Area-wise schooling is a great idea, but conditions apply
If there is one thing students in Dhaka dread more than exams, it has to be the traffic. A big chunk of our days is spent stuck in the roads, creating unnecessary mental stress, negatively impacting our academic performances.
Fortunately, the authorities finally seem to be noticing our plight. In the latest Detailed Area Plan (DAP), the government is proposing the creation of 'school districts,' where students from a particular set of areas will study. No one from outside the designated areas will be allowed.
As a long suffering student myself, I think it's a brilliant idea. If it comes to fruition, area-based schooling can revolutionise the education system of Dhaka for the better – provided that it's not derailed by the mammoth challenges facing the initiative.
Having schools closer to their homes, travelling becomes straightforward. It negates the need for students to hitch rides to travel long distances, sparing the financial and psychological burdens. So, students can easily walk to schools.
To make this project successful, introducing an intra-district transport system, maintained by school district authorities, is crucial. It can further streamline conveyance to and from schools as students won't have to depend on rickshaws or small vehicles.
Confining students to specific school districts, the traffic problems of Dhaka can finally be eased as the volume of cars in major roads will be reduced.
With no traffic to worry about, students can remain fresh physically and mentally. This will be beneficial in the long run. Having a fresher, relaxed mind in classes helps them to fully focus on lessons, allowing their creative instincts to flourish. It also allows them to critically think what's going on around them, a trait which can be applied to solve complex problems in their exams and beyond.
To support the initiative, the government ambitiously plans to build 912 new schools and colleges. While trying to make school districts come to fruition, it's imperative that authorities don't prioritise quantity over quality. They might build such a large number of educational institutions, but can they ensure top quality education in all of them?
It's vital that project higher-ups learn their lessons from the past. The government tried something similar decades ago, building schools in Gulshan, Banani and Motijheel among other places. It backfired massively; not only did they fail to maintain academic competence and discipline in those schools, but they have since been eclipsed by the English Medium schools.
In their quest to make Dhaka liveable, the government must not compromise the quality of education. Hiring competent and qualified teachers, alongside maintaining student discipline, and keeping a low student to teacher ratio is of the utmost importance. Only then can government schools keep up with English Mediums academically.
To make area-based schooling successful this time, development must be well-researched and efficient – there is no point in building government schools if they can't keep up with the educational demands of this era.
Facing severe shortage of lands, authorities must prioritise quality. Instead of gender-based segregation, like in the past, authorities can build co-ed schools in available spaces, conducting classes in shifts to maintain standard classroom environments. If all this and much more is not ensured, this plan may well be another failure.
The Daily Star. September 2022. Area-wise schooling for a better Dhaka.
Inqiad is a long suffering Manchester United fan and a self-proclaimed Targaryen. Contact him at [email protected]