened are our kindergarten students. Unnecessary books are taught here.
These books will be taught from the beginning of 2013. The Board authorities have said that from the primary level 580 pages which they say unnecessary have been removed. In the same way in the secondary level also pages have been reduced but the exact number has not yet been ascertained. After a long seven years new books have been published removing the unnecessary parts as they claim. Instead of unnecessary chapters new thirty chapters reflecting the contemporary events have been newly introduced. Definitely it’s noble initiative to introduce contemporary events and the latest information of the present world. Here another point needs to be considered. The teachers are quite in the dark about the new curriculum. They just heard books are going to be changed. They will get the book suddenly. To give a fruitful class on the basis of well preparation will not take place with the news books. Teachers should have been given some lights about the new curriculum as they are the real players in the field. If they had known it earlier, they could have taken some preparation.
Still we must appreciate the steps of those who are concerned with the development of new textbooks. It has been done after long seventeen years. By this time all branches of knowledge has experienced much change. They have started sending books to the upazila levels. The upazilas of Chittagong, Rangpur and Sylhet divisions have already received 65.78 percent primary and secondary books and madarasa books 35 percent already reached as the newspaper reports say. By December 15 all the books must be reached to all the upazillas. The learners will receive the new books at the first day of 2013 and that day ‘Book Festival’ will be observed across the country. Really it’s a commendable effort on the part of this government in general and the Ministry of Education in particular.
I have another observation with the textbooks of English Version Books. English Version books are translated from Bengali books which do not reflect the real subject matter. English version should not be translated from Bengali into English. Rather the relevant parts should have been taken from English Medium books and first written by subject experts. Then for language correction English people could have been engaged. What has been done here first poor Bengali Version has been translated by some English people which hardly reflects the original message of the text. Within a very short time to do all these works means undergoing tremendous pressure of the authorities concerned. Even then, as NCTB shoulders the responsibility of producing national textbooks, our expectation from this institution is greater.
A monitoring committee consisting of 5 members has been developed and another 22 committees have been working to see whether the printing presses are printing the books smoothly and timely. A different rule has been declared for sending books, receiving them, storing and related activities. Mostofa Kamal Uddin, Chairman of NCTB says, “We are determined to reach the books in time to the learners at any cost and facing all sorts of difficulties.” Yes Mr. Chairman we are with you. You deserve thanks for shouldering such a solemn and noble deed of the nation.
27 crore new books have been printed for New Year. In the secondary level (Bengali and English Version) 11 crore 65 lakh 12 thousand 180, Ebtedai and Dakhil level 3 crore 77 lakh 96 thousand 580 and primary 10 crore 71 lakh 587 thousand 267 books have been printed.
Some new chapters and materials have been added to the new curriculum which calls for appreciation. These new things will definitely enlighten our future generation. These important materials are absolutely necessary for them. The new addition in the lower secondary and secondary levels include terrorism, road safety and traffic rules, freedom fighting, Historical Agartala Case, HIV virus, disabled children, gender sensitivity, terrorism against women, women development, women rights, women oppression, women development and rules, human rights, child rights, child law, law and order, women and child trafficking, reproductive health, climate, climate change, disaster and disaster management, UN Peace Keeping Force, food adulteration, nutrition, arsenic, infant nutrition, mental health, the language of tribal people, their culture, corruption, mushroom cultivation, prawn cultivation, preserving fuel, saving electricity, sexual harassment , people’ right to access to information, girl guides, boy scouts, land management and survey. We must say all these are very fruitful and necessary things which our future generation must learn. These materials will enlighten and enrich our future generation.
MASUM BILLAH: Program Manager, BRAC Education Program and Vice-President, Bangladesh English Language Teachers’ Association (BELTA), Dhaka, Bangladesh.