THAT the education sector is in an abysmal state is evidenced yet again in the fact that free textbooks that the government distributed among nearly forty-five million students have turned out to be of poor quality, failing to meet the specifications set by the National Curriculum and Textbook Board, which is responsible for curriculum development, and textbook production and distribution to primary, secondary and, partly, higher secondary students.
Students, guardians and teachers expressed that, their discontent at the quality of textbooks that were distributed to students from Class I to Class IX. They complained that the textbook pages were thin as the printers used lighter paper stock than what was specified in the work order and the text and photographs in the books were blurry.
According to the textbook board tender, as reported, the printing presses were asked to use 80GSM and a minimum brightness of 80 per cent so that textbooks are attractive, durable and bright. There are also allegations that many pictures and texts have been misplaced, binding of many books has loosened off, the cover pages are barely thicker than pages inside and that text on some pages are illegible.
Notably, textbooks should be printed in such a way that they can capture the attention of students and they can read them without facing any inconveniences whatsoever. The government has this year distributed about 33.37 crore primary and secondary textbooks and the government on the first day of the year hosted textbook festivals in all schools. But district education officials, on receiving complaints from students, guardians and teachers, have sought government steps for a resupply to replace the books that are poorly printed and bound.
While reprinting could be a mechanism to replace the poorly printed textbooks, in keeping with the demand from district education offices, and to sort out the problem at hand, the whole affair has left the government with nothing but to initiate investigations of the matter to bring to justice people, officials or the printers, responsible for the failures.
The textbook board has already pledged to set up a committee to investigate the incident and ask all printers to replace substandard books failing which the government can confiscate the performance guarantee that the printers earlier deposited.
The government also has to take legal action against them so that such failures do not happen in the future.
The government has, in addition, much to learn from this experience, especially in view of the printing of textbooks in future. It should stringently adhere to the punitive measures and stop errant printers from taking part in the textbook printing process the next year. It could initiate the printing process earlier than it did this time to allow more time for better printing and distribution. Under the circumstances, it is now imperative for the government to sort out the problem at hand along with taking legal action against printers, and officials, if they are found guilty.