When I was a student at secondary level, I cannot remember how many times I opened the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) assigned English textbook. But it is sure that the fitness and outlook of the book remained as new as the first day of the year on the last day of the same year; that means, the textbook was not touched as the other textbooks that I read. I believe it was not true for all, but happened to many students like me. The NTCB’s English textbook was read by most of those who were unable to buy expensive guidebooks from the market. Sometimes we got beaten by the teachers for not collecting the recommended guidebooks. Our teachers said that it was not necessary to read the English textbook of NCTB; it was better to exercise model questions supplied by different publishers and that we will able to get better results if we use guidebooks, but we did not need to read the board assigned (main) textbook.
There was an excuse that the NCTB textbooks were not up to the mark, and that is why the textbooks were ignored; it was the scenario of the national curriculum of 1995. The government of Bangladesh introduced the latest and developed curriculum in 2012 and textbooks have got new shapes as well. The authority brings most logical and scientific changes in English, but the textbook ‘English for Today’ is still neglected today; I do not know why this is happening as I am not an educationist, expert or a researcher. I have to mention another thing, that is NCTB has launched another book of English for every class in the secondary level which is ‘English Grammar and Composition’ for the second paper of the subject.
Before preparing this article, I spoke to some students at different schools; they told me that teachers use only selected commercial guidebooks. They also told me that their teachers discouraged them to read NCTB’s English books and recommended some low standard commercial books. This is really a sad issue for the nation. The teachers may not be aware that they are committing one kind of crime with their profession and the nation. I requested that students should use NCTB assigned textbooks; this is not only for the English subject but also for all subjects that they read. There are some students who read NCTB assigned ‘English for Today’ and ‘English Grammar and Composition’ as they find the books more helpful than marketed third class guide books.
I know some publishers of guidebooks who send agents or executives to the teachers to broaden their business; some people say that sometimes some teachers may get incentives or commission for advertising and promoting low standard guidebooks; I am not sure, but if this has really happened, I think it will bring disaster to the nation.
I taught at a school in the capital for three months, teaching Bangla and English. I had a guideline to do my job there and the authority of my institution asked me not to use commercial books. Following the guideline I did not use any book or note without NCTB assigned textbook; I have realised that ‘English for Today’ is really a scientific and teacher-student friendly textbook. If a teacher can use the textbook fruitfully, creativity and English language skills will surely increase. And I believe, teachers do not need to use any additional book or lesson plan as ‘English for Today’ itself is a complete guidebook and lesson plan. How to teach or learn; all steps are fully organised in a systematic way.
It is known to all that language is for communication, and one should be trained in four skills if they want to learn a language. These skills are speaking, listening, reading and writing. In the formation of ‘English for Today’ these four skills are highly focused. Then why do our teachers ignore the scientific textbook?
I admit, I am not a researcher or an expert of education, but through my observations I have found some reasons behind teachers ignoring ‘English for Today’ and these are having obsolete teaching ideas, tendency for completing syllabus within short time with no work, having no clear idea about the book, dependence on commercial books, and not having proper training, etc.
Also, the textbook for English second paper is also neglected as most of the teachers say that the book is written fully in English. But in my review of the book, there is no word or sentence which is not understandable to the junior secondary or secondary level students; though we have some slow learners as well but this is not a big deal in a learning atmosphere. If our teachers pay a little attention to the scientifically organised textbooks, we can avoid the low standard and creativity killer guidebooks.
In Bangladesh, English is compulsory from primary to higher secondary but it is a harsh reality that after completing higher secondary level most of our students cannot communicate in the language. Why is this happening? Our textbooks for English are communication friendly but our way of teaching-learning is not.
Previously English was taught in grammar-translation method (GTM) but now NCTB have recommended teaching the language in communicative language teaching (CLT) approach. But in this part I have to say that we are still in the previous method/approach; idea of the term CLT is not clear to our primary and secondary level teachers for lack of effective training. Another thing to be said is that English classes should be conducted in English; it does not mean that you are not permitted to use your native language if needed.
However, I do not feel like saying any more about this because our teachers are aware of their responsibilities. I personally know some teachers who are really creative and dedicated. It is my belief that there are many creative and dedicated teachers in our country by whom others are inspired. I urge all English teachers at secondary education to give priority to NCTB books and teach accordingly. But I am not against the guide books in the market; those books are also useful in some cases.