LAHORE  - The provincial government has issued the Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board Ordinance 2014 to ensure preparation, approval and publishing of textbooks besides ending a longstanding tussle between the Punjab Textbook Board (PTB) and Punjab Curriculum Authority (PCA).

“The new law will be a step forward and introduce reforms in the education sector,” an officer of the Punjab government, while commenting on the ordinance, remarked. He said the ordinance was issued to end power game between Punjab Curriculum Authority and Punjab Textbook Board that had badly affected the education sector. He said the new law would end the role of mafia.

The Curriculum and Textbook Board will be a highly autonomous body with powers to update syllabi as per the changing circumstances, study schemes for different institutions and textbooks. The board will also ensure production and publication of textbooks from class 1 to class 12. This body would be empowered to regulate printing, publication and sale of textbooks as well as their distribution, preparation of research material and hiring of agencies for the purpose.

The board will organise seminars and exhibitions of textbooks besides establishing mobile libraries. It will approve and forward all such curriculum and syllabus type schemes to the provincial government for approval. An advisory council will be established to support the board to perform different tasks.

The ordinance also makes it mandatory for all the persons or companies to obtain permission from the board before printing, distribution or sale of textbooks otherwise they would have to face fine and imprisonment up to two years besides confiscation of the published books and such other material. 

The chairman will be the head of the board and secretary or director will head different departments. The board members will include secretaries of the schools, special education, literacy, P&D departments, PEF chairman, Examination Commission chairman, Lahore BISE chairman and six professionals, three each from public and private sectors.

An officer told The Nation that Punjab Textbook Board, prior to the passage of the 18th Amendment, had asked writers to send manuscripts for textbooks in an open competition, select the best scripts and then publish the textbooks themselves or through private publishers. But after the devolution of education to the provinces, the Punjab government passed the Punjab Curriculum Authority Act of 2012, curtailing the PTB’s role.

The PTB, however, continued to compete in the development of textbooks. He said Najam Sethi, as the Pakistan Publishers and Booksellers Association chairman, made a representation to the chief minister on June 12, 2012, requesting him to stop the PTB from developing manuscripts for books. Though the CM did not take notice of it, Sethi, as a caretaker chief minister, barred the PTB from participating in the bid, on an application filed by the Pakistan Publishers and Booksellers Association vice chairman.

Moreover, the Punjab government, later, set up a body, the Punjab Curriculum Authority (PCA), through an act of the assembly, but assigned it the roles that have traditionally been done by the PTB. The PTB’s 1962 and 1970 ordinances were also in force, creating clash of roles to regulate and control printing, publishing and sale of textbooks and other supplementary materials as well as other relevant tasks.

He said the PTB had already lost its authority of timely production of textbooks and their supply to schools following the introduction of the National Textbook Policy and Learning Materials and Plan of Action 2007. Private parties also damaged the BTB’s authority though they failed to provide textbooks on time.

The officer said that instead of improving working of the Punjab government as well as the PTB, the Punjab schools education department had proposed PCA’s draft bill that took over PTB’s major role of regulating and controlling printing, publishing and sale of textbooks and other supplementary materials.

He said that after wasting time, money and energy and undergoing different experiments on the education sector, the provincial government had finally thought of issuing the ordinance to end the conflicts among different bodies with overlapping functions.

A PTB officer told this paper that after the 18th Amendment, National Textbook Policy and Learning Materials and Plan of Action 2007, PTB, shortage of textbooks caused by private publishers and Punjab Assembly legislation like PCA’s bill had aggravated problems in the education sector. Under new ordinance, he hoped, all the conflicts among the board, the authority and the school education department would come to an end and a new era to bring educational reforms would commence.