The government will distribute around 35 crore free textbooks among the pre-primary, primary and secondary-level students across the country for the next academic year 2021.
The National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) has already started work to print textbooks and reach them to the students in due time despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.Although, the stakeholders of the education sector are in uncertainty about the ongoing academic session as all the educational institutions have remained since March 18 due to coronavirus, NCTB officials are optimistic about reaching textbooks to students on the first day of the New Year 2021.
Talking to the daily sun, NCTB Chairman Professor Narayan Chandra Saha on Thursday said “The textbook printing process has been delayed a little bit due to the Covid-19, but we are continuing work by holding virtual meetings.”
“The process of printing textbooks, including the tender work, has already been completed and the printing companies have started printing work,” he added.
“We hope that the printing work will be completed by November and new books will reach every upazila by December for distribution among the students,” he added
According to NCTB, about 35 crore textbooks will be printed at a cost of Tk 1100.50 crore for pre-primary, primary and secondary levels this year. Of them, about 24.41 crore books will be printed for secondary level and about 10.54 crore for the primary level taking the previous demand into consideration.
Around Tk 300 crore will be saved in printing of the textbooks this year as the printing companies participated in tender process at 30 to 35 percent less than the estimated rate.Insiders said the companies took the printing works at a low price due to the unusual fall in the price of pulp (raw material for making paper) in the international market, 10 per cent reduction in VAT on paper, and reducing price of paper from Tk 30,000 to 40,000 per tonne due to the corona impact.
NCTB officials said the price of per tonne pulp was $850 last year but the price has come down to $480 this year and that is why the price of paper per ton has come down.
Apart from this, the owners of paper mills sold paper at lower prices this year to collect cash money and pay their bank loans amid the covid-19 pandemic.
NCTB has also saved around Tk 39 crore in purchasing 13,000 tonnes of paper at low price for printing books for seventh grade students through seat machines and purchasing 1,300 art papers for cover page of books.
Officials of several printing companies said they took the work at a price around 30 per cent lower that the estimated rate to survive amid the corona situation. This will save the government hundreds of crores of taka as well as protect the local printing industry.
Beside, some printing companies claimed that if they too the work at such a low price, the quality of books will be questioned and suppliers will have the scope to give low-quality books at the last minute, taking advantage of the covid situation.
They have also suggested that the authorities should increase the Performance Security (PG) of the printing companies to ensure printing of quality books.
The NCTB chairman, however, said the evaluation committee formed with representatives of several government organisations will look into matter.
He also said they will not compromise with quality. In addition to the quality monitoring agency, NCTB’s own team, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education are seriously looking after the matter.
The Awami League government has been distributing textbooks among the pre-primary and secondary students free of cost on the first day of every New Year by holding national textbook festival since 2010.
Over 331.38 crore textbooks were distributed among the students till the academic year 2020.