The tug of war between the Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board (PCTB) and private publishers has intensified due to which the timely provision of free course books and practical books to students seems implausible.
Millions of students in Punjab may not get textbooks when they begin the new session as the government has barred private publishers from publishing textbooks under the Single National Curriculum Policy, which is highly likely to increase the shortage of textbooks in the market, as in 2020.
Two academic sessions have already been curtailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and now the next academic session is at risk of being affected due to the lack of course books. If the situation persists, it is likely to have an adverse effect on the students’ careers.
As per details, the private publishers are not being granted NOCs to print books this year. On the condition of anonymity, a publisher revealed that the PCTB officials have been barred from issuing NOCs. However, no written order has been issued in this regard.
As per media reports, the PCTB has introduced a new and complicated NOCs criterion with the demand of heavy fees, and 7.5 percent royalty.
Moreover, the PCTB has canceled the old NOCs of some publishers, which has left hundreds of thousands of workers unemployed and may have triggered what could snowball into a major upcoming crisis for parents and students.
While speaking on a TV show on Thursday, President Textbooks Publishers Association Punjab, Fawaz Niaz, said that the provincial government has introduced 30 of its own ‘model books’ as a syllabus.
The PCTB has imposed a new fee of Rs. 450,000 on one book, a move where the board could generate an amount of around Rs. 9 billion. This amount could go up further with 7.5 percent royalty and taxes imposed by the PCTB. This move would further burden millions of students and parents.
He stated that around 250 private publishers/printers publish over 20,000 books (textbooks/supplementary materials) every academic year in the province.
Meanwhile, the Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training, Shafqat Mahmood, has acknowledged the ongoing crisis and has asked the PCTB to look into the matter.
Yes, private publishers’ concern is genuine. I asked PCTB to ease the NOCs process. The PCTB should play the role of facilitator rather than creating hurdles for the private sector’s desire to publish books and supporting materials.
He feared that the issue may grow into a crisis if this bureaucratic hurdle persists.
“We are going in the right direction. My ministry, however, is committed to addressing the genuine concerns of all stakeholders in Punjab as well as in other provinces to get this NSC implemented within the due time period. I have already consulted all the stakeholders,” he said.
When the Managing Director for PCTB, Dr. Farooq Manzoor was asked to comment on the issue, he said:
No problem exists on the issue of NOCs in PCTB. NOCs would be issued to all private publishers in a stipulated time period.
Dr. Manzoor said that the board has the capacity to review thousands of books in a timely manner and all the stakeholders are consulted while preparing model textbooks.
In response to why the PCTB has demanded NOCs from private publishers charging heavy fees with 7.5 percent royalty (including taxes), he said that the new fees had been withdrawn, but refrained from giving further comments as the matter is sub-judice in the court.