Important Consideration in Planning Student-centred Education in Bangladesh

student-centered learning
Written by Goutam Roy

This article discusses the impact of the ‘student-centred learning’ process on education system of Bangladesh. Present conduction in connection to ‘student-centred learning process’ is also examined identifying its characters and challenges for local and international contexts. As research design, secondary data were used mainly through literature review. Literature asserts that while many of the progressive countries follow ‘student-centred learning’ process as one of the scientific processes, Bangladesh system is yet to adopt. Identifying the probable reasons that are restricting not to adopt this modern technique, a further recommendation is provided to consider for its future action plan.


Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else (Dickens, 1854).

Considering education is a product of lifelong process, these days formal provision is mainly responsible to ensure education for the pupils reflecting the national aims and objectives outlined with belief that students and teachers are the most important variables. The relationship between teachers and students plays a significant role in the learning outcomes. While the concept of ‘disciplined centred’ is having a longer heritage in formal provision of education, ‘student centred’ is significantly newer one with a recent practice of developed countries. The basic difference of these two concepts is that while teacher are the dominator group for disciplined centred education, student centred education is a more connected to participatory approach. In this article examines the potential for student centred education identifying the challenges to offer the solution.

Student-centred Education
Student-centred learning emphasizes providing more responsibility to the learners for their own learning. It involves students in more decision-making processes, and they learn by doing, rather than just by listening and performing often meaningless tasks which are often not in context and therefore ‘unreal’ to them. Because learning becomes more active (rather than passively listening to the teacher), it becomes more memorable: because it is personalized, and relevant to the students’ own lives and experiences, it can bring any subject ‘alive’ and makes it relevant to the real world (Rogers, 2004). However, we can define in the following way – The student-centred education ensures the fact that the students will be subject instead of objects. Besides, the teaching-learning environment should be very student friendly, according to the students’ needs, fearless, supportive, raised spontaneous questions and answers, good and friendly relation between teachers and students, flexible evaluation etc. To conclude, the concept of student-centered learning, we note following observations:

•    Student-centered learning is a way of thinking about student learning. It requires that our planning, teaching, and assessment focuses on the needs and abilities of our students – how they learn, what they experience, and how they engage with their learning.
•    Student-centered learning is a shared knowledge and shared authority between the students and teacher. Where the teacher shares control of the classroom and students are allowed to experiment with learning.
•    Teachers become facilitators, helping students access information, interpret, organize and use knowledge to solve problems.
•    Student-centered learning includes a variety of active strategies, that involve students in doing and thinking about what they are doing. Students are given the responsibility for learning.
•    Student-centered learning is based on the idea that learning is meaningful when topics are relevant to the students’ lives, needs, and interests and when the students themselves are actively engaged in constructing their own knowledge. Hence, students are given choices and are included in the classroom decision-making.
•    Student-centered learning is where students work in both groups and individually to explore problems and take initiatives that allow them to discover their own meaningful information.
•    Students learn how to learn through discovery, inquiry, and problem solving.

Advantages of Student-centered Learning
Research suggests that student-centered learning is effective for every member of the classroom, because it takes into account their diverse learning needs and greatly increases students’ retention of both knowledge and skills. Student-centered learning is recognition that different people learn in different ways and that learning requires active engagement by the students. It is a way of connecting class topics with students’ lives, offering students choices in their learning. Students are excited when they discover something for themselves. This excitement generally translates into better engagement, longer retention of knowledge and greater motivation to learn. Students also gain confidence in themselves as they take on new responsibilities and become competent problem-solvers. Students have higher achievement when they have confidence in themselves and when they attribute success to their own abilities and not to luck or help. Student-centered learning enables students to develop the necessary work place skills and attributes expected of people in a knowledge society. These key elements are problem-solving– Identifying the problem, planning, testing the options and effectiveness of the solutions; working with others, team building, developing interpersonal skills and independence; learning how to learn encourages students to inquire, ask questions, plan, predict, test and draw conclusions; reflection, refining and improving their work; recognition of interdisciplinary knowledge and generic, cross-curriculum skills, values and attributes that promote lifelong learning and allow students to adapt and transfer their learning across subject boundaries; research skills– where students need to find relevant information, classify data and analyze relationships; generating numerous ideas, looking for alternatives, using Information, communication technology as an integral learning tool; encourages innovation and creativity through deep learning and requires students to think, about their learning, the issues and the problems; develop tolerance, understanding and respect of other’s opinions; responsibility- for one’s own learning, actions, and responsibility to the group.

Challenges of Student-centered Learning
The hardest part for a teacher is often letting go. Creating an atmosphere where purposeful and meaningful learning can take place depends on finding a comfortable balance between maintaining authority and relinquishing control, encouraging active and consistent participation, and setting expectations of the type of participation that is valued. Assessment process for student-centered learning process is the hardest and most challenging. Following common challenges are often faced at with this process.

•    Hard to make a clear linkage the assessment procedures to the content.
•    Hard to be specific on negotiate assessment. What will be assessed and how?
•    Assessment becomes an ongoing activity that drives instruction, rather than a culminating event.
•    Students, teachers and parents are included in evaluating a variety of forms of assessments.
•    Self assessment– could be done as a reflective journal
•    Peer assessment
•    If the task is designed for a particular target group, get members of the target group to assess it.
•    Expert assessment- this could be formal assessment from the teacher, or assessment from an outside professional source.
•    Expectations of quality and breadth of students’ thinking

Major Features at Student-centered Learning
Flexible curriculum: The aim of the flexible curriculum is to inclusive education and ultimate goal is to inclusive society. Therefore, the curriculum is the most important factors for implementing student-centered education. It could be ensured a child friendly and flexible evaluation system through a flexible curriculum. In flexible curriculum, students are the main focus and school system is being continuously adjusted according to the real needs of all the students. Everything is targeted for the students and their interests specially focus on all children in the classroom and attends to individual needs to all children, and more careful to the needy one. Teacher just helps, give proper guideline and promote the aspiration of the student’s own mind.

Human rights as well as child rights in practice The most important international policies to support student-centered and democratic rights are:

1.    The Declaration of Human Rights –  December 10, 1948
2.    The Convention on the Rights of Children, 1989, United Nations
3.    Education for All: 1990 World conference in Jomtien, Thailand
4.    Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Person with Disabilities, 1994
5.    The Salamanca Statement, 1994, UNESCO
6.    The Dakar Framework for Action, 2000, UNESCO (Latif, 2001)

If we could be able to properly maintain and practice the human and child rights, the student-centered education will be ensured.

Changing the socio-cultural attitudes as well as colonized mindset: The education system in Bangladesh is greatly affected by the British colonialism. The colonial power oppressed all about our society as well as our education system. Having aimed their own benefit they introduced and imposed all their favourable education policy as well. Besides these, in Bangladeshi society the teachers-students relation is not very friendly because of the societal norms and customs. They seldom mix each other in friendly attitudes.

Challenges in the Context of Bangladesh
Let us have a quick look at the history of the modern education system in Bangladesh to understand it properly. In the British colonial period, the British East India Company introduced English education in this subcontinent to make some skilled personnel who would work in favour of them. Not only that, they also tried their best to manipulate the existing education system to their end. To do that, they formed several education commissions frequently which intention was to achieve previously mentioned objectives. And, they were successful to reach their goal. In 1947, the British left from Indian sub-continent but we still cling to their system whereas British came across a long way in education.

The Bangladeshi school system is based on banking concept which mentioned by Paulo Freire which is going on from long before where the teacher teaches and the students are taught. In that concept, the teacher knows everything and the students know nothing. The teacher thinks and the students are thought about. The teacher talks and the students listen – meekly. The teacher disciplines and the students are disciplined. The teacher chooses and enforces his or her choice, and the students comply. The teacher acts and the students have the illusion of acting through the action of the teacher. The teacher chooses the programme content, and the students (who were not consulted) adapt to it. The teacher confuses the authority of knowledge with his or her own professional authority, which she and he sets in opposition to the freedom of the students. The teacher is the subject of the learning process, while the pupils are mere objects (Freire, 1993).

Colonialism makes a country fully dependents on both mentally and physically. It decreases the creativity of the respective fellow citizens dramatically. Colonialism always makes people unconscious and uncivilized. The colonialism force tried to impose the so-called education system so that they can be benefited in their own mission.

The total primary education system here in Bangladesh is different with various flaws, which stand as an insurmountable setback in the way of imparting flexible and child-friendly curriculum. The country is bearing the colonial legacy and the upper class or dominant class like teachers of the existing society are still cherishing the hegemonic mind. In this circumstance, they impose their own thinking to the curriculum and, unfortunately, when it comes to practice, it is not child-friendly at all. The teachers and society are not ready enough to instruct and follow the student-centred education to the classroom yet. The hidden reasons could be the long used colonial mind and some cultural dominance going on in this land from the long time.

However, the impact of the Jomtien World Conference on Education for All (WCEFA) held in March 1990, which promoted an expanded vision of student-centred education with the aim of meeting the basic learning needs of all children, youths and adults, has been felt in Bangladesh (WCEFA, 1990).

For qualitative improvement in the primary education sector, several new programmes have been introduced such as (a) a curriculum dissemination programme for teachers, (b) cluster and sub-cluster training programmes, (c) summative and formative pupil assessment, and (d) a satellite school programme. In spite of all these things, a matter of great regret that the quality of primary education system in Bangladesh is still concern. Besides, there is no well-defined and well-accepted to all definition of the term ‘Quality Education’.

Society and school are strongly related with each other. “The school will influence the society and the society will influence the school” (Darnel & Hoem, 1996). And also education is seen as an ongoing process according to Darnel and Hoem. Those are obviously interrelated. Therefore, to improve the primary education system, it is badly needed to improve the attitude of the society as well. The colonial practice is alive in the Bangladeshi society still now. From top to bottom, the planners, the authorities, the teachers, the guardians, the students all of them think in the same platform. As a result, the whole education system is following the “banking concept of education” still now. The teacher is the all in all in the classroom and the students are only listener and worked as a passive media. On the other hand, the policy makers are making policy based on the urban experience while most of the students live in the village area. The policy makers should think more about the real needs while making and designing the syllabus and curriculum.

In the existing education system in Bangladesh, teachers take over all control of the classroom as she or he is the authority of all over the knowledge area. The students are always supposed to think that the teacher is right at any circumstances. The students never dare to protest the teacher. For this reason, the students are only partly able to memorise the idea which is related only a small part of cognitive domain. They are not able to develop their other cognitive, affective and psychomotor domain. The students listen and drink the knowledge from the teacher as medicine. In the banking concept of education, knowledge always is being sold to the students. Such is the reality and mindset of most of the people in the Bangladeshi society, so it is great challenge to change this long practised tradition into student-centred education.

Besides these, there are some other big challenges to implement the student-centred education.

1.    The curriculum and its content of our education are not connected with the real life situation. Two examples could be placed here. One of the classwise attainable competencies for grade 5 students is to write personal diary. Considering socio-economic status and culture of this country, is it really possible for the students to do it properly? Moreover, this competency does not explain what skill would be increased among students by doing it. In another competency, students were asked to memorise the birth dates of their friends. It is mainly a culture of urban areas and rural students are not familiar with this. So, how would it be possible to achieve this competency by rural students?

2.    National plan is taken often without considering the root level practical experience. It is totally the result of orientalistic views according to Said (1979). Most of the planners seldom know about the real situation of the remote village. It should be included some of the experienced primary school teacher selecting from the different parts of the country to the different committees regarding education and make more favourable policy for all.

3.    The concept of community participation has arisen as a major concern and the role and responsibilities of the school heads have been redefined (Adu-Duhau, 1990). Community participation can help in many ways by ensuring access of all children to school, providing material and financial support, requiring responsibilities at the household level to name a few (NAEM & BRAC, 2004). There is a severe lack of community involvement. The existing School Managing Committee or SMC members are not conscious enough to fulfil the aims. Most of the cases, the SMC members do not know what their duties are and how to make those effect full. Here, the electronic media can broadcast some programme regarding the responsibility of the guardian and also selecting some qualified and responsible person while making the committee. It could be provided training to them how to make their responsibility more fruitful and effective.

From the discussion, it is clear that student-centred education is the combination of different learning approaches which make the students as subject to the teaching-learning process. As the process demands inputs from others phenomena, so we can consider a model combining with different factors considering present situation of our education system and culture of our society as well as making a target to the future. The proposed model for student-centred education is given below.  

student-centered learning

Fig 1. In a holistic approach, the following model can also be an important consideration.

The model gives importance to the four factors – national education policy, mass media, flexible evaluation process and democracy in practice. Students-centred education could be made by combining and rearranging those factors. The factors always would be interrelated and student-centred education would be placed at middle always so that it can take all the effective output from those factors. On the contrary, it is also possible to change all the four factors according to the demand of speedy time by expected implementation of student-centred education in our country like IPO (Input-Process-Output) model (UNESCO, 2005; Mayeer et al., 2000; Chowdhury et al., 1997). In this model, a large number of components are placed at process area which proper execution can change the education system of the country and can advance to a new input and output components. Like IPO model, proper dealing out of student-centred education can change the present provision and culture of these four factors.

However, along with the model, we suggest some other recommendation below which can ensure student-centred education environment and make it effective to our education system.

1.    To implement the universal human rights and child rights declaration, the government should be more serious. Government should take target-oriented plans which could be implemented swiftly.
2.    Above all, teacher’s knowledge as well as attitudes should be updated with the advanced world. In this respect, they should be given priority to the modern innovations in education through taking proper long term pre-service training and also in service short term training from home and abroad.
3.    Teachers should not underestimate the students’ learning capability and they will have to ensure that the total environment will be learning by doing. Teacher will encourage the students to through question and she or he will work as a facilitator.
4.    The curriculum will be more child-centric and creating tomorrow’s learner-centred environment would be ensured.
5.    Learner-centred language and instruction process will be ensured in all level of education where transforming of the learning will be possible without any problem.

School system reflexes the future hope and aspiration of a society. It is also termed as the key to success of any nation. However, it is a matter of great regret that we are lagging behind to cope with the advanced world in terms of introducing the student-centred education. In recent years, we have been little bit conscious about the necessity of introducing student-friendly curriculum. Only having invested more budget and recruiting lots of qualified persons from home and abroad it will not be possible. Of course, we have to introduce the student-centric, dialogic and problem posing education and also overcome the curse of orientalistic approach by practicing flexile curriculum and overcome social attitudes. In this circumstance, we could learn a lot from Paulo Freire’s and Said’s experiences. But, at the same time, we should concentred for raising the consciousness of the society through the mass media like as print and electronic media so that they are able to realize themselves. This is high time we did the real thing that will be more helpful to enrich the student-centred education system. We should try our level best to improve the existing situation turned into student-friendly education to build up a strong and powerful nation to fight the challenges of 21st century.

Chowdhury, A. M. R., Haq, M. N. & Ahmed Z. (1997). Quality of Primary Education in Bangladesh. In Jalaluddin, A. K. & Chowdhury, A. M. R. (Editors), Getting Started: Universalizing Quality Primary Education in Bangladesh. Dhaka: University Press Limited.

Darnell, F. & Hoem, A. (1996). Taken to Extreme. Oslo: Scandinavian University Press.

Dickens, C. (1854). Hard Times. New York: Harpar and Brothers.

Freire, P. (1993). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum Press.

Latif, A. H. (2001). Bangladesher Upanusthanik Shikkha (Non-formal Education of Bangladesh) [In Bangla]. Dhaka: Abu Hamid Latif.

NAEM & BRAC. (2004). School Management: Learning from Successful Schools in Bangladesh. Dhaka: NAEM and BRAC.

Rogers, G. (2004). Student-centred Learning – What Does It Mean for Teachers? Retrived in August 23, 2008, from http://www.bangkokpost.com/education/site2004/cvjn0104.htm

Said, W. E. (1979). Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books Edition.

UNESCO, (2005). EFA Global Monitoring Report. Paris: UNESCO.

WCEFA, (2000). World Conference on Education for All: Meeting Learning Needs. Jomtien. Paris: UNESCO.

Writers: Taposh Kumar Biswas, Lecturer, Institute of Education and Research, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Email: [email protected] and Goutam Roy, Research Coordinator, Research, Evaluation and Dissemination, Plan Bangladesh, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Email: [email protected]

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Goutam Roy

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