THE failure of the National Curriculum and Textbook Board to upload primary and secondary textbooks in electronic format on its web site, not just for this year but also for the past three years after 2013, brings to the fore some issues to think seriously about. The prime minister launched the upload of electronic versions of the textbooks in April 2011, as part of a process to make classroom teaching digital, because of the added advantage of multimedia technology, to ease teaching method and make teaching and learning a bit more attractive. And the process getting stalled in about three years is concerning in that this betrays insincerity of a sort of the government about taking teaching forward. The failure, or unwillingness, that has taken place for four consecutive years could also mean that the initiatives taken in 2011 were more of a rhetoric, without any well-meant vision of fully harnessing the potential that digital technology could offer in learning and teaching. A persisting failure in this regard could also mean that the government has wasted the money that it had earlier spent on initiating the digital process of textbooks and on setting up multimedia classrooms.
Although the prevalence of digital teaching and learning devices has not been that pervasive as yet, still the schools have multimedia classrooms, where electronic textbooks, or e-textbooks, could lead to various digital resources such as text, photographs, animations, simulations, video and audio, which are thought to make a lasting impression of what students learn by watching and listening to. E-textbooks also come handy in cases students in the middle of the academic year suddenly discover that some books have pages left out, torn or illegibly printed. Cases are also not rare where students somehow lose their books during the course or have the pages loosened off the spine because of poor binding, or worn out. E-textbooks, in such cases, save the hassle, by having the books downloaded off the net and the required pages, or the whole book, printed. Electronic textbooks also offer an easy access to the contents for students and guardians, for reading, and others, for researching and, thereby, improving on the content. There are no immediate chances for electronic books to replace print books fully, but such efforts could be a step forward towards a time when tablets, with textbooks and hundreds of reference books contained in a single device, could be used in classrooms. Such a time may not be far away as the government might benefit more from using reusable tablets than printing primary and secondary textbooks at a cost of Tk 10 billion, more or less, every year.
Electronic textbooks, having multimedia contents and cross-links to the full potential, could also increase students’ collaborative learning and interaction and better enable them to learn. The failure of the textbook board in uploading the electronic versions of the textbooks, which should in no way be a burdensome and expensive affair, may frustrate the facilities that e-textbooks has so far offered and hold back the graduation into digital learning in future.
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