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     Volume 6 Issue 3 | January 26, 2007 |

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Special Feature

Flooded with Flaws

Elita Karim
School textbooks are being taken to the stores at Banglabazar wholesale market in Dhaka yesterday. There are allegations of printing mistakes, missing pages and other errors in the textbooks.

It is yet another academic year for the Government run schools in the country. Students gear up with fresh new copies of textbooks supplied from various publishers in the country. In a country where private tuition is given more importance rather than regular school hours and teachers, many students start with private classes even before school officially begins in many places. Mohammed Afzal started Grade IX this year in a government-run school. Though the academic year has already begun, Afzal is still waiting for his complete set of textbooks from the school. “We did receive our copies from the board,” says Afzal. “But most of them have numerous mistakes in them.” Neither Afzal nor his friends are absolutely certain if the new versions of the books would ever reach them or not. Some of his friends have even gone and bought some of the books from Nilkhet and elsewhere where many such textbooks are being sold.

Similar incidents have happened elsewhere in the country as well. Textbooks ranging from classes in primary school up to the high school level, published by the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB), contain many kinds of errors, anomalies, mix-ups in pages and chapters, faulty chapter arrangements and also repetition and omission of many articles. They also have misrepresentation of many historic, ethnic and social issues. These errors were published at different printing presses in the capital, which hit the market recently to start off the academic year. However, many teachers and students are now confused and disappointed, especially in the government run schools running outside the capital.

According to a Daily Star report, both the teachers and students at the Manikganj SK Government Girls' School are frustrated and are finding it extremely difficult to go on with the academic work. Nusrat Jahan Lina, one of the many disturbed students, has been quoted as having said that she does not know what to do with the faulty books, where one of the textbooks are missing at least six chapters.

According to newspaper reports, at least 30 pages were missing in the Bangla prose book--Madhyamik Bangla Shankolan-- for the students of class 10. Other than missing pages, many books have irregular page-breaks, where they stop and start at various instances.

However, NCTB Chairman Dr. Gazi Mohammad Ahsanul Kabir says that only a few books are missing such pages and having irregular page breaks. “Out of the millions of copies that were printed by the publishers, only a few have such errors,” he said. “I sent my team to the market for inspection. None of those books have the blunders that the newspapers have been reporting all this while.” He further admitted to a few of the spelling, punctuation and other minor mistakes that were made in some of the Bangla texts as human errors that occurred during the final stages of publishing and binding. “However,” he added, “We can't help it if an author spells certain words in a way different from the conventional way of doing it.” He was referring to the literary pieces in the Bangla texts containing words, which have been spelt differently.

These so-called human errors and little blunders all add up to creating a chaos where both the students and teachers get confused. In fact, according to a recent Daily Star report, some of the teachers refuse to believe that textbooks can ever contain errors of any kind whatsoever. They, instead try to establish the wrong or misleading information and place the issues before the students.

These little blunders, however, can easily be avoided if a team of academic experts could edit and proofread the final texts right before publishing and binding of the schoolbooks. “We do have an internal committee,” said Dr. Kabir. “They proofread the material only when it is being introduced to the textbooks for the first time, for instance a chapter or a story. Reprints of the books are not proofread, however.” What about statistical updates? “All kinds of updates are made accordingly ever year,” he said. Some do get excluded though, which will be updated in the next reprint.

“Frankly, these kinds of blunders are made every year,” says a 9th grader. “The students and teachers are used to this and try to correct them while teaching and learning accordingly.”

“Many Bangla words are spelt differently in the texts of classes IV and V,” says another student. “However, the practical usage of these words in our daily life should be kept in mind. It's the students who have to suffer later on when they try to adapt to a different concept later on in senior classes”

No matter how minor the errors may be, textbooks containing such blunders are harmful for students who depend solely on these books and their teachers for an academic development. It's high time for the government and the concerned authority to look in to this seriously and keep the texts free from any kind of errors resulting from human errors, printing mistakes, publishing and binding houses for the sake of the upcoming generations and academicians.

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