Just after the assumption of power, the present government formed a commission to direct our education policy towards an effective, scientific and modern one keeping pace with the Quadrat-e-Khuda Education commission which was formed in 1974. It followed several other commissions but no commission saw the light of implementation. But as a nation, we need a permanent education commission as education is the guiding force and most constructive and valuable investment. The government constituted an 18-member committee headed by Prof. Kabir Chowdhury on April 8 to formulate a modern national education policy in line with the 1974 Qudrat-e-Khuda Education Commission.
Some salient features of the commission deserve appreciation where some need more discussion and food for thought. More importantly, the commission has submitted the draft report and recommended many important points. But their implementation rests on the genuine will, ability of the government and national consensus. The opposition has been away from the National Assembly. Their consent and constructive criticism in the assembly is a must before going its final implementation which the Education Minister hints to start from the next year.
It is good that the whole draft has been shown on the website so that educationists, guardians, students and all stakeholders of education can go through it. Free, universal and compulsory primary education up to class eight, the inclusion of information technology and science in the curriculum, mandatory vocational education and scholarships to all students from class six to eight on the basis of the exam, uniform syllabus in secondary education ( nine to twelve).
The three-year degree course will be replaced by a four-year honours course, establishing technical institutions in every Upazila, modernisation of madrasa education, through the inclusion of information technology and arrangement of textbooks and teachers for the indigenous children to enable them to learn in their own language is the brighter sides of the recommendation. The final draft of education policy Policy-2009 will ensure rights to primary education for the street children as per its commitment to taking appropriate measures in this regard. The policy suggested provisions of free-enrolment, free distribution of education materials, midday school meal and stipend under a special arrangement for bringing street children to schools and continuation of their studies.
The committee suggested the extension of primary education up to class eight and secondary up to class twelve. The primary education will be free, universal and compulsory and the mandatory inclusion of six compulsory subjects under all streams of education namely general, madrasa and technical. All the students must study their own religion and receive moral education. Secondary education will be from class nine to twelve. Science and information technology will be introduced in madrasa education to make it more modern and life-oriented. In respect of higher education, Decentralization of National University by setting up centres in all divisions. It recommended a permanent education commission. Full-fledged implementation would start in January. Class five students will have to sit for public examination to mark the primary education as a uniform standard and teachers will be made answerable. There will be no annual and scholarship exams in class five.
Eight-year primary education to extend the equal education facility to the largest population is undoubtedly a noble and great endeavour that educationist Dr Khuda understood. And the present education commission has recommended keeping in line with it. But I think the present infrastructure of our existing primary schools will not be able to hold another three classrooms. Yes, it can be possible and done in phases or after several years. If the Khuda Commission of 1974 would have been implemented at least partially, by this time we could have made our primary education up to class eight. As we are going to start from the beginning, it may not be practical to extend primary education up to class eight.
Qudrat-e- Khuda Commission Report (1974) recommended extension of universal schooling up to 8th grade in line with UNESCO requirement of 14 years universal school. It is indeed regrettable that even after elapse of 35 years (1974-2009) we have not been able to even implement partially the recommendation. After thirty-five we cannot suddenly jump to raise our primary education up to class eight. Integration of existing level of primary education with next three classes with the old secondary level and a severe dearth of competent teachers for the operation of new education policy in rural areas and madrasa pose another greater challenge towards its implementation. It would be practical to extend primary education up to class 6. The existing primary schools can accommodate one more room. Government and community also can make one more room but to make three rooms seem to be very difficult.
Abdus Sattar Molla, educationist and researcher of education collects data about the status of primary education of different countries which says “Of the 182 countries studied, the highest number (87) has PE up to 6th grade. In 28 most European countries PE education is of 8 years, 5 years in 19 countries, 9 years in 16, 7 years in 15, 4 years in 11 and 10 years in 3 countries.” Moreover, In all the developed countries of Asia such as Japan, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Israel have PE education up to sixth grade. So, we can reach the conclusion that we can extend our primary education up to sixth grade which will be more reasonable and affordable.
In all the secondary educational institutions the number of students has increased several times but the number of teachers has not which has created an unreasonable teacher-student ratio. There is hardly any subject-based teacher even to teach the harder subjects. It seems the 80% of schools of rural areas cannot materialize the positive aspects of the present education commission. The MPO rule, quota system, negligence of management committees, ignorance and some other irregularities are standing in the way of filing up the vacant posts of different important subject teachers. If a teacher who enjoyed MPO goes on retirement or dies, his MPO orders also go with him.
No new teacher can be employed against that MPO. As a result, the post remains vacant. To fill up the women quota, no qualified woman is available in some areas keeping the post vacant year after year. These existing practical phenomena contribute a great deal to accumulating the heaps of problems in the non-government secondary schools in spite of the fact that the government gives a cent per cent of their salaries to MPO enlisted schools. Necessarily, the situation is supposed to be much better but these unresolved issues standing year after year have seriously hampered imparting quality education.
The commission must have given a clear guideline to ameliorate the pains of the guardians of urban students who have to spend the lion’s share of their family income to educate their wards. Not only that, guardians are to spend a considerable time of the day visiting tutor’s houses to have mandatory private coaching imposed by the teacher concerned and the unhealthy and abnormal situation of the education system.
A huge amount of national time is lost for it, a continuous concern and tension causes psychological pressure both to the guardians and students creating a clear class division in the society. Those who have money can have better education and the rest will have no education. In the same class, the affluent and middle-income family students will have private coaching but others cannot afford to do it. It encourages adopting unfair means among the guardians. Educational institutions must be made the centres of educational and cultural activities. Commercials centres in the name of selling education must be banished in the greater interest of the nation. As the Education Commission has been entrusted with this solemn and gigantic responsibility of the nation, they cannot afford to avoid these ills of the educational arena of the country.
Another thing lies neglected. The scarcity of better schools in the urban and metropolitan areas at the government level has included some acute problems. Some schools have been established in the private sector where all the students rush for getting admission. But the very small number of seats of these institutions cannot accommodate the huge number of students. The question of adopting unfair means arises from this point. The total schooling going population must be counted and then to be determined whether they have enough seats in the existing institutions. If it is not done, the mushroom growth of low-quality schools and commercialization of education will get further momentum.
MPs can be the chairman of governing bodies of four educational institutions in their constituencies and the remaining ones will need MP’s recommendation for selection of governing body chairman and members. MPs have much work to do in a developing country like ours. Making law, involving in all development activities, production, agricultural development, improving law and order situation should be their main functions. They must not be allowed to influence the educational affairs of the country. They are human beings, not angels. Definitely, political colour will get mixed in forming governing body, running schools. These will seriously hamper providing quality education. The interference of politics in educational institutions and its negative impact is not unknown to any conscious citizen of the country. For petty party interest, the involvement of MPs must be kept away in the greater interest of the nation. Higher educational institutions are highly politicized and its ugly impact is discerned at every step of the state. Students don’t want to study. The cop[y in the examination hall. Teachers dare not stop committing their crimes for the sake of their lives. As a result, the universities are producing unqualified graduates who have only certificates, not quality with some possible exceptions.
The government seems to be very much complacent with the education policy. We had several education commissions before this one but we could translate any one of it into reality. Its implementation proves to be gigantic challenges. The government must be ready to face those challenges. All the universities are under the claws of ugly political games. Students of the party in power are seriously involved in tender business keeping aside their books and learning. It has become a common practice of the pupils who do politics. General students don’t have any accommodation in the dormitories until and unless they enrol themselves in a particular party. Being a bright citizen of the country who has got admission by virtue of his quality cannot have seat in the national institution without satisfying the party goons of the university. We must not close our eyes and pretend that we don’t know it or the vague and evasive answer that necessary actions will be taken against those who are responsible for it.
At National University the number of staff is 1200, officers 650, teachers only 25. Exams being conducted by teachers, staffs are just to distribute the packets of scripts. Since its inception, it has become a ‘corruption centre’ of higher education. Staffs are all the while busy with doing politics. Their employment has been done on political ground. The present commission has recommended decentralizing it and establishing one centre in each division. We think the National University concept in an existing way must be abolished. All the colleges must be brought under the public universities or even established private universities. We have practising teachers there who conduct research. They know how to impart quality education and education administration. The so-called officials and staff of National University have seriously undermined the status of higher education in the country. National University can be converted into a fully-fledged academic university making it free from only certificate awarding university.
All the teachers from primary to higher secondary level must be trained. To deal with very sophisticated, intellectual and psychological phenomena, the individuals clinging to this profession must have professional training. If an untrained driver is given a car to drive in the street, what will happen? He will kill many passers-by and he himself may be killed. All the armed people (Police, army, ansar) first received training on how to use the arms, then they are given arms in their hands. Teachers deal with a more sophisticated and ingenious thing without any training which is very dangerous. Now training is arranged both in the government and private sectors but the teachers do not seem to attach any importance to it.
The training which gives money to the teachers, teachers prefer those training. It proves that they receive training not to develop their professional quality but to earn some extra money. This thing must be changed. Teachers must receive training in the same way as they received graduation or master’s degree from colleges and universities of their own. If training is made mandatory, they must receive it. Graduates enrol as secondary school teachers. But they don’t have the training and after their enrolment, it becomes difficult to receive training. So, the government can introduce a graduation course on ‘ education for four years in all the colleges like IER of DU. It will produce hundreds of qualified teachers who will be given preference in secondary school teaching.
Teachers need money. They must study a lot and conduct research. Creativity is an integral part of the teaching profession. But our teachers, with some exceptions, are not creative. They concentrate and limit their world within private coaching just to earn money but it is not creative at all. Just certain chapters and lessons they harp on year after year and even throughout their lives and get acquainted as a so-called famous teacher. Neither the guardians nor the students identify their loophole. With this capital, they continue their business doing irreparable loss to the nation. They fail to produce future citizens with their analytical capabilities which are absolutely necessary. The more the days pass, the more the problems get acute.
The introduction of some practical and effective measures can make the teachers creative and remove their financial constraints. Students will not be the victims of their whims and they will be creative enough. The entire term-end exam questions will be prepared by teachers of different institutions and they will be given remuneration. All the scripts of one school and college will be checked by the teachers of other schools and colleges to identify the genuine situation of the students. At the present practice of examination in schools and higher secondary colleges, in most of the cases, students cannot learn their original situation. Those who study with their teachers privately obtain good marks and the rest always show poor performance. They are also neglected in the class. This situation must be changed. Teachers will be given remuneration for checking the scripts. The real weak students will have private and extra coaching but it must be arranged in the respective educational institutions, not at home of the teachers.
A brilliant graduate may be given the opportunity to join as a primary school teacher but the opportunity should be kept open for him/her so that he/she can be a high school teacher and even a college teacher by showing his/her talent in the competitive examination. In the existing system, the graduates who join as secondary school teacher don’t have easy access to college teaching in spite of their having all requisite qualifications and merit. They will be given the opportunity to reach the highest level of education administration. If it is done, the brighter students will join this profession. In the existing system, even if a bright candidate joins the teaching, he/she waits for another better chance to change the job neglecting his/her usual duties. They hardly concentrate on teaching. We cannot afford to linger in this situation any more. The promotion of teachers all over the country irrespective of educational institutors will be quite uniformed.
I am giving a practical example of this non-uniformity. The teachers of Rajuk Uttara Model College (Intermediate College) become assistant professor giving only four or five years of service without sitting any competitive examination and after ten or twelve years they become an associate professor. Whereas, in a cadet college a teacher becomes an assistant professor after fifteen or more years. In some city schools of Dhaka or collegiate schools (up to intermediate) the same level of teachers is only assistant teachers though they have masters in respective subjects. In non-government, government and semi-government educational institutions, the teachers must be of the same quality and status. To get a promotion all the teachers must sit for the test after satisfying the set criteria so that their promotion has uniformity and national recognition.
In the whole structure of education administration, the influence and occupying the higher post by the college teachers for looking after and controlling the primary and secondary school teachers and education system remains an unsatisfactory question. No teacher from the primary or secondary level is there to represent the particular tier of education genuinely. Moreover, the highest positions are occupied by the officials of the administration cadre. The existing education administration cannot be said as ‘education friendly’. It must be made ‘education friendly’ indeed.