Between their sleek and shiny covers, the textbooks for primary and junior secondary levels are riddled with errors. Already the “Orna” controversy and the issue of altering the words of poems in the Bangla textbooks (Amar Bangla Boi) for class one and class three, respectively, have invoked strong criticism in the social media. A number of prominent educationalists have advised the government to correct these errors as soon as possible.
Moreover, the reasons behind these unexpected errors should be investigated, they said. Under the subtitle “Reading” in the instruction section of the Bangla textbook for class five, the necessity of reading with correct, clear and standard pronunciation has been described as an essential element for the development of the students’ reading skills. For this reason alone, the textbooks should have been edited more carefully, the experts argue. The issue of errors and substandard/questionable contents in the textbooks has been a nagging one since 2013. After being retouched and edited multiple times, the textbooks of primary and secondary levels should not have so many errors.
Dr Biswajit Ghosh, a professor of Bangla at Dhaka University, pointed out some critical errors in the Bangla textbook for class five. “On pages 27 and 46 of Amar Bangla Boi, the words Jaanni and Ashenni (pJjKj, IJPxjKj) were written incorrectly. The last letter Ni (Kj) was separated from the rest, making it look like two separate words Jan Ni and Ashen Ni (‘pJj Kj’, ‘IJPxj Kj’). According to the standard practice of Bangla spelling, the last letter Ni (Kj) does not get separated from the rest.” On the 20th line of the 2nd page of a textbook titled Bangladesh O Bishwa Porichoy” (mJÄuJPhv S KmvõkKrY~), the spelling of Bangla word “Ghoshona” (ßWJweJ) has been written with the wrong letter. The consonant phoneme “naw” should have been written with murdhônyô “naw” (oNiqjt e /retroflex n), but dôntyô nô (h∂ j /dental “naw”) has been used instead. This is another big error, said Dr. Biswajit Ghosh.
Hayat Mahmud’s name has been credited under the book compilation, writing and editing section of the book. About these spelling errors, he said, “According to the rules of using retroflex “naw” (e-fô KmiJj), dôntyô “naw” (h∂q j /dental “naw”) cannot be placed after murdhônyô “shaw” (oNiqjt w /retroflex “shaw”) . By that rule, the spelling of Ghoshona (ßWJweJ) must have murdhônyô “naw” (e).” EDUCATION Regarding the mistakes, Dr. Biswajit said, “Errors can occur for many reasons, and it is not uncommon or abnormal. However, all the errors have to be identified and corrected quickly.”
The Bangla textbook for class eight has been criticized by the guardians for the absence of original stories written by Bangali writers. All the stories included in this textbook are translations of foreign stories. There should have been at least one original story written by a Bangali author, said the guardians.
In the Bangla textbook for class three, certain words from Kusum Kumari Das’ famous poem “Adorsho Chele” (IJhvt ßZPu) have been tampered with. The original poem says “Amader Deshe Hobe Shei Chhele Kobe” (IJoJPhr ßhPv yPm ßxA ßZPu TPm), whereas the textbook printed “Amader Deshe Shei Chhele Kobe Hobe” (IJoJPhr ßhPv ßxA ßZPu TPm yPm). Another line of the poem says- “Manush Hoite Hobe Ei Tar Pon” (oJjMw yAPf yPm-FA fJr ke), whereas the textbook goes like “Manush Hotei Hobe” (oJjMw yPfA yPm). The original text says- “Hate Prane Khato Shobe Shokti Koro Dan” (yJPf k´JPe UJa xPm vKÜ Tr hJj’). The book misspelled the word Khato, and wrote it with a diacritic form (UJPaJ instead of UJa). “Any alteration to the original poem is a mistake. All of the changes made to this poem have to be considered as critical mistakes,” said Dr. Biswajit Ghosh.
Along with the spelling errors, the textbooks have been accused of inappropriate and thoughtless contents as well. In the introduction to the alphabets section of the Bangla textbook for class one, illustration of a small girl demanding a scarf (orna) has been used to introduce the letter “o” (S), which has been criticized by many for the underlying conservative overtone. Many people think that it is an attempt to condition the children with a certain objective in mind. Former chairman of the Bangla department of Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST), Professor Shofiuddin Ahmed said, “This is not appropriate for children that young.” The Bangla textbook for class one has been criticized for a number of reasons, but one seems to take the cake. On page 11, under the introduction to alphabets section, a comical example and illustration has been used to introduce the letter “a” (IJ). The example was “Chhagol Aam Khay” (ZJVu IJo UJ~), and the illustration showed a goat climbing up a mango tree to eat a mango. Since it is a highly unusual sentence and goats cannot really climb up a steep tree, many people wondered why a simpler and more familiar example was not used to introduce the letter to the children. Regarding this issue, Hayat Mamud said, “There is a proverb Chhagole Ki Na Khay (ZJVPu KTjJ UJ~), and the cited example was inspired from that. It was supposed to be comical, because children should be able to have fun while reading.”
Moreover, there are complaints about the quality of the production itself. The pages of the English for Today for Class V were cut so hastily during the binding phase that the page numbers and a few lines of text have been cut out as well. Also, the printing of some books is so substandard that the page numbers, letters and illustrations are very hazy. The printing and page quality of the “Bangladesh O Bishwa Porichiti” book for the fifth grade is so poor that the contents of one page can be read from the other. As a result, the students are having a hard time reading these books.
National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) chairman professor Narayan Chandra Saha said, “If errors are found, they will be corrected in the next impression/edition of the book. We will notify our committee, and they will take care of this issue. If the printing is not up to the mark, those who were in charge of it will not get their bills.”
Primary and Mass Education minister Mostafizur Rahman said that mistakes in the text books will be corrected very soon. The minister made his remarks while talking to the journalists after the inauguration of the Vegetable Fair at Khamarbari in the city on January 5. The minister said, “We have already instructed the NCTB to investigate the mistakes. Once that is done, steps for correction will be taken as soon as possible.” Regarding the accusation that Hefazat-e- Islam’s ideological influence has been found in some of the contents, he replied, “That is out of question. The education system is influenced by the spirit of the liberation war, not the ideology of Hefazate- Islam.”
When asked if the number of textbooks is being increased, he said, “That is not right. If something like this really is happening, we will take quick actions to prevent it.” A review committee has been formed to correct the mistakes in textbooks, NCTB chairman professor Narayan Chandra Saha informed the media on January 6. The review committee comprised of NCTB member (finance) professor Kazi Abul Kalam and 3 members has been asked to submit the report by 7 working days. But it may take more time to get the report, professor Narayan said. “The mistakes happened in different phases. Entire books will be reviewed to see where and how the mistakes have happened. The committee has said that it will take some more time, he said.”