Textbooks this year have undergone eye-catching changes. However, the reasons for the changes have not been made clear by the textbook board or the academics who revised the books. The major overhaul was the result of pressure from Islamist groups – this was the general view of participants at the Boithoki roundtable held at its office in Dhaka on January 4. The roundtable, titled “Amader Patthoboi” and moderated by journalist Munni Saha, was telecast live on ATN News and the Bangla Tribune’s official Facebook page
‘Islamization in textbooks’
Addressing the Boithoki, Shyamoli Nasrin Chowdhury, the headmistress of Uddipan School, said: “Why are the causes behind the changes in the textbooks not being explained? Authorities are not recognizing that there has been an ‘Islamization’ in the textbooks, because if they say it, they would have to explain it…The government is denying that some particular groups are being excluded (from the national curriculum.)”
Nasrin added: “It would not be logical to say there has been total ‘Islamization’ because topics such as liberation war and independence have not been changed or curtailed. So there is an overall lack of clarity.”
‘Political will and direction needed’
Bangla Tribune Head of News Harun Ur Rashid said that the philosophy about the national education system and curriculum needs to be decided by the political leadership.
Journalist Rashid said: “Subject areas such as physics or biology are not creating concern here. The concern is about the ‘Bangla’ textbook.”
“Has the politics decided it? It did, but the situation of Bangladesh has changed. There is an emergence of a power in Bangladesh. That is – Hefazat. Now another force has emerged, it is the Jamaat-e-Islami. Who is the government influenced by? The government is influenced by the group which is useful to them. They will not befriend Jamaat when they need support. Then who else is there? Hefazat,” he further added.
“I can prove that there is no scope for Jamaat to work closely with the government. Because there are many people [in the government] who will not let Jamaat build close ties with themselves. Then why would the government befriend Hefazat? Hefazat is a big group; they are not a political party, but they do have the capacity similar to one,” said Rashid.
“Why would the government explain the changes? All the explanations cannot be given if they have to keep count on the number of votes. We understand what is going on out there when we do not get any answer from them after asking for explanations,” Rashid added.
Communalism in textbooks?
Online activist Arif Jebtik said: “We never looked for communalism while reading a book or singing a song. We have read for learning.It is a problem if we look at the contents of the textbooks in a complex way. It is unfortunate to accept these issues on a national level.”
Sharing his opinion at the Boithoki, Rashid Al Ruhani, journalist of Bangla Tribune said that: “The books have been changed according to the demands of Hefazat. We have noticed major changes while reporting. All of the 29 claims of Hefazat have been accepted this time. There are some minor errors.”
“Hefazat submitted a list of their demands at the Ministry of Education. The ministry had instructed those who are involved in developing the contents of the textbooks. The books were corrected after the approval of NCTB. However, we are also looking for the answer of why such changes have suddenly been brought in the textbooks,” said Ruhani adding that their questions went unanswered.
Speaking at the roundtable, Dr Soumitra Chakrabarty, who was a member of the revision committee, said: “The new textbooks are designed according to the curriculum of 2017. These are beautifully organized. We have spent nights after nights on it. These are designed in a way so that students can learn from it without any help of guide books or coaching centre.”
He also said: “We worked on the contents in a way which increases the interest of students in science. The only one restriction which was there was to keep the curriculum unchanged.”