What ails our secondary education system? A familiar litany of problems can be cited but a new report by The Daily Star has brought into focus a relatively underacknowledged factor: school closures. Secondary schools and madrasas, according to the report, have at least 137 holidays—85 public holidays and 52 Fridays—as well as other scheduled and unscheduled closures including that for public exams in many of the institutions. The result: more than half the academic year at those institutions is wasted for no productive purposes. For the students, it means they are hurried through fewer chapters, resulting in incomplete syllabus. They are also made dependent on private tuition. All this eventually affects the quality of education.
This is a problem that can be solved with proper planning, however. Experts have suggested that the number of holidays and closures can be significantly reduced by, for example, cutting down the summer and winter vacations and the durations of public exams. Even public exams like JSC and PEC, which have proven to be of little value to the students, can be done without.
Unfortunately, the authorities seem unaware of the challenges that the inordinate number of school shutdowns poses. A 2012 proposal to bring down the number of annual holidays to 118 days, including weekends and 24 days for midterm and final exams, has been met with silence. We feel that this is an issue that the education ministry should take up on a priority basis. Setting up separate public exam centres may solve part of the problem, especially for those institutions hosting public exams, but the government should initiate reforms for a sector-wide impact.