Implementing new education policy
It may not be an overstatement to state that during the last two years of the present government the most successful formulation of its policy is the education policy because this is the only one which has been accepted by most people. However, it may be advisable to be cautiously optimistic about the success at the implementation stage because of the huge size of the project.
We are, however, hopeful about its success because people are aware that successful implementation of this policy will mean increase in the rate of literacy and decrease in poverty. People, however, must be ready to allow enough time for its full implementation.
The core of the policy is primary education, which determines the future of the nation. The main objective of primary education is to give direction in building a nation. This needs inclusion of such subjects in the curriculum that help in mental development. Thus, it appears that there is no need for making religious education compulsory. It may be made optional from class 8.
There is some controversy about the competence and morality of existing teachers. The new policy has given attention to the need for attracting meritorious persons to teaching.
One of the reasons for decline of our educational standard is unemployment, which has converted higher education into mass education. The new policy suggests that higher education is not proper for all. It has advised due emphasis on technical education because it will increase the prospect of jobs for trained personnel.
Article 17(a) of the Bangladesh Constitution states that there should be a uniform, mass-oriented and universal education system. Differences between systems tantamount to violation of the constitution.
Education is essential for building a wealthy, conscious and civilised nation. That is why it has to be universal. The educational structure which we inherited from our British rulers has passed through different stages, and the present system is secular. Its first step is primary, the second is lower-middle, the third is middle and the fourth is higher education.
At present, the general and the madrasa education systems exist side by side. There is no age limit at primary level in the system. The madrasa levels are Dakhil, Alim, Fazil and Kamil. Madrasa authorities demand recognition for Fazil as equivalent to a Bachelors degree and Kamil to Masters. However, they have not yet been able to acquire this privilege.
The principal aim of education is to build good quality efficient students. This cannot be provided by the present system. The system also does not create any sense of citizenship and equality. Some existing systems are not even consistent with our Constitution.
Management of the education system is weak. In some areas, training of teachers has been ignored. Participation of the people, particularly elected representatives, in managing educational institutions is not clear though it is necessary.
The state spends money to make a person literate, to make him a good citizen who can be self-sufficient. Bangladesh is behind her neighbours in South-East Asia because of her backwardness and poverty. This is particularly evident at mid-level. It may be pointed out in this regard that the south-eastern countries spend $300 to $400 per capita, whereas Bangladesh spends only around $12 a year.
No appreciable development could be made in the field of education in Pakistan during 1947-71. The Dr. Kudrat-e-Khuda Commission was set up after our independence. The Commission's report is, broadly speaking, consistent with the UN resolution. Between 1975 and 1990 no remarkable development could be made under the military dictatorships. This period is regarded by some education experts as the period of the backward journey of our education system.
There is no option but to improve the quality of our teachers, particularly primary teachers, if we want to make Bangladesh a modern mid-level country within a decade. This needs attracting better students to the job of primary teachers, improving teacher-student ratio and providing modern educational aids to primary schools.
The government has undertaken implementation of the recommendations of the Prof. Kabir Committee, which will be a huge task. It involves high cost, recruitment of good quality teachers, improvement of school infrastructure, support from guardians, and from the national and local governments. At the initial stage we may seek financial and technical aid from multilateral donor agencies. Above all, we have to allow enough time and give whole-hearted support for successful completion of the project.