Photo: Prabir Das
"It is a very common sight in Bangladesh. A child goes to school with a bag that seems heavier than the student'' remarks Sensei (teacher) Shahed Kazy who teaches Wado Ryo Karate at Black Belt Academy. A majority of his students are children who take Karate as an extracurricular activity as an addition to their academic studies at school. Pondering through the students strength of the Dojo (Karate school) I ask ''what, in your opinion, is the number of hours a child, say attending grade V, should put in for academic studies?''. Shahed quotes '' A child should study no more than 6 hr day for a 5 days week'' He continues '''Children should not be given home work on weekends and holidays and should also have a 2 week holiday every 3 months (at the end of a semester) plus, a yearly 5 week annual holiday.''.
This brings us the issue on the effectivity of the National educational policy 2010 which acts as a guideline for the direction of education in Bangladesh. A Canadian teacher, Sananda Chakraborty Tithi, of Bangladeshi heritage mentioned to me that she presumes children in Bangladesh spend about 40% more time with books than their same grade counterparts in Canada. Bangladesh is filled with coaching centers, guide books and private tutors that students avail on top of their regular schooling. Children are often assigned homework on their weekend and holidays. Shahed grimly says ''The more a child spends time on studies, the less time a child has for extracurricular activity such as Karate'' Simply put, it is an opportunity cost. We reflect on the importance of extracurricular activity in education. Shahed cites examples in Japanese education where Kenjutsu (swordsmanship) and Judo are taught as part of the curriculum he states, ''every school should have a physical activity such as Karate that can assist in the student's mental development''.
As a mentor, Shahed believes that Karate can enable and empower children and thus assist in child development on top of their academic studies. He also believes that teaching Karate requires a certain skill-set on top of Karate credentials and considering the responsibility that falls on teachers, the teaching method should be examined. A look closely into his classes at dojo and comparing them to the regular academic teaching we see in schools that follow the national curriculum, we can see an unmistakable sharp difference in teaching methods as well as the attitude of the teachers. The schools in Bangladesh seem to be locked into what is referred as the 'Banking method' by the educator Paulo Freire, in his book 'Pedagogy of Oppressed'. Freire states ''Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiqués and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat. This is the "banking" concept of education, in which the scope of action allowed to students extends only as far as receiving, filing, and storing the deposits.''
On contrary the classes at the Dojo are very interactive where all techniques are demonstrated and practiced allowing real life experience. The students and teachers communicate frequently, with questions being asked from both sides. This reinforces critical thinking and critical consciousness for both teacher and student. The instructors incorporate games that allow children to think out of the box. We can apply excerpts from the Karate teaching method to our academic classroom so that students find their studies more interesting and also enjoy a higher learning curve. A Karate lifestyle will help our children focus, stay healthy, be confident develop respect and learn conflict resolution that is essential for child development. I believe as the nation moves towards improved teaching methods, case studies from a karate teacher can supplement a teacher's skills as well as child development.