Abul Quasem Fazlul Huq :
Fundamental Change in both the policy and the system of education in Bangladesh is essential. It is an urgent demand of the time. The process of such change must start with the effort from the learned thinkers. With foresighted ideas and thoughts they may first identify the desired nature of education policy and the structure of education system. As these two basic concerns are set, the actions required for bringing about the changes in education in Bangladesh would be possible to identify. It will be a gradual process, however, will certainly be achieved having the specific desired policy and structure of education set firmly at the initial stage. It will be a long-term movement with active participation of all the stakeholders, specifically the teachers, students and guardians playing the central role. The students in tertiary education will be the catalyst in stimulating the process.
In this era of advanced technology, increase in labor force, production and wealth is the reality. However, the shocking reality is the decline of moral values in private and public spheres everywhere; decline of justice and development of the culture of injustice. Human qualities are disappearing. All these are resulting in decline of every system of the state. While we all aspire for a better future, there is no alternative to adequate reform of all the systems of the state to ensure a better future.
In the prevailing situation in education and the nature of the state organs and their systems, the expected changes will not be easy to achieve. Those who expect changes must take the initiative. With strong commitment and painstaking tenacity they will have to formulate action plan; revise the action plan time to time and carry on working on the basis of priority. At the initial stage the following issues may be taken into consideration.
There should be countrywide uniformity in primary education. Primary education should be confined within Class V. Central emphasis should be particularly in improvement of quality. Primary education is the foundation of future education in humanities, science, commerce, medicine, agriculture and engineering and technology. Naturally it deserves highest importance. Public examination in Class V and Class VIII should immediately be abolished. The head master/ mistress of every school should be given the authority to issue certificates to those who pass the examinations from the school and the government should give recognition to these certificates. A golden age emerged in the business of coaching centres and guide books as a result of introducing these two public examinations. These two examinations and coaching centre and guide book bases education have destroyed the basic foundation of children for future education. Primary education in this way is not a process of learning rather is just preparing for examinations for a GPA 5.
The so called creative method of examination is to be substituted by one that will create attraction for learning, love of knowledge, patriotism, better sense of citizenship and urge for better life and better world. The system of writing descriptive answers to questions is to be re-examined, improved and re-introduced. Education should be a matter of joy for the students as well as for the teachers. In the present time, students enter the school as inquisitive knowledge-seekers, however, in short span of time they become anxious examinees, only struggling for good grades, GPA 5. With the heavy burden of books in the back pack they no longer remain learners and knowledge-seekers but become over burdened kids with unhealthy mind and distorted creativity. Their normal development gets hampered and human qualities never gets explored to the optimum potential. The true purpose of education is absent in the existing education system and policy. This must not continue as it is.
Those who want English medium education for their sons and daughters to make them citizens of USA, UK, Canada, Australia and some other countries, have the opportunity to send their children to English medium schools run by British council and the government of UK. They do not allow the children to think about the existence of Bangladesh as a culturally rich and historically respectful country. The feeling of ownership of the country is much less evident among the students of these schools. They live in their own world where the problems of the people of the country don't exist.
It is to be remembered that those who repeatedly speak of world standard are blind followers of western imperialist policy. They don't think of the problems facing the country and the people. Those who have dual citizenship, whose spouse or children are dual citizens should not be allowed to become the President, Prime Minister, Minister, Additional Secretary, Secretary, Judge, Professors, etc. that are nationally important posts of Bangladesh. There should be provision in the Constitution to get this done. The education policy of Bangladesh must ensure the fulfillment of the aspiration of a high standard of life and qualified citizens and a strong nation. The basis for building the nation and state will be unity in diversity and welfare for all. About globalization wrong ideas are prevailing. They do not understand the authoritative role of the World Bank, IMF, State Department of the USA, G-7., World Trade Organization, NATO, etc. over globalization.
English version should be abolished immediately. The English version schools run by the government are much inferior in teaching standard and the books are poor in quality.
The expansion of Bengali Language in both primary and secondary education is a burning need. All the children of the country don't need to learn English. Considering national need a specific number of schools should be allowed to teach English and a few other foreign languages. With a few exceptions, most of the countries of the world don't require all their children to learn English. The content and style of teaching English as provided in the books by National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) requires undergoing revisions and reorganization. At the tertiary level, a student must learn at least one foreign language with good competency. The knowledge of foreign language should be used to enrich Bengali language and Bengali word stock.
Every child should get primary education. Considering the reality, along with the regular curriculum, there should be one specialized livelihood ensuring skill training or technical education after the completion of Class V and anther after the completion of Class VIII. This will certainly address the problem of drop out. The division of science, arts and commerce at the secondary level should be abolished and an uniform curriculum for all the students of secondary level should be introduced. At the higher secondary level, the segregations of science, arts and commerce should continue. In both primary and secondary level the history of Bengali people, civics and ethics should be made compulsory. The syllabus, textbooks and contents of the mainstream Bengali medium in all the levels- primary, secondary and higher secondary should be improved. The syllabus of the higher secondary education should be revised to serve as the consolidated base for tertiary education of any branch- arts, science, commerce, social sciences, medicine, agriculture, engineering and technology, etc. To ensure education for the poor, provision sufficient scholarship should be there. On the other hand, the high achievers should be awarded to be encouraged.
The mainstream Bengali medium education in both primary and secondary level is highly faulty and subject to negligence. If the Bengali medium undergoes improvement, the Madrasa stream will be encouraged for betterment. The source of all the anomalies in our education system is due to the poor quality of the mainstream Bengali medium.
In case of Madrasa, the opinions of the relevant stakeholders should be considered seriously. In the existing situation, the strategy should be to avoid conflict and to maintain a peaceful co-existence to ensure progress. All these should be done within the jurisdiction of the Constitution.
At the tertiary level, dropping the semester system, the yearly course system should be reintroduced. The results should be in grade point. The researchers should be given the highest authority to conduct research. Dropping the twenty-year strategy for higher education, a new higher education strategy financed by the government based on nationalism and corresponding internationalism should be introduced. The budget allocation for education should be raised.
Bengali language should be used in every official communication in higher education, research, judiciary, banks, everywhere as the national language. For the expansion of use of Bengali language, long-term national strategy needs to be formulated and implemented. As Bengali is rarely used in higher education, research, judiciary, banks, etc. such strategy and implementation of it is of burning need. Considering the prevalence of Bengali, other languages of the indigenous groups, religious language, and other foreign languages, a national language policy should be adhered. The genuine intellectuals should take the lead in thinking and opining on these issues.
The education policy and education system should be restructured in such a manner that
i) a work force emerge from within the whole country through specialized livelihood training / technical education that will be capable, skilled, productive, and strong in character.
ii) sufficiently educated citizens become available to establish Bangladesh as a strong state and to lead and manage the country.
iii) genuine intellectuals and creative people can emerge in the disciplines of philosophy, science, history, literature, art and technology, etc.
There is a lot to do that should be done gradually. Though Bangladesh is facing many problems and obstacles on the way, it has immense opportunity ahead. Gradually all these opportunities will be unlocked. The people need to engage to realize the opportunities. With an adopted strategy, people should unite to implement that. For the reform of the national education system and policy, specific clear goal and action plan should lead the way. If the government takes the reform strategy, both the government and the citizens can work for it. If not, there will be a movement, movement for a national education system and education policy that meet the aspiration of the people. The whole education system should be nationalized.
This article contains only a few issues to be considered for an educational reform. Changes will be gradual and long term. Many more important issues are to be taken into consideration for further development.
(Political analyst former Professor, Dhaka University)