Ashraf’s Column

Friday, January 30, 2009

National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB)

Back in July, 2008 (forgive me for not remembering the exact date) The DS published a letter of mine on the above mentioned subject under its letter to the editor column. I believe what I wrote in that letter still holds good. Please allow me to reproduce the same letter below.

"On June 30, 2008 the Daily Prothom Alo brought to light some gross and inexcusable mistakes in the textbooks published by the NCTB for our school children. The same newspaper reported on July 01 that the honorable CA of the present CG has taken the matter into cognizance and has asked for explanation from the concerned officials. We hope that the matter will not end, like many other matters of the past, in paper correspondence only. This time we would like to see that the NCTB is reformed to perform its sacred duty to the nation with full professionalism. For that I would like to submit some comments from my 38 years of formal experience as a teacher and as an educational administrator. Before I put my comments it may not be out of context to briefly explain the functions of the NCTB for the general readers of your esteemed daily.

Notwithstanding what is actually given as the functions of our NCTB in the Rules of Business, the principal function of any curriculum organization of any country is to decide the philosophical basis of a subject to be taught to the students. It is called the curriculum of a subject which is designed by keeping the history, culture and ethos of the people of the country. Naturally, the curricula of different countries are different. Once the curriculum of a subject is set, it is then set into syllabi, or the list of lessons, for different classes keeping in view the age, experience and average IQ of the students of each of those classes. Only then a textbook on a subject is written by experts as per the set syllabus. The whole process from deciding the curriculum to writing the textbook is a highly important and sensitive job as it deals with the requirement of very young students who will be the future leaders of the nation. Needless to say, the job demands careful study and research from competent and experienced professionals. For example, an expert in geography having long experience of teaching the subject at school level, both in urban and rural areas, is given the responsibility to formulate the curriculum and syllabus for geography at school level. The curriculum is then approved at the highest political level of the country to ensure that it is in line with the history, culture and ethos of the people of the country.

While visiting some foreign countries compatible with socio-economic conditions of Bangladesh I found such subject specialists had at least 25 to 30 years of teaching experience at the concerned level with commensurate research experience on their subjects before they were given the solemn task of making curricula and syllabi and writing textbooks for school children. They were not usually posted out of the curriculum organizations. Periodically they went to the urban and rural schools in different parts of the country and took part in teaching their respective subjects at the appropriate levels to get the feedback on the existing curricula, syllabi, and textbooks from teachers and students. With the gathered experience and feedback they returned to the headquarters to continually improve the existing curricula, syllabi and textbooks.

Unfortunately in Bangladesh some irresponsible political leaders and the senior bureaucrats never in last 36 years followed the above thumb rule to run the NCTB. They have been using the NCTB as a haven for the spouses/sons/daughters of their friends and relations, or their own relations once they are at the seat of the power. For example, when a politician or a bureaucrat lands on the corridor of power, one of the first things s/he does is to bring her/his own spouse/son/daughter, or the spouse/son/daughter of her/his relative/friend, who is teaching, say political science, in a govt college outside the capital to Dhaka. If a vacant post is not available in a govt college in the capital city for such a relation s/he is posted in the NCTB as a subject specialist for, say, mathematics! This political science teacher at the college level is given the task to frame the curriculum/syllabus for mathematics for the students of classes III, IV, V or VI! Once the syllabus of a subject for a particular class is thus decided, some nincompoops from among the relations or friends of the concerned politician/ bureaucrat are given the task of writing the textbook, in most cases, anonymously. Some well known scholars then allow their names to be printed as the writers, editors, coordinators on the textbook without knowing what exactly the contents of the book are. In the process the nincompoop writers, the dishonest scholars, all make money at the cost of the tax payers for whose children all such trashes are published. The ultimate result is what we find now in our NCTB.

I refrain myself from writing on the financial corruptions institutionalized in the NCTB, as that is not the subject under consideration here. May I request the honorable CA, who is a man of letters himself, to kindly appreciate the long term effect of such a corrupt system which shapes the future of our country. May I request him to engage a task force to help the NCTB to streamline its role, rules and activities, as it has been done in case of Rajuk, DCC, Chittagong Port Authority etc. The proposed task force should decide, among others, the qualification of a person for posting as a subject specialist in the NCTB. The task can no more be left with the Ministry Of Education which has been primarily responsible, by posting incompetent officers, for the present condition of the NCTB.”

It now seems that my request at that time fell flat on the ears of those who mattered. May I now once again request the honorable Prime Minister to kindly do the needful to save our children from the monster called NCTB.

PS:The contributor is a former principal of Jhenidah Cadet College, Faujderhat Cadet College, Udayan School (Dhaka), Director Education, Bangladesh Army.

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