Wednesday, 1 February, 2023
E-paper

DOWN-TO-EARTH

Textbook Imbroglio

Dr. Kazi S. M. Khasrul Alam Quddusi

Textbook Imbroglio
Dr. Kazi S. M. Khasrul Alam Quddusi

Unfortunately, the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) has once again failed to bring out new flawless textbooks in addition to printing those on low-quality paper. Following the distribution of new textbooks this year, the Daily Sun has reportedly analysed three textbooks of Class IX and Class X intensively and found at least 30 serious mistakes. The Daily Sun’s effort deserves appreciation for this arduous yet essential task because of its national importance.

 What is of grave concern is that most of the mistakes and wrong information are about the country’s history, war of liberation and Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. One finds it really difficult to comprehend that the mistakes were unintentional. The number of mistakes is apt enough to raise many an eyebrow and also pose the question whether the mistakes were incorporated deliberately to alter history and embarrass the government.

Even if the mistakes were not intentional, the magnitude of the mistakes indicates that there was sheer negligence on the part of the authors. There was, perhaps, a lack of proper knowledge or pitiable ignorance. If ignorance was the reason, it is truly repulsive and cannot be expected from the ones who took the responsibilities. If negligence was the culprit, then it cannot be condoned. One wonders why and how the concerned persons did not take such sensitive things seriously.

Admittedly, history has made us unique. The struggle for hard-earned freedom cannot be misrepresented by anybody and definitely not so in textbooks. If history is distorted in government-sponsored textbooks, then what to expect from others? This is really disconcerting in our country where there have been serious attempts to twist history and where vested quarters are always on the prowl to take the wheel of history along the wrong way. Thus, it must have been a disservice to our history as well as country.

For example, as pointed out in Daily Sun, on page 200 of ‘Bangladesher Itihas o Biswa Savyata’ book, it has been mentioned while stating about history of parliamentary government system in the country, authors write, “On January 12, 1972, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was sworn in as Prime Minister by Chief Justice Abu Sadat Mohammad Sayem. Justice Abu Sayeed Chowdhury was appointed as the President on the same day.”

In reality, however, as precisely put by the Daily Sun news item, Bangabandhu was sworn in by the then President Abu Sayeed Chowdhury. Wrong information has been furnished in ‘Bangladesh o Biswa Porichoy’ book as well. On page 16 of the book, there was made-up information about historic places of the war of liberation. According to the book, Rajarbagh police camp and EPR camp in Pilkhana were attacked by the Pakistan army on March 25, 1971.

However, the correct names, as exactly placed by the Daily Sun news item, of the two places should be Rajarbagh Police Lines and Pilkhana East Pakistan Rifles (EPR) headquarters respectively. On page 6 of the same book, it has been mentioned that Jukta Front was formed with four parties, Awami League, Krishak Sramik Party, Nezam-e-Islam and Ganatantri Party. However, that political alliance was actually formed having five parties. The name of Khilafat Rabbani Party was omitted therein.

In fact, this is not the first time that textbooks in the country have been fraught with misleading mistakes. While going through the contents of new textbooks, the Daily Sun has also discovered that the NCTB has not corrected the mistakes it made in the last year’s textbooks. How can NCTB defend it? In passing, the High Court severely criticised the NCTB for presenting incorrect information about Bangabandhu and the liberation war in the textbooks of classes VI-XI for the last year.

In view of such blunders, educationists have very rightly echoed that NCTB has not learned from its previous mistakes. To be candid, had the autonomous organisation taken strict action against the authors and editors responsible for prior mistakes, there would have been no repetitions. However, there was a mysterious let-off then. Because of such irresponsible acts by some persons, the government's laudable initiative of distributing free textbooks to all students is very likely to come under question.

Meanwhile, the situation has reached a new height when the allegation has come out that the writers panel of a grade VII science textbook plagiarised or copied a number of passages in the book directly from the Internet. Reportedly, the pages were translated with the help of Google Translate. While responding to media, Prof Zafar Iqbal, the chief of the concerned panel, expressed his sorrow over the matter and said that the plagiarised parts would be revised in the next print editions.

Recently, a post went viral on social media alleging plagiarism in the textbooks as the information in a chapter was copied directly from the National Geographic Education Resource Library website. Allegedly, there are two books for class VII science in which sizable portions have been plagiarised. On top of that, a textbook also contains several pictures that have been taken from various websites without giving any credit to the original sources.

Statement of apology by the concerned people is good. However, the damage it has done to the image of the concerned persons is rather high. The persons who were entrusted with the job of preparing textbooks seem capable enough. However, it seems that they failed to deliver the goods because of lack of concentration. They seemingly failed to produce impeccable output because they had not put in their best efforts. However, such an attitude of the educationists has irked the society as a whole.

As has been implied earlier, blunders in textbooks have become a routine affair. Assigned authors made the mistakes as the offenders had not been taken to task in the past. Laxity on the part of the authors and impunity on the part of the NCTB have contributed to such an imbroglio. Despite having no role, however, the government has come out to be a prey for which the responsible ones need to be brought to book. It is an opportune moment for NCTB to come out of prolonged slumber and make amends.

 

The writer is a Professor,

Department of Public Administration, University of Chittagong.

Email: [email protected]