Child Protection Issues in Our Textbooks

Child protection; Image source: Needpix.com
Child protection; Image source: Needpix.com
Masum Billah
Written by Masum Billah

The World Vision, a NGO working in Bangladesh since 1971 focusing on child care, concern and protection along with its other areas of intervention arranged a seminar at BRAC Center on 05 September 2015 where a researcher named Umme Mushtari Tithi, assistant professor, IER, DU, presented a paper titled ‘Exploring the status and importance of child protection issues in the curriculum and textbooks from 6th to 12 grade in Bangladesh”.

NCTB Chairman, two members, Member of Human Rights Commission, educationists, researchers and individuals working for establishing child rights in Bangladesh attended the seminar. The initiative is timely and deserves appreciation from all corners. We know Word Vision, Bangladesh plays a supportive role to reduce issues like child marriage, child labour, child trafficking, internal and cross border, corporal punishment and also in promoting birth registration and participation through strengthening community child protection system.

General objective of the study was to explore the current status of the child protection issues incorporated in the textbook and the other is to find out the underneath reasons of importance for incorporating child protection issues in the curriculum and textbook. Specific objectives were- to explore the current status of incorporating Child Protection Issues in the curriculum and textbook, to identify the child protection issues that have been incorporated already in the curriculum and textbook and to identify the knowledge and practice gap on Child Protection Issues among students, teachers, school management committees and guardians.

We know children are naturally curious beings and are motivated to make sense of the world around them. A child’s relationships and experiences during their early years greatly influence how their brain grows, and build knowledge for their future. Children learn best through their everyday experiences with the people they love and trust and when the learning is fun. How far our curriculum, textbook, school environment and teacher-student relationship reflect these issues? In this perspective the research presentation has actually been a long time overdue.

Our National Education Policy 2010 retains the issue regarding the safety of the children of pre-primary education which is closely related with the issue of child protection. Teaching will be conducted in a pleasant environment characterized by love and care in appreciation of children’s spontaneous vigor, spirit and their natural inquisitive faculties and curiosity. The safety of the child will have to be ensured to resist any possible physical or mental torture on them. 

Actually, things are not as satisfactory in the practical field as the policy explains. Some important issues have been revealed through the presentation and plenary discussion. According to Shishu Adhikar Forum, the rate of children being killed in the country had increased by 61 percent in 2014 than that of previous years (The daily star 2015). Till July 2015 at least 191 children were killed, claimed by BSAF (The Daily Star 2015). The violation of child rights is a common matter in Bangladesh.

The children have basic rights to education, health, protection but most of the children of Bangladesh are deprived of these basic rights (Mohajan 2014: Journal of Social Welfare and Human Right p207). The prevalence of physical assault is higher among young children. Raising public awareness against child abuse and promoting preventive measures should be adopted to reduce child abuse in Bangladesh (Chowdhury & Islam 2013 Bangladesh Research Publication Journal p 215). At present 66 percent child marriage takes place in Bangladesh.

The research has shown that indiscrimination issues has been reflected 20 percent in the religious and moral education books but in English and Bengali books its reflection remains almost absent. Child’s best interest is reflected in class six textbook below one percent. Right to expression reflection is very little. Special support and care for children in Bengali book less than one percent but in English and religion books no such thing happens.

In social science book it is 2.5 percent. Right to education in Bengali, religion, social science and English is somehow maintained. Sexual abuse in curriculum is very low. Right to protection from all forms of abduction registers .8 percent in the textbooks. Right to protect any activity that could harm child proves very little. Cruel sentence, imprisonment and right to freedom also register very insignificantly in the textbooks.

National children policy 2011 reflects child protection in its article no 6.7 where it is clearly mentioned the importance of ensuring child security and safety against all forms of exploitation, violence, mental, physical and sexual abuse. It also highlights the issue of effective public awareness to stop abuse and violence against, children. According to article 7.4 adolescents have also right to be protected from all sorts of violence, marriage, trafficking and forced commercial sex. The Bangladesh Child Protection Program is working in this field with two critical objectives: reducing the potential that children will be trafficked for sex or labor, and improve systems that protect children and restore survivors.

All the interviewees of the research opine that mass media can play a significant role in the issue of child protection. Though child protection issues have been incorporated into curriculum and textbook to some extent, the textbooks are knowledge dominated rather than attitudes and skills. Majority of teachers and guardians opine that there lies a wide gap between their knowledge and practice regarding the issue. Child protection issues should be incorporated in teacher training programs and effective monitoring system should be developed to ensure the practice.

The problem is who will do that. Teachers give little importance to this issue as our whole assessment system has turned into a grade oriented and result driven one. Neither the teachers nor the students have any scope to practice the issue in their practical life. So, questions setters should be aware of the facts and direction should be given to them accordingly from the education boards. Arranging co-curricular activities can also play a role but the co-curricular activities today get hardly any importance due to social perception that obtaining good grades in the examination  ensures better future of the learners.

One expert comments that child protection issues should be addressed indirectly in the textbooks to inform the students. He added that direct inclusion of these issues might have negative impact on their attitude and behavior. Protection issues may be incorporated in textbooks through rhymes, poems, story and games. But one NCTB member opines that incorporating these issues in pure literature will lose the original taste of literature. This opinion also retains merit. He has also given several examples from Nazrul and Tagore how their creations encourage the students and teachers to teach value education and moral education which ultimately ensure child protection. 

The researcher recommends NCTB to develop a plan of action for identifying the contents that should be included together with scope, length and methodology. Content regarding child protection issues should be developed by the content specialists rather than subject experts and protection issues should be incorporated symmetrically in both textbook and curriculum. But the NCTB officials explained their critical situation in incorporating different issues in the textbooks.

They have to face demands from various corners and groups such as environmentalist groups, human rights group, gender group, and third sex group and also the political pressure. So, it becomes difficult to maintain the harmonious representation of the necessary issues in the text.  Finally, the High Court order to lessen the burden of books of students one tenth of their weight must be followed by NCTB with due respect and implementation of child rights protection issue as it’s a vital national issue.

About the author

Masum Billah

Masum Billah

Masum Billah works as an Education Expert in the BRAC Education Program, BRAC, and President of the English Teachers' Association of Bangladesh (ETAB), Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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