MOHAMMAD TAREQUE RAHMAN, BISHNU KUMAR ADHIKARY and DEBADAS HALDER
The class difference issues and the new policy
As discussed above, it is the new policy transfer, dealing with competition that starts from the mighty stakeholder (who supplies policies) and remain within society so class difference always plays a vital role in it. The difference between classes is severe in Bangladesh while the poor are too poor and the rich have huge wealth: this means that there will not be a shortage of rich people trying to get a good education while the working class will remain poorly educated as they have nothing. This might be seen as two extreme spectral ends but is the beginning of an ultimate clash because the schools and communities wouldn’t be able to build the partnership effectively in the same ways, which could result in some very well organised schools and some chaotic ones. The new policy might give fuel to this clash while trying to bring all the different classes under one umbrella, as the school can’t ideally differentiate class and race while these things exists inside the society. There are many psychological constrains that prevents different classes and races being together, which could create further problems of different classes of families being reluctant to work with each other. The following quotation confirms this, as “Choices are blocked, or programmed, by unconscious emotions, which cannot first be thought away by listing indefinite numbers of options…” ( Giddens, 1995, cited in Reay, D. et all 2001. pp. 863).
Identity, language, culture and new policy
Along with different social classes, society has some other important factors to consider, such as different identity, language, culture etc. When a global policy enters into a national policy , it shrinks the space for local tried and tested approaches for problems and introduce new theories, research, trends and fashions which might not be effective (Ball, 1998,) and might create a clash between different stakeholders. This is because it brings new people, new identity, or cultural thought to the forefront, while diminishing the old. Cerny, (1990) cited in Ball, (1998) argued that policy ideas are taken in consideration and interpreted differently by different political architectures, national resources and ideologies and any new policy needs to fit in with the new arrangement properly to achieve positive results. A society might be made up of people with different languages, and different culture resulting in different cultural capital. According to Bourdieu, (1977) these cultural habits and dispositions can be seen as resources while on the other hand this cultural capital can lead to separate identities. School as an organization develops these identities and cultural capital into individual capital, whereas gathering all these differences into one place needs great skill and professionalism which Bangladeshi teachers and leaders currently lack. Along with this, teachers and leaders also possess their own cultural and linguistic identity, and might favour one particular class which can increase problems.
Teacher’s professionalism, identity crisis and new policy initiative
New policy initiatives often create a confusing dilemma for the teachers because of their diversified responsibilities. Bangladeshi teachers play the role of teaching, survey for national data collection, work as volunteers, and work as trainers, supervisors and also for partnership building in different situations. It’s not unusual for the teachers to question their identity as their work regularly gives them a different identity. In this instance, appointing a new policy might increase their pain as they might question what they actually are: teacher, social worker, trainer, supervisor, data collector or partnership builder? This might create frustration: to do all these tasks successfully teachers also need training and mentoring and for some people this workload is too great. Grogan, (1996: 79) cited in Grogan, (2005) argued that some people might not need any mentoring and might feel this is how actually someone is devaluing their capabilities.
Pupils’ voice, curriculum, and new policy initiatives
“Don’t try and do these. They will be too difficult for you” (Ray and William, 1999, pp. 351) was one of the comments from the teacher for some SAT questions for Fumi; a young student with some difficulties dealing with SAT. This one sentence is enough to destroy her confidence and identity as a student and also can diminish her parent’s identity being a father of a failing child. This isn’t a special example from a Bangladeshi perspective, but a lot of students and parents hear the same, whereas it is widely known that students and parents can be important with pedagogy and curriculum planning. The fact is, this student or her father won’t feel comfortable working with the teachers and curriculum planners, as they would have at the back of their minds the feeling of failure, that they are good for nothing and building partnerships can be difficult in this type of situation. Another problem is that nowhere is it specified how teachers would incorporate pupils and their parents’ voices, but according to the new policy the teachers must engage them in pedagogic activities and curriculum planning, seemingly walking in opposite directions simultaneously.
Parents as consumers and participation by women
The concept of parents as consumers or partner is even a mystery for the parents as they get puzzled by the notion if asked (Hughs et al. 1990 cited in Clegg and Billington, 1997, pp.100). They argued that despite an encouragement by the government, parents do not particularly feel like they are in any way treated as consumers or partners to the schools, as they do not believe education to be a commodity. They also argued that the majority of parents are satisfied with the school of their choice despite major weakness. This understanding might raise a very crucial issue of need for working together with the teacher. In this occasion Emrick and Petterson, (1978); Louise and Sieber, (1979) cited in Fullan, (1992), argued that a new policy is more effective when it is relatively specific needs directed. Angus, (1993) cited in Whitty, (2001, pp. 289) argued that;
To explore the relationship of specific practices to wider social and cultural constructions and political and economic interests…….the question of whom and in whose interests schools are to be effective
For Bangladeshi society, religion plays a vital role in constructing societal norms and values; however, religion is also manipulated for women’s marginalization and suppression (Shah, S. 1999) even though Bangladesh has a huge number of female teachers. So expecting mothers to work with male teachers and female teachers to work with male parents will be very difficult for them.
Ex/inclusion of other policies with new policy
Hall, and Raffo, (2009) argued that the new labour policies in addressing diversified issues are fundamentally flawed. They explained that school improvement and school effectiveness has not typically taken into account in a considered or integrated way other meso level factors either from a Functionalist or Socially critical perspective. They talked about the inclusion of the variable, such as community experience of poverty, student voice, and engagement with school communities etc. When this is an example of a developed country it seems a very tough task for Bangladeshi policy planners to manage all these different policies and coordinate effectively. Moreover implementing a new policy which has an old version already existing could be quite troublesome.
The concept of re-contextualisation
For the quality issue Bangladesh has identified that it will not be possible to ensure quality without the community and parents’ involvement. Though it deals with lots of issues and concerns, ultimately there is no scope to say no to a modern and effective policy and the government and the NGOs are already working on it. On the contrary it might be even dangerous to accept this policy without proper re-contextualisation. For re-contextualisation it is very important to build proper knowledge about the concept and the interrelated aspects. Teachers, community members and parents don’t have much time to sit for several meetings and discuss partnership building (Hands, 2005). Along with this, many Bangladeshi parents are not literate enough to help their children at home. While this is true, the fact remains that parents love their child more than anything. Save the children USA, in their Bangladesh mission has set some good examples of close parent teacher partnership building overcoming the discussed odds. Government and other NGOs can learn from them and can re-contextualise the policy by their consumer’s choice. While the global form of this policy is that parents come to the school and work with teachers, STC started with the concept that parents should give more time to their children, for example they can just sit beside the children while they are studying and sometimes ask the children to tell them what they have learned. It doesn’t matter whether the parents can correct them or not but that the time would benefit the children. This simple example of involving parents with some pedagogic facts indicates that, though it is very hard, re-contextualisation isn’t an impossible task. Save the Children USA is an international organization and therefore their practices and processes are well known but it is not hard to believe that other national and international organizations along with the government might have some other examples of re-contextualisation of this new policy. Boyle and Clarke, (1998: 69) said that whenever people get into situations where they might face threat and embarrassment, they are more than likely to act in a way that they bypass the problem and take time to cover it up with a different technique. In spite of all the concerns its human nature that, they discover new methods while they face problems.
It might be a good idea to explore the policy aspects more and conduct more research, particularly on policy aspects, in order to build and manage the knowledge scattered between different stakeholders. Bangladesh needs to grasp new policies to cope with the demand of modernity and globalization of education, keeping in mind that it is always better to cut the coat (new policy) according to the cloth (re-contextualisation). However as we have discussed before that it is always a very complex relationship among different stakeholders so we must include all the stakeholder such as parents, community leaders, teachers under the same umbrella for dialogue for any new policy. It is not a must that, any new policy would be good for us and it is also not desirable that we deny anything new without understanding its value and capacity. So being a developing country we should always be positive not to accept but to explore any new initiative or policy. Once we start researching any new policy, we would see the different dimension of it and then only it would be possible for us to re-contextualise the entire concept and implement in our context. (Finished)
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MOHAMMAD TAREQUE RAHMAN: Senior Research Associate, Research and Evaluation Division, BRAC, Dhaka, Bangladesh; BISHNU KUMAR ADHIKARY: Lecturer, Institute of Education and Research, University of Rajshahi, Rajshahi, Bangladesh and DEBADAS HALDER: Lecturer, Institute of Education and Research, University of Dhaka, Dhaka, Bangladesh.