Even though the government is planning to do away with exams till Grade III at the primary level, kids remain burdened with books not prescribed by the government. Experts say students are being overburdened with additional books and notebooks, beside those prescribed by the government, impairing healthy mental development.
Kindergarten schools, whose numbers could not be ascertained, prescribe as many books as possible to these young learners of Grades I to V. The government has prescribed six books for Class III such as ’Amar Bangla Boi’, ’English for Today,’ ’Elementary Mathematics,’ ’Elementary Science,’ and ’Bangladesh O Biswaporichoy’ and a book on religion.
But Class III students of Kingshu Participatory High School are studying additional four books—’Natun Bangla Bakaron O Nirmit’ of Akhi Publication, ’Communicative English Grammar and Commission’ of Academy Gyangriho Publication, ’Bangladesh O Biswaporichoy’ by Gyangriho Publication and ’Esho Chabbi Ankha O Rong Kori’ by Noyonmoni Publication.
Students of Class II are supposed to read three books, but the school has prescribed seven more. There are three government books for Class-I, but the same school has imposed additional six books on the little ones.
For Class IV, the government has listed six books. But the students of this class in the same school are made to study four more books. The government has prescribed six books for Class V, but the school has thrust two more on the students.
This is the general picture in all non-government schools across the country. But no steps have been taken to reduce the burden of books that children have to bear.
The statutory organisation, National Curriculum of Textbook Board (NCTB), prescribes a few books for primary school children, but the school authorities seem reluctant to limit themselves to a small number. As a result, experts say children are being overburdened with books, preventing them from taking part in extra curriculum activities. What’s more, too many books also make education expensive.
The much-acclaimed Education Policy 2010 said the curricula and textbooks of primary level would be imbued with the national spirit to cultivate humanistic values.
All textbooks must be flawless and written in an easy and lucid language, aimed at making the subjects interesting for students. But most books in kindergartens do not meet the criteria. Experts say they neither create interest nor any values among the students.
The education policy says
schools can teach some extra subjects besides the specific ones with permission from the relevant department or the directorate of education. But the authorities say since many kindergarten schools are not registered, they do not seek official permission to introduce additional subjects.
The school authorities prescribe books produced by unknown publishers and it is suspected that there exists a strong nexus of publishers and school authorities in which money changes hands.
According to BANBEIS, there are about 5,000 kindergarten schools, but the association feels the actual number could be nearly 50,000.
MH Badal, secretary general of Bangladesh Kindergarten Owners’ Association, said: “Kindergarten schools provide additional books because the government books are not up to the standard. But I think the kindergarten schools should not impose unnecessary books to make education burdensome.”
He also said that though the education policy says permission must be sought to prescribe books, nobody bothered to do so as many of the schools were not registered.
He further said that kindergarten schools that impose additional books were not desirable. He described them to be a kind of “business”. “The government should have control over them. Otherwise, everybody will run schools as per their wishes,” he added.
He said there might be over 1.5 lakh kindergarten schools, but only around 2,000 were registered. “Most of the kindergarten schools are not interested to register themselves because of bureaucratic tangles. The registration process should be made easy and free of corruption,” he added. “Despite the apex court’s directive to reduce the burden of books at the primary level, we see students start carrying a load of books from their first day in school,” Rasheda K. Choudhury, executive director of Campaign for Popular Education, told The Independent.
“Besides the prescribed books of the government, our students are also forced to study other books prescribed by educational institutions. Moreover, school authorities also want students to buy as many exercise books as possible, adding to the students woes,” she said. “The students are also overburdened with homework. But in developed countries, we see students keep their books in the schools and hardly have any homework,” she added. She said the burden of books must be reduced at any cost for a healthy mental development of students and to cut educational expenses. Senior specialist (primary) of NCTB, Prof. Md Munabbir Hossain, told The Independent: “The books we provide are based on learning outcome and competency skill following the pedagogical point of view. These books take into account the ages of the students as well.”
“Kindergartens generally provide books like word books and books on English grammar. When students say the names of things in English, guardians feel happy. But they don’t think of the overload,” he added.
“Besides, the students in such schools are overburdened with homework. The guardians don’t understand the pedagogy of teaching. So, they want their wards to come home from school with a lot of homework, which ultimately becomes a burden,” he said. He also said the NCTB curriculum and syllabus for primary schools were made up-to-date over a period of time and the books are produced by specialists both at home and abroad. Additional director general of the Directorate of Primary Education, Abdul Mannan, said: “As per the registration process of kindergarten schools, they need prior permission to introduce additional books. Registration will bring them under control, which is necessary.”
“Such schools are reluctant to register because they fear that it will bring them under government control,” he added. But experts said coordinated efforts should be made streamline the functioning of these schools.