Children burdened with extracurricular books

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Almost at every school in the city the burden of extracurricular books like those on Bangla and English grammars is left on the tender shoulders of children on the excuse of teaching them something additional. This is creating the risk of hampering the mental evolvement of children and, on the other hand, a section of dishonest profit-mongers seize this opportunity to do their book business.

But the government policy said there would be no separate grammar book from class two to class four at the primary level. But the school authorities are flouting this policy to take commission from profit-monger book traders.

The curriculum 2012 stipulates, “There will be no separate grammar book from class two to class four. It is not expected that the students at this level will be made to memorise any grammatical definition or classification. The students will be only assisted in learning the languages through reading.”

When asked, National Curricular and Textbook Board (NCTB) distribution section controller Mostak Ahmed Bhuiyan told The Report, “Any extra books for students without permission of the NCTB are illegal.”

But the school authorities claimed they were imparting their students the general knowledge on grammars to keep them ahead of others. On the other hand, the educationists said the schools were forcing the students to buy the extra books to do the book business.

Immediate-past NCTB chairman Narayan Chandra Paul told The Report, “I do not like the practice of burdening the students with extra books. The schools have monetary transactions with the houses that publish the books.”

“The education ministry, mass education ministry and the NCTB should take an action in a coordinated way to stop this practice,” he added.

Educationist and Govt Bangla College’s former principal Prof SM Makfur Rahman told The Report, “This is not wise to put the children under pressure in the name of broadening the knowledge base. Those who are doing this business are entering contracts with the schools in exchange for big sums of commission. The school authorities take this opportunity. This is not benefiting any student, rather it does damage to the student.”

“This is a picture of commercialisation of education,” he commented. “The first solution to this is introduction of one educational system at all levels. If not, this commercialisation of education will not stop,” he added.

Investigation has revealed that at the very beginning of the year the students have received the books distributed free of cost. But in classes the teachers are handing the students the lists of additional books. The guardians are accepting this as a system of the school concerned, though it is illegal. In a sense they are compelled to buy the additional books.

While visiting schools including the Willes Little Flower School and College, Viqarunnisa Noon School and College, Mohammadpur Preparatory School and College and Dhanmandi Govt Boys School in the city it has been found that the guardians are buying Bangla and English grammar books for the primary students outside the list of books distributed free of cost by the NCTB. And they are buying the books from the libraries selected by the school authorities.

While visiting the Willes Little Flower School and College, it was found that one Sadia Afrin, a guardian of a class four student, was buying books from the library inside the school.

When asked which books she was buying despite new books distributed by the government, she showed a list of three additional books including two grammar books prescribed by the school authority. The list also contains four to six exercise books with covers of certain colours for those books. The exercise books are also directed to be bought from the particular library.

Sadia Afrin said, “Every year the school gives the list of additional books. And we are bound to buy the books as there is an instruction of the school to this effect.”

Shaila Ahmed, a guardian of a student of class two at the Viqarunnisa School, told The Report, “I’ve to buy two English books including the English grammar outside the list of books distributed by the government. The teachers have given instructions to buy the books from the school.”

Raju Ahmed, the guardian of a class three student at Dhanmandi Govt Boys High School, said, “As per the school instruction, I had to buy the additional books for my nephew even from the class one. In a sense we are bound to buy the books to stay in the race. Though it creates extra pressure on him, there is nothing to do with that.”

Willes Little Flower School and College acting principal Assistant Professor Md Abul Hossain denied that the additional books were prescribed for the students as part of the book business.

He told The Report, “The students are told to buy grammar books as the extra books. We are not denying that. These are taught at every good school. One or two good additional books are taught in the interest of the students. There is no other reason.”

“The books are taught to impart them well-founded language skills,” he said. “If they read the books, they will not do any damage to the students. They will learn many things.”

Viqarunnisa Noon School and College acting principal Sufia Khatun told The Report, “Language learning is never complete without a grammar. So, the grammars are taught as the complementary books. There is neither any extra burden nor any other motive behind this.”

Primary Education Department Director General Md Alamgir Hossain said, “We are keeping an eye on these issues on receipt of the allegations.” He, however, did not agree to make any further comment in this connection.

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