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     Volume 4 Issue 27 | December 31, 2004 |

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The Bitter-Sweet Experience of Going to School

Hana Shams Ahmed

The main goal of education should be to teach children honesty and sincerity so that they can change the country's image for the better in the future. In reality many educational institutes bother little about teaching basic values and are too busy trying to extract as much mony as possible out of the students. The government's latest step to register English medium schools is very laudable. But what are they really going to achieve by getting these schools registered in terms of changing or upgrading?

As many parents will tell you getting a child into a 'good school' can sometimes become a nightmare. It is impossible to get children admitted to the desired school without the right backing of either money or the proverbial mama-chacha connection. Six-year-old Maiysha's mother Rumana expresses her frustration.

"It's not that there aren't enough schools in Dhaka, it's just that their standards aren't up to the mark. I got my son admitted to the school of my choice only after I agreed to pay Tk 1 lakh outside the normal admission fee of Tk. 20,000. I couldn't put him into an English medium school because of the high expenses, but because of the underhand methods carried out by the school authorities I had to borrow money from my relatives", complains a visibly upset Rumana. "It's difficult for middle class people like us to bear this burden. Now I don't know how I'm going to manage to put my two-year-old into a good school in the future."

Other parents from the school verified this information. The school in question has recently opened new sections for some classes to accommodate the rising number of expectant 'brilliant' students. Apparently, only about a fourth of the students in these sections actually qualify through the proper admission test process. The rest of the students are taken only after they pay an amount ranging from Tk 70,000 to Tk 1lakh.

Arifa is a 38-year-old housewife, but she is hardly at home ; even on weekends it will be a rare event to find her there. Arifa spends most of her time taking her 11-year-old daughter, Cynthia from one private tutor to the other. It is not because Cynthia, is a slow learner, Arifa has to put in this extra effort on her so that she remains in her teachers' good books and her exam sheets are marked more 'leniently'. Little Cynthia is aware of these tactics that are used to help her pass her exams, so the question arises here, what is this child actually learning?

Sixteen-year-old Mehnaz who refused to take private lessons from her Math teacher was shocked when he gave her just 9 per cent in her SSC pre-test exams. "I had practised everything thoroughly and I knew I could not receive such a low mark," she says. She challenged her teacher, asking him to show her the exam paper but he refused. Frustrated but not dispirited she took her SSC exams where she received a whopping 98 per cent marks in Mathematics. When she showed this mark to her principal, he then went to her Math teacher and asked to see the paper concerned. He then found out that Mehnaz had actually received 70 per cent in that particular exam. The Math teacher was promptly fired.

The biggest concern for parents whose children go to English medium schools is that the premises are not spacious enough to be schools. Not only are the classrooms claustrophobic, there is no open space for children to refresh their minds outside the classroom. It is this confinement that discourages children to think outside the box. Since Dhaka is becoming a city of apartments, children should at least be able to stretch their legs when they are in school. That would also motivate them not to think up early morning excuses to skip school.

The government or some regulating body should follow all the activities of these schools more closely so that these institutions can be held accountable for not doing their job.


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