MD. MASUM BILLAH
In 1990 two lakh 94 391 students sat for HSC examination. Among them science students were 28.13 percent. This year (2008) science students were 19.41 percent out of 5 lakh 2 thousands and 796 students studied science. In 1990 SSC Science students were 42.21 percent, this year 23.76 percent which clearly shows the downward trend of science education in the country. In 1990 HSC Business Studies students were 19.41 percent but this year (2008 ) it has risen to 31.79 percent. In the last two decades science learners in SSC 18.45 and in HSC 8.72 percent declined. In the country in one thousand, five hundred and twelve schools science is not taught at all. In many schools and colleges where science is taught but the standard is awfully poor because of the lack of laboratory facilities and competent teachers.
Students think studying science means to be a doctor, or engineer or agriculturist. Other branches of science and general science hardly appeal the students and hold brighter perspective. Medical colleges and engineering university and institutes admit only the brilliant students. The urban and most sophisticated rural areas harbour science students. Normal or ordinary students hardly study science which entails financial involvement, extra teachers or coaching. Many rural students cannot afford to do it.
Alarmed at the decline of the quality of science education and students’ enrolment for it, key scientists and educationists of the country stressed the need for sensitizing the government to allocate a larger budget for the sector to enhance teachers’ capacity and update the curricula. Science textbooks need to be simplified, teachers’ salaries need to be raised, and science graduates need to be motivated to become teachers. Science graduates manage job in different fields other than education who need to be motivated to come to teaching. These are the recommendations of key scientists and educationists. They suggested introducing a terrestrial television channel dedicated to broadcasting education programs to help both teachers and students by reducing students’ dependence on coaching centres. This is a very good idea. Its implementation need to be scrutinized. Scientists at the discussion identified weak curriculum and textbooks, weak teaching and assessment methods, lack of properly trained teachers and laboratory facilities. Poor salaries of the teachers and students’ sliding interest pose as some of the main reasons for qualitative and quantitative decline of science education in the country. They underscored the need for recruiting quality teachers and building capacity of the existing ones through tele-educaiton using ICT based materials for resuming the government’s stalled Ph.D program and for organizing science weeks and science fairs.
The renowned writers, intellectuals and teachers commented regarding the issue which go in this way. “One needs private coaching to study science in our country. Only the affluent can afford it because it is expensive. Commerce, on the other hand, is a lot easier to study and to get good marks in. one can get into BBA program which has a lot of job opportunities at present is a practical cause of declining science education.”– Dr. Zafar Iqbal, eminent writer and educationist said Science materials are terrible in the country. Prof. Shamsher Ali said, “ The textbooks fail to fire a spirit of enquiry” . Dr.Jamilur Reza Chowdhury, Vice-Chancellor of Brac University said, “ national budget allocation for education in 2004 was only 2.3% of GDP whereas UNESCO recommended minimum 5%.Mahfuz Anam, the editor of the Daily Star, stressed the need for brining back science education to the mainstream suggesting to organize a national science convention and similar events at district levels.
It is the imperative of the time to form a national committee comprising of these people and conduct a need assessment throughout the country keeping under consideration the rural and urban context. Popularize science education and equip the young learners to face the challenges of the twenty-first century.
Author: Senior Manager, BRAC Education Programme, PACE, BRAC, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Email: [email protected]