Textbook Quality and Distribution in Bangladesh

Educational procurement in Bangladesh is one such area where problems are many, but the data are limited. Amongst different types of educational procurement, the textbook sector remains most vulnerable due to its high priority, strict deadlines, and high allocation of public funds. Studying the textbook quality and distribution, we found that the significant improvement in the primary textbook distribution was achieved by sacrificing the quality of those textbooks.

Researchers: Syeda Salina Aziz; Kaneta Zillur

Partners: Government of Bangladesh (GoB); World Bank

Timeline: June 2016

Status: Completed

Contact: Syeda Salina Aziz;



Delivering quality textbooks is a widely discussed and debated issue in Bangladesh. Until recently, delay in textbook distribution was one of the major concerns of the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB). This delay was reportedly caused by publishing houses for the benefit of illegal traders and sellers of duplicate textbooks and guide books. Meanwhile, the publishers blamed NCTB for delays in procuring and supplying the textbook content. To overcome this problem, NCTB decided to open up the procurement to international bidders. Consequently, one-fourth of the order went to Indian publishers and soon publishers were able to supply 85 per cent of the primary textbooks to schools within the given deadline. But local publishers raised a “pro-local printing” agenda which eventually resulted in 22 local publishers winning the entire bid of the primary textbook by bidding at a 32 per cent lower rate than the floated price. But many critics, including the World Bank, expressed concerns about the printing quality and came up with a condition that withheld the bills of the publishers until the quality of the books is verified by independent inspection agencies. To this day, while the textbooks are being delivered on time, questions remain about the quality of those books.


This objective of this study was to understand the textbook procurement and the challenges behind ensuring the quality of textbooks.

This study is relevant to SDG 4 (Quality Education), particularly to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.


To understand the public procurement system, we conducted key informant interviews (KIIs) with government officials from NTCB and the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education (MoPME) and partners of the World Bank. We also used the quality survey report from 28 schools in four Upazilas of Rangpur and Sirajganj regarding textbooks.

Findings and Recommendations

In our study, we found that there exist various challenges within the textbook procurement system. At the heart of these challenges, is the need assessment of total textbooks. Each year overestimation results in an oversupply of textbooks. For instance, in 2010, over 5.7 lakh textbooks remained unused. Collusion between bidders is another major problem. Bidders collude to gain advantageous ground and comprise the quality of the procurement. Insufficient supervision of the contract and lack of accountability among subcontractors and partners also lead to poor quality textbooks. Findings show that schools receive textbooks according to their demand and also on time. But the quality of those books seems to decline each year. The paper used in the textbooks is ordinary and very thin; book covers are of low quality; text and pictures are hard to follow due to being hazy in appearance. Moreover, some pages are printed twice, sequencing of the pages is often incorrect, some of the pages are missing, images and text do not always match, and also exposure to water completely damages the books and they disintegrate to the point where they can no longer be used.

If the quality of textbooks is poor, an adequate supply of textbooks becomes fruitless labour. In this case, NCTB should improve its coordination and communication with the bidders and allow them more time to check the textbook quality. On the other hand, the publishing houses should also affirm a strict accountability mechanism.