For a cohesive blend of all types of education | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 17, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, May 17, 2008

For a cohesive blend of all types of education

Bangladesh proceeded with a multi-faceted form of education in deviation from the constitution which provides in Article 17 that the state shall adopt effective measures for the purpose of establishing a uniform, mass-oriented and universal system of education and ensuring free and compulsory education to all children to such stage as may be determined by law and relating education to the needs of society and producing properly trained and motivated citizens to serve those needs. Everybody knows how our governments have behaved with such a vital socio-economic necessity like education. The doldrums must end.
Recently, the government endeavoured reforms to improve the examination systems of the country. The reforms are purported to commence by 2010 involving candidates of SSC examination. Generally, our students are accustomed to learning by committing to memory, and answering questions during examinations from memory. The reform purports to replace this system by an ideal system of learning lessons and answering related questions by way of exercising well-grounded imagination, creativity, innovation etc.
In our opinion, the reform should start earliest in the learning career of a kid so that the kid may advance in a gradual process of adaptation. More importantly, teacher cadres also have to undergo a metamorphosis of their traditional teaching and examining system in light of the reform project. For any successful transformation of system, there is a need for a gestation period for adjustment. So, our children and their teachers may be formally brought under the proposed examination system in 2014, i.e. after a gestation period of 5 years to commence in January 2009. Any hurry may spell disaster.
We must not forget that it will be difficult to apply the time-frame for children of the landless, homeless, poor and illiterate families of Bangladesh. Such families do not have any environment for children's education. Children of such families will need a government economic programme to enable them to attend schools. If this is not possible, the reform zeal may fail and students may develop fear of school and its examination system under the proposed project. It cannot be denied that chill of penury may freeze the genial current of the mind of millions of our poor students who will then be scared of the proposed examination system.
In Bangladesh's 68000 villages, one may see different grades of old scheme and new scheme madrashahs, totalling in all about 300,000 including more than 100 of them teaching up to Master's level. Most of these higher level madrasahs do not have any campus. Classes from Class-I to Class-XVI are held in the same establishment. Besides, almost every mosque has arrangement for teaching kids Arabic lessons. These kids are generally the children of the poor villagers who do not like to send them to primary schools after the mosque education. By and large, traditional Muslims feel that sending children to madrashahs will bring their parents spiritual bliss.
Curiously enough, Bangladesh follows a lot of forms of education, which create different types of citizens. The forms are, besides madrashahs: a) Bengali medium from primary and beyond; b) English medium from primary and beyond; c) Residential English medium from Class I to Higher Secondary; d) NGO system of education (English and Bengali) up to primary levels e) Private kindergartens in towns and rural areas; f) Government primary and secondary education and also higher level; g) Private primary, secondary education and also higher level; h) Tuition-free primary education, not compulsory for all; i) With-tuition primary, compulsory in High Schools; j) Cadet College for boys; k) Cadet College for girls; l) Adibashi language primary in major groups.
In recent years, Bangladesh took programme of developing human resources through Education strategy for alleviation of poverty. The problem of blending material and spiritual life through a general education system has surfaced as a grate challenge. It is really a great problem to establish a balanced blend of material and spiritual education and life-pattern. A vastly illiterate and poor population like Bangladesh's is faced with the problem of quality education of a correct blend. As such, it has not yet been possible to create a study-course for the nation in which there should be an amalgam of religious and non-religious subjects up to a particular stage after which students may choose to go for specialized study. The broad national consensus on such a course of study is yet to be reached.
Since Bangladesh has about 50 percent of its 150m people in the age-group 1-18, an appropriate and balanced combination of material and spiritual syllabus of study for this age group needs to be carefully prepared and followed, in the interest of rapid human development to alleviate poverty and improve solidarity of mental frame of citizens. This age-group will cover the broad facade of schooling upto the end of secondary level. Such a balanced scheme of education would certainly need four clear-cut stages such as (a) I-V grade, (b) VI-VIII grade, (c) IX-X grade. Education beyond three grades may follow (d) a special fourth grade with combination of essential subjects.
In our opinion, for a predominantly Muslim country like Bangladesh where madrasah education has been creating citizens with different frame of mind, the proper blend of secular and religious education is possible with scope for specialized higher education in theology which is needed in the modern world. As such a course of study upto secondary level has been suggested in the CHART.
The chart shows the system of education we may follow as subject curriculum in secular, madrasah systems combinedly upto secondary level. We need to modernize our education system. Students at primary, secondary and higher secondary levels of general education are over-burdened with subjects of study. This calls for rational modification. Our proposed syllabus may suffice this modification up to secondary level. We cannot lose sight of the fact that Bangladesh is a country of at least 150m people now. These people are highly divided in respect of belief, custom and economic stratification etc. In such a situation, the perception of democracy has been the victim of controversy and divisiveness. As a result, there is not much national cohesion and consensus among citizens. This has adversely affected the growth potential of the country.
Bangladesh needs to streamline its chaotic system of various forms of education to achieve the constitutional objective. In this regard we may make the following broad suggestions to be pursued:
* Equitable opportunity for all citizens including ethnic groups.
* Single form for all upto class V.
* No dead-end institution.
* Unhindered advance after class V to any higher level of education according to choice of learner.
* Co-educational institutions.
* Educational institutions to be tuition-free as far as possible to cater to the needs of the nation.
* Requirement of teachers to be determined at least five years ahead.
* Teachers at all levels are to be treated as the window of dignity of the nation.
* No sanctioned post of teachers should remain vacant for a single day.
* Officials of non-educational cadres should not be placed in management and control areas of education.

Abdul Khaleque is a Retd IG Police and Secretary.

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