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PM Sheikh Hasina Launches Free Textbook Distribution for 2024 Academic Year

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Today, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the distribution of free textbooks for students up to the secondary level for the academic year 2024. The official distribution is set to commence nationwide tomorrow. The premier kickstarted the program by personally handing over books to students of pre-primary, primary, and secondary levels during an event at her office in the morning.

In celebration of the upcoming New Year-2024, Sheikh Hasina conveyed her wishes for a Happy New Year during the textbook distribution ceremony. Education Minister Dr Dipu Moni presided over the event, with Deputy Minister for Education Mohibul Hassan Chowdhoury delivering the welcome address. State Minister for Primary and Mass Education Md Zakir Hossen also addressed the function.

The ministries have undertaken necessary measures to distribute nearly 30,70,83,517 copies of new textbooks among 3,81,28,324 students this year, involving a budget exceeding Taka 1400 crore. The textbooks have already been dispatched to every upazila in the country.

Since 2010, the government has distributed over 464,78,29,883 copies of free textbooks among students up to secondary levels nationwide. Notably, since 2017, the government has extended its efforts to include the distribution of braille books for blind students. Additionally, books in Chakma, Marma, Tripura, Garo, and Sadri languages have been provided to children from minority ethnic groups, allowing them to study in their mother tongue.

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‘Genuine’ SSC, HSC certificates for sale!

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Over the last couple of years, if one with ill intentions knew who to pay, he or she could obtain a “genuine” SSC or HSC certificate from the Bangladesh Technical Education Board (BTEB), regardless of his or her student status.

Be it to turn failing grades into passing ones, improve GPA, and obtain a certificate without even having to take the exams — all was made possible by one man on the inside: AKM Shamsuzzaman, a system analyst at the BTEB who charged between Tk 15,000 and Tk 50,000 to deliver each certificate.

The Detective Branch of police revealed how he operated after arresting him along with his accomplice, Faisal, from his Agargaon home early today.

According to Mashiur Rahman, deputy commissioner of Lalbagh Division DB, Shamsuzzaman sold over 5,000 forged certificates over the last couple of years

He began his operation by first stealing a substantial amount of the papers on which the BTEB printed genuine certificates.

He then printed fake certificates on genuine papers on his own initiative and sold them to clients.

As a final flourish of legitimacy, these certificates were uploaded to the board’s server database, allowing the clients to show verification if they were ever challenged.

Detectives are now trying to determine if he had more accomplices, the DB official said.

Speaking to reporters during the drive, Shamsuzzaman said he learned how to prepare the certificates from another system analyst who was also involved in the forgery.

He said he has so far produced and sold around 5,000 forged certificates and shared the profit with others involved in the operation.

DB chief Harun Or Rashid said, after receiving complaints, a DB official, using a false identity, contacted Shamsuzzaman for a fake certificate. He later delivered a certificate in exchange for Tk 35,000.

“One would pay depending on their requirement,” he said.

Many got successfully enrolled at colleges or universities with these forged certificates, the DB official said.

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Nearly 40% of Youth Not in Education, Employment, or Training: BBS Data

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The percentage of youth neither studying nor working or taking any kind of training has slightly decreased from 2022’s 40.67% to 39.88% in 2023.

The data was disclosed by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) while officially releasing the “Bangladesh Sample Vital Statistics 2023: Key Findings” at BBS headquarters in Agargaon, Dhaka today (24 March).

The statistics also revealed that the ratio of mobile phone users aged 5 and above stands at 59.9% in 2023. However, for 15+ year olds, the rate has slightly increased to 74.2% compared to 2022 (73.8%).

Also, 50.1% of all people aged 15 and above used the internet in 2023, the study found.

Meanwhile, the life expectancy of people in Bangladesh stood at 73.3 years in 2023, which was 73.4 in 2022.

At present., about 1,171 people live per square kilometre in Bangladesh.

State Minister for the Ministry of Planning Md Shahiduzzaman Sarkar was present as the chief guest at the publication event.

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Education

Australia tightens student visa rules as migration hits record high

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Australia will begin enforcing tougher visa rules for foreign students this week as official data showed migration hit another record high, which is likely to further exacerbate an already tight rental market.

From Saturday, English language requirements for student and graduate visas will be increased, while the government will get the power to suspend education providers from recruiting international students if they repeatedly break rules.

“The actions this weekend will continue to drive migration levels down while delivering on our commitments in the migration strategy to fix the broken system we inherited,” Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said in a statement.

A new “genuine student test” will be introduced to further crack down on international students who look to come to Australia primarily to work, while the imposition of “no further stay” conditions will be used on more visitor visas.

The moves follow a raft of actions last year to close off Covid-era concessions introduced by the former government, including unrestricted working hours for international students. The government at the time said rules would be tightened for students that could halve its migrant intake over two years.

Australia boosted its annual migration numbers in 2022 to help businesses recruit staff to fill shortages after the Covid-19 pandemic brought strict border controls and kept foreign students and workers out for nearly two years.

But the sudden influx of foreign workers and students has exacerbated pressure on an already tight rental market.

Date released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Thursday showed net immigration rose 60% to a record 548,800 in the year to September 30, 2023, higher than the 518,000 people in the year ending June 2023.

Overall, Australia’s population rose 2.5% – the fastest pace on record – to 26.8 million people in the year to last September.

The record migration – driven by students from India, China and Philippines – has expanded labour supply and restrained wage pressures, but it exacerbated an already tight housing market where rental vacancies hovered at record lows and elevated construction costs restricted new supply.

O’Neil said the government’s actions since September have led to a decline in migration levels, with recent international student visa grants down by 35% on the previous year.

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