Will students get new books on first day of 2023?

Nearly 347 million textbooks will be distributed among school students in 2023

The printing and distribution of free textbooks to primary and secondary students for the new academic year 2023 may be delayed due to a shortage of sufficient paper and an increase in prices, according to publishers and booksellers.

However, the Education Ministry has said that it is determined to ensure that the distribution of the textbooks begins from the first day of the next year, as planned.

According to the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB), nearly 347 million textbooks will be distributed, including 99,853,000 books at the primary level and 246,310,000 books at the secondary level.

Leaders of the Bangladesh Publishers and Booksellers Association (BAPUS) are afraid that distribution will be delayed as there has been a drastic rise in the price of paper in the market. 

Paper cannot be imported unless duty is reduced. If enough paper is not imported within two months, it will be impossible to provide free textbooks by January 1, they said.

Current situation

BAPUS General Secretary Zahurul Islam told Dhaka Tribune that printing presses will not be able to deliver all the books as per the Education Ministry deadline given how the situation currently stands. 

“If 50% of the paper stock cannot be imported duty-free, it will not be possible for us to arrange all the textbooks,” he said.

However, the books may be published by the deadline if the government takes the initiative to ensure duty-free import of adequate paper as well as steps to reduce the price of paper in the local market.

Printing industry insiders have said the books may not be available till February or even March next year.

Tofael Khan, president of the Bangladesh Textbook Printing and Marketing Association, said there are several reasons why the distribution of the textbooks may be delayed, one that of publishers not receiving performance guarantee funds from the Directorate of Primary Education (DPE).

He also said delays in the approval of bank clearances were also hampering the printing process.

DPE Director General Shah Rezwan Hayat said: “We have already directed the relevant officials to resolve all the problems cited by the publishers.”  

NCTB Chairman Professor Md Farhadul Islam said: “Every year, around one-third of the new textbooks are sent to upazila-level schools by mid-October. But this year, we could not do it for various reasons.”

BAPUS President Arif Hossen Chuton claimed some dishonest publishers and printing press owners were attempting to raise the price of paper in the local market.

Ministry determined to distribute new books from January 1

Meanwhile, Education Minister Dipu Moni on Saturday said the government is determined to hand over textbooks to students on the first day of the next year, as in previous years.

Mentioning that there is no scope for compromise in this regard, she said those involved in the production and sale of paper have been warned that action will be taken against any officials found to be negligent if the distribution of the books does not begin on time.

The minister added that mill owners had assured that there will be no shortage of paper.

“However, we have directed that the problems of the printing industry be resolved,” Dipu Moni said.

She mentioned that discussions will take place with the Ministry of Finance over the import of more paper.