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Participatory teaching-learning in Bangladesh

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Touhid Ebrahim :
Bangladesh is determined to be a middle-income country by 2021. To achieve this status, quality education has been identified as one of the issues and lack of which may hamper achieving the target. Quality in education is difficult to achieve. It depends on many factors such as quality teachers, quality teacher education and training, methods used in teaching, assessment system, teaching aids, use of technology, and so on. The education researchers point out that Bangladesh education system puts emphasis on rote memorization rather than critical thinking while teaching in the classrooms. They also indicate that teaching is mainly based on two major categories of methods and approaches. One is teacher-centred one-way traditional method and another one is learner-centred participatory approach.
In teacher-centred method, students set all of their attention on the teacher and theoretical knowledge is disseminated through chalk and talk. The teachers here work alone and a little scope of student's participation and co-operation. On the other hand, in learner-centred approach, students and teachers interact equally; hold debate on some issues and come to a decision. In this approach, decision is made together, not provided by the teachers. Teachers here employ different types of techniques instead of a single method. In this approach, students actively take part in the learning process and teachers facilitate learners creating learning environment and opportunities. And the way of learning together through interactions is called participatory approach.
In education, participatory approach is one of the most popular and effective approaches of the current time. Many teachers believe that knowledge is not something to be given to students; it is to be created through interaction, negotiations, active participation, and critical thinking. In this approach, students directly involve and dominate in the discovery of their own knowledge, skills and attitudes.
They can expose their imaginative power and get an opportunity to express their opinion in the classroom. Some of the characteristic features of participatory approach are the combination of activities like pair work, group work, role play, pair checking, peer teaching, peer observation, group teaching, panel discussion, brainstorming, debate, recitation, assignment, project work, report writing, group presentation, and so on.
As a 'Bachelor of Education' honours student at Govt. Teachers' Training College, Dhaka and a trainee teacher at Sher-e-Bangla Nagar Government Boys' High School, my experiences say that students are different and they learn in different ways. In participatory approach, teachers use different methods and techniques to make the lesson more inclusive. As a result, students are more active, absorbed, and sincere in the act of learning. They are also able to exchange their ideas with each other as well as with their teacher. Participatory approach creates a co-operative learning atmosphere where students get a chance to make them confident removing their learning-related fear, shame and imbecility. It makes the lesson more enjoyable, effectively affective and long lasting while teacher-centred approach makes the class monotonous and boring. Real learning cannot happen if it is not in a joyful environment.
Teacher-centred traditional teaching and training mostly depends on the lecture. This is a one way communication where students are almost inactive in the classroom. It can be mentioned that the whole world is moving towards participatory way of teaching and learning. What are the teachers doing in the Bangladesh classrooms and why are they following 100 or more years old lecture method? The system of education in Bangladesh is not quite learner-friendly yet. Participatory approach in teaching and learning in Bangladesh is not yet in practice. It follows the minimized way of teaching and learning which is definitely incomprehensive to the students in the classroom. Negative attitude of some teachers, lack of coordination among head teacher, assistant head teacher and other teachers, shortage of teachers, pressure of completing syllabus, short duration of class routine, existing fixed classroom furniture, unusual size of classroom, lack of multimedia projector and sound system in the classroom are some of the impediments to the effective practice of this approach. It need to mention that although the secondary curriculum 2012 prescribed 50 minutes for each class (and one hour for the first period of the day), schools do not follow it!
Whatever the reasons are, the government has already taken some steps through different projects to minimise the impediments and maximise the opportunities for effective implementation of participatory approach. The Government is providing participatory friendly furniture, multimedia projector, laptop and sound system. Many schools have started arranging participatory classroom with these facilities. Access to Information (a2i) at the Prime Minister's Office with the support by UNDP & USAID has introduced Multimedia Classrooms. There are 23,000 multimedia classrooms so far set up in secondary schools. And about 61,000 teachers have been trained and many teachers are being trained by 500 trainers of public Teachers' Training Colleges (TTCs). Undoubtedly these are the positive steps towards quality teaching and learning at secondary level and the better implementation of participatory approach.
It is clear from the above discussion that participatory approach makes the classroom learner-friendly, comprehensive, joyful, interactive and democratic while traditional teacher-centred approach makes the classroom monotonous, tedious and boring for both sides, especially for the learners. It is high time we changed the teaching methods and approaches as quality of teaching mostly depends on the classroom practices. Ministry of Education is trying to bring quality in teaching putting emphasis on participatory approach. But it is not possible for the government alone to fulfil all the required needs. Along with the government, if the private sectors, print and electronic media come forward and disseminate the initiative all over the country, it will bring a great momentum in the better implementation of the participatory approach. The said steps, if taken, may also pave the way to achieve the vision 2021, I firmly believe.
(The writer is a 4th year 'Bachelor of Education' honours student at Govt. Teachers' Training College, Dhaka. He can be reached at email: touhidebrahim69@gmail.com).

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