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Education - December 11, 2021

Timely free textbooks distribution uncertain

Mahfuja Mukul: School kids may not get new text books as per the schedule of first day of new academic year due to delay tenders for printing the books by the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB). But the textbook board blaming printing houses for delay in supplying books as the terms and condition of the delivery.
The printing presses say they received the work order on 9 November while the Education Ministry has given them 70 days to complete the work orders. The printers can take additional 28 days paying a penalty for the delay. That means the printing houses have an obligation to deliver all the textbooks by 15 February 2022.
The distribution of free textbooks was delayed in the outgoing academic year for the same reason.
It took as late as April this year for many students to get all of their textbooks in hand although the textbooks distribution programme was inaugurated on 30 December last.Usually, the tender process for printing textbooks for the following year is complete by May and printers start working in June after receiving work orders.
A member of the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB), told that they were confident about an on-time arrangement of the National Book Festival 2022 with new textbooks. But it might take some extra time to get all the textbooks delivered by the presses, he added.
With less than three weeks to go before the scheduled start of the textbook festival this year, around 75 percent of the textbooks for the secondary level are yet to be printed while about 70 percent of textbooks for the primary level have already been produced, according to NCTB sources.
President of the Bangladesh Textbook Printing and Marketing Association Tofael Khan told, “The NCTB holds three tenders but this year it floated many tenders due to a rising trend in paper price. We would not be able to deliver all sets of books before February.”
Helal Ahmed, Manager of National Printing Press, who took around two months of extra time to complete the work order he received last year, told that this time he would try to hand over all the textbooks in time.Asked if it is possible to provide all the textbooks by 30 December, he, however, refrained from making any comment.
Over 35.16 crore textbooks will be distributed among four crore students at the pre-primary, primary, ebtedayee, secondary, dakhil, dakhil (vocational), and secondary (vocational) levels. This year, the total number of textbooks would be around 15 lakh less compared to last year.
Around 10.44 crore books will be given to primary school students, while the number is about 24.72 crore for the secondary level.
Some 2.13 lakh books printed in five special languages will be distributed among 94,275 ethnic students (Chakma, Marma, Tripura, Garo and Sadri) from pre-primary to third grade.This time, Braille books will be distributed to 9,196 visually challenged students.
Textbook distribution among the students from class-VI to class-IX is scheduled to start on the first day of the new year.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is expected to inaugurate the free textbook distribution through a videoconferencing from her official residence Ganabhaban if the Covid-19 situation does not improve.Because of the coronavirus pandemic, no textbook festivals were held last year marking the distribution of free textbooks.
The books were handed over among the students at their respective educational institutions in 12 days to avoid any kind of gathering.But the education ministry plans to celebrate the festival centrally this year.
Educationists feel the distribution of free textbooks over the last one decade has helped to increase school enrolment at all levels and reduce dropout rates.
A set of textbooks would cost around Tk1200-1,500.Unable to bear educational expenses, many students dropped out of schools every year before the start of the free textbook distribution programme in 2010. The initiative to distribute free textbooks for the primary to secondary level came as a blessing for poor students, he observed.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurates the festival every year. After that, the education ministry and primary and mass education ministry arrange the festival separately.
A festive mood prevails at all the educational institutions across the country. NCTB sources said the government has distributed over 400 crore books to the students in the past 11 years at a cost of Tk11,000 crore.

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