Education Policy 2010 and '62 education movement | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 17, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, September 17, 2010

Education Policy 2010 and '62 education movement


Photo: ashdenawards

This year, September 17 is a day of immense importance with positive implication in view of adoption of the Education Policy 2010 in the backdrop of a series of debates and divergent views centering it. September17, "Education Day," has a special connotation vis-a-vis this day 48 years ago in 1962.
In tracing the background of the '62 education movement, it is relevant to mention that anarchy in the education sector had become a common feature as the central government of Pakistan followed a policy of disparity and step-motherly attitude towards East Pakistan, where 56% of the people lived.
The number of educational institutions started to decrease and the dropout rate increased within a short time. Prior to partition of the subcontinent, what became East Pakistan was much ahead of the then western part of Pakistan education-wise. In 1947-48 the number of primary schools in East Bengal was 29,633, which came down to 26,000 within a span of 5 years.
On December 30, 1958, the government announced the formation of a committee headed by secretary, education -- Ayub Khan's one time teacher at Aligarh University -- S.M.Sharif. In the 11-member commission, 4 educationists were from East Pakistan. They were Dr. Momtaj Uddin Ahmed, Vice-Chancellor, Rajshahi University; Dhaka Secondary Education Board President Abdul Haque and 2 teachers -- one from Dhaka University and another from Dhaka Engineering College. They were Professor Atowar Rahman and Dr. Abdur Rashid. The commission submitted its interim report on August 26,1959.
Some features of the Sharif Commission report, which was published in 1962, provoked students' agitation in East Pakistan. To mention a few among them:
-The concept of free primary compulsory education is an utopia;
-To introduce a lingua franca for Pakistan, Roman script should be introduced and for that Arabic should be given priority;
-Urdu should be made the language of the people of Pakistan;
-Education should not be available at minimum cost;
-The 2 years' degree course should be upgraded to 3 years for improvement of quality at the higher education level.
Students reacted sharply against these features. They pointed out that the door of education had been closed to the poor and low-income people. Action committees and sub-committees were formed in protest in many institutions. A handicapped student of degree class of Dhaka College, M.I. Chowdhury, initiated the agitation program. Sporadic strikes and abstention from classes by students continued throughout this period. Students of medical school and national medical institutions also resorted to movement, which included hunger strike.
The students' movement took a new turn on August 10 when college students assembled in a meeting at Dhaka College. This writer, then general secretary of Dhaka College Students' Union, convened and presided over the meeting -- which was the first of its kind. There was no link with the central leadership of students' organisations prior to this meeting. This meeting bridged the link. It announced general strike of students throughout the province on August 15. Students responded favourably to the programme.
As a follow-up, a sit-down action programme in front of the secretariat was also announced. A series of meetings were held between August 15 and September 10 at the historic Amtola in the Dhaka University Campus. A huge number of students from the schools and colleges of Dhaka city attended. The previously formed "Degrees Students' Forum" was renamed as "East Pakistan Students' Forum" with two joint conveners, Quazi Faruque Ahmed from East Pakistan Students' Union (Epsu) and Abdullah Wares Imam from East Pakistan Students' League (EPSL).
On September 10 a meeting was held at the Dhaka University cafeteria where almost all the colleges of the city were represented. The meeting withdrew the previously announced sit-down strike but announced a fresh action program of hartal or total strike on September 17.
Students started picketing from early morning on the day. Provincial minister Hasan Askari's car was set on fire by the students. Some jeeps were also set ablaze. In the morning, a contingent of police chased prospective demonstrators from Sadarghat to Nawabpur railway crossing. By 9 a.m. Dhaka University campus was packed up with students from schools and colleges of Dhaka city.
News spread that the police had opened fire at Nawabpur road and some people including students were wounded. A procession was scheduled to be brought out at 10 a.m., but after the news of firing a huge procession was brought out with Sirajul Alam Khan, Mohiuddin Ahmed, Rashed Khan Menon, Haider Akbar Khan Rono, Ayub Reza Chowdhury and Reza Ali at the forefront.
The procession had entered Abdul Gani Road when police started firing. Babul, a student of Nabokumar High School was killed, and bus conductor Golam Mostofa, domestic worker Waziullah and many others seriously injured. Waziullah later died in the hospital. The firing at Abdul Gani Road infuriated the processionists, which included not only students but also workers and employees of different mills and factories, rickshaw pullers and boatmen from the Buriganga river.
It is said that the '52-language movement cultivated the sprit of nationalism and the '62-education movement inculcated and infused the ingredient of progressive content in it.
Two chief characteristics of the '62 education movement deserve special mention. Firstly, the movement was initiated by the students alone without any outside influence. Secondly, the central student leaders could not foresee that such a huge movement was possible based on academic issues and problems faced by the students.
The movement subsided eventually when opposition leader H. S. Suhrawardy came to Dhaka from Karachi during the last leg of the movement. He met East Pakistan Governor Golam Faruk and could persuade him to defer implementation of the Sharif Commission Report.
The people of Bangladesh, especially those involved in and concerned with education, admit and appreciate the patient and intelligent handling of the education policy issue by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. However, all concerned with education will prefer effective and fruitful implementation of the Education Policy 2010. The challenge is huge and the obstacles are many. So the vow of this year's Education Day should be: "We shall overcome."

Prof. Quazi Faruque Ahmed was an organiser of the '62 education movement and is a member of National Education Policy Implementation Committee and Chief Co-ordinator, National Front of Teachers & Employees (NFTE), Bangladesh. E-mail: principalqfahmed@yahoo.com.

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