Working parents in Dhaka typically start their day in a rush of activity, enough to send anyone’s blood pressure soaring. Probably, the most time-consuming of all is also the most essential -- dropping their children at school, after which it is a battle to get to their own offices on time amid severe gridlock.
This everyday picture of struggle would have been different if children could be enrolled in schools that serve specific areas, located at walking distance from students’ homes.
Experts emphasised “area-based education” in cities and urged the government to increase the budgetary allocation in this regard. They recommended the system in Dhaka and other metropolitan cities to ease traffic jam and make the lives of children and their guardians easier.
One of the challenges in implementing an area-based education system would be to ensure that irrespective of where they may be located, a certain standard is maintained throughout.
Tania Akter, a resident of Old Dhaka, said, “I had to quit my job to make time for dropping off my daughters at school.”
Her daughters are third and fourth graders at Ideal School and College in Motijheel. “I have to take them to school from Old Dhaka regularly. I worked for a private company and could not manage to drop them off at school and reach office on time,” she added.
The mother said, “If the government takes initiatives to launch area-based education that would be a great help for me.”
Mohammad Abu Awal Hossain from Keraniganj said he drops off his sixth grader daughter Asma at Azimpur Government Girls School and College every day.
“I enrolled my daughter here due to the absence of better schools in Keraniganj area. We face various problems on the way to school and back home daily. I would appreciate if the authorities introduced area-based schools.”
According to 2018 data from Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Statistics (BANBEIS), there are 572 government and private secondary schools in Dhaka. Of them, 164 schools are public and the rest are private where 4,75,042 are considered regular students.
Renowned educationist Professor Emeritus Serajul Islam Choudhury said, “We must not tag schools as good or bad. That differentiation affects the whole education. All the schools of villages and cities should be developed equally and be of the same standard.”
He said an area-based education system will be great if it can be implemented. “We’ve been creating inequality in education in many ways. We must ensure equality of all through education.”
Prof Choudhury went on saying, “Examination has become another name for ‘panic’ now. Coaching centres and private schools are doing business with this. I think, there should be no examination at primary level. Primary students should only read and play.”
Prof Syeda Tahmina Akhter, director of Institute of Education and Research, Dhaka University, said, “Area-based education system should be implemented soon. It’s really difficult for working parents to drop off children to far away schools in Dhaka traffic.”
Prof Dr Mijanur Rahman, vice-chancellor of Jagannath University, said area-based education system is essential for a densely-populated country like Bangladesh.
He suggested that equality be ensured across all schools in Dhaka so that none can differentiate between schools in Keraniganj, Badda, Jatrabari, Gulshan, Banani and Dhanmondi.
Member of standing committee on primary and mass education ministry, Shirin Akhter MP, told the agency that area-based education system would benefit the country. “If the system can be introduced, traffic jams will be reduced, precious time will be saved, children’s security will be ensured, and above all, parents will be free of anxiety.”