Law and a High Court order prohibiting printing, import, sale and marketing of notebooks and guidebooks by and large remain on paper as rampant uses of guidebooks at home and classroom are only increasing, said renowned curriculum specialist professor Siddiqur Rahman.
Students’s creativity is being stifled as they are forced by teachers and guardians to read guidebooks for doing well in exams. As teachers are dependent on guidebooks for class room teaching and in setting question papers in the creative method, quality of education is nose-diving, former Dhaka University Institute of Education and Research director Siddiqur said in an exclusive interview with New Age.
‘Law and a High Court order by and large remain on paper,’ said Siddiqur, also a member of the Education Policy 2010 formulation committee.
Considering that notebooks might be hindering the development of creativity in students, Note-Books (Prohibition) Act, 1980 prohibit printing, publication, import, distribution and sale of notebooks on textbooks for primary schools and secondary schools up to Class VIII.
The law stipulated rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years, or a fine which may extend to Tk 25,000, or with both, for publishing and distribution and sale of notebooks.
In March in 2008, a High Court bench gave the verdict that not only notebooks but also guidebooks would be banned.
‘We do not see many initiatives from the authorities to enforce the law amid widespread uses of guidebooks and notebooks,’ Siddiqur pointed out.
‘We have not seen any publisher having received punishment for putting out notebooks, nor any seller and writer of guidebook and notebook were ever brought to book,’ he added.
He said that he was just apprehensive about the future of the country as many teachers are using the guidebooks without thinking about the consequences.
‘Teachers of remote villages are even using guidebooks in classrooms. You will not see this trend in renowned schools in Dhaka and other cities, but students from these institutions use guidebooks at home.’
Students are becoming uncreative as they are forced by their teachers and guardians to do well in exam. These children are becoming more dependent on rote learning.
It is sad but true that many teachers are dependent on guidebooks while delivering lectures in classrooms and setting up questions using the creative method. Though the government launched the creative system for improving creativity and cognitive faculty of students, at present the system is met with complete failure, SIddiqur Rahman said.
Referring to the academic supervision report, which the planning and development unit of the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education prepared in May 2017, he said teachers of about 52 per cent schools were partially or fully incapable of setting question papers in the creative method at the secondary level, although the system was introduced way back in 2010.
As these teachers cannot set question papers in the creative method, schools need to buy question papers of different subjects partially and fully from teachers’ associations flouting the ban on the purchase of question papers from outside, said an official engaged in preparation of the report.
Bangladesh government distributes free textbooks to all primary and secondary students spending several hundred crore taka each year, an act which is praiseworthy. But these books are not used in classrooms, as such it is seen as an utter waste of money, Siddiqur said.
‘The initiative of distributing free textbooks among all students is laudable, but its impact has been unconstructive. It really is a big waste,’ he said.
Siddiqur pointed out he has visited many schools and found that guidebooks and notebooks are being made available to teachers and students in classrooms. Not only students but also teachers are not using textbooks but are resorting to guidebooks and notebooks.
In many occasions, students are compelled to collect and use guidebooks for all subjects including for subjects like religion and moral studies.
‘It is high time to carry out a research to find out the percentages of textbooks used in classrooms,’ he said.
Guidebooks cannot be a proper means to impart knowledge. A textbook is a complete guide to the knowledge on a given topic, whereas any guidebook deals with only a portion of that knowledge. Besides, guidebooks are focused on exams rather than knowledge. Students by cramming a guidebook can pass the exam easily, he explained.
Besides, poor guardians are being forced to spend a handsome amount on guidebooks as the free textbooks are not used in the classroom, which exemplifies another aspect of their detrimental effect on the society, he added.
Many teachers are engaged in use and promotion of guidebooks. They prescribe guidebooks since they have already accepted money from the publisher. There are even competitions which publishers pay more to ensure use of their publications.
Teachers’ aptitude is also affected since by following guidebooks to set up question papers their understanding of the creative method has suffered. They cannot go beyond the topics outlined in the guidebooks.
He also pointed out that teachers’ recruitment at non-government schools is also linked with the quality of teaching.
Qualified people are not coming to the teaching profession. People who do not find any other jobs are opting for the teaching profession. About 97 per cent secondary level educational institutions are non-government and teachers for these institutions are recruited through assessment test held by Non-Government Teachers’ Registration and Certification Authority.
But this NTRCA test is hardly capable of assessing their capacity and qualification as teachers. This, consequently, results in their inability to screen qualified teachers, he argued.
He also said that they recommended a non-government teachers’ selection commission which will operate exactly like the Public Service Commission for recruitment of teachers for the nongovernment primary schools as well as the ibtedayi madrassahs, secondary schools and colleges approved and financially aided by the government.
The new body was proposed to ensure recruitment of qualified teachers, but it is yet to see the light of the day, he said.
A renowned curriculum expert Siddiqur said that textbooks are enough for ensuring learners’ creativity, only if the textbooks are studied by heart. If you are not ensuring that, the goal of creating creative and skilled citizens will not materialize properly.
Mainstream media along with alternative mass media can play a huge role by highlighting the issues involved in ensuring quality education. They can do so by creating awareness about the detrimental effects of guidebooks and notebooks. Parental education is the key. Local administrators, especially who are working as education officers at field levels, should arrange for meetings with parents at grassroots level making them aware of the negative role of guidebooks.
‘Creating awareness against guidebooks will take time but if you start the process now it will definitely work at some point. But one thing must be assured, the law enforcement agencies should be strict in implementing the law,’ Siddiqur Rahman concluded.
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