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What are they learning?

  • Published at 11:58 pm March 1st, 2019
Don’t let them down 
Don’t let them down / MAHMUD HOSSAIN OPU

Our entire education system needs a facelift

Teachers working in both public and private schools are prohibited from coaching students commercially -- this is a worthwhile verdict recently given by the apex court of Bangladesh. This has become a law to be strictly followed by the teachers and to be executed by the Ministry of Education. 

It is true that we have achieved significant progress in primary and secondary education in terms of enrollment of the students and distribution of books (more than 32 crore) for free every year. Nevertheless, the current state of the education system at all levels is not up to the mark. 

If we really want to make education accessible to all and ensure quality education at both primary and secondary levels, the government needs to seriously implement SDG 4 by 2030.

A lack of well-trained teachers

There is a dearth of well-trained teachers at schools. Although the government has taken some initiatives in this regard, not all the teachers have come under the training program. 

Currently, problems also lie in the English version, because the teachers do not get any subject-wise training either from the Directorate of Primary Education or from the schools. The government seems reluctant to put stress on their training and solve the problem.

Not getting creative

According to a survey conducted by the Research for Advancement of Complete Education (RACE), more than half of the 100 primary school teachers who took part in the survey are still unclear about the “creative” education method introduced about seven years back. 

Even more alarming is that about half of the teachers (47%) surveyed rely on guidebooks to prepare lessons, while 92% students take the help of guidebooks to understand their lessons. The findings of the report also unveil that our students are failing to comprehend what they are taught in schools. 

Non-creative methods like rote learning and an over-dependence on guidebooks are detrimental to the intellectual development of the students. Besides, some teachers do not have a clear idea about the content and materials. 

Classes are not interactive. Learning assessments are old-fashioned. This is why students have become exam-takers, not life-long learners.

Rampant corruption 

Corruption in the education sector is now a menace. Some teachers do not teach properly in classrooms, and they force the students to come to their coaching centres. We, the parents, are usually also very interested in sending our children to those coaching centres. 

We think that achieving GPA 5 is the main goal of education. The obligation of sitting for public exams -- PEC and JSC -- is the root cause of the mushrooming growth of coaching centres.

Why are our students being forced to sit for the PEC or JSC exam at such a tender age? This is unnecessary. Our eminent educationists and intellectuals -- National Professor Dr Anisuzzaman, National Professor Dr Jamilur Reza Chowdhury, DU Professor Emeritus Serajul Islam Choudhury, Professor Abdullah Abu Saeed, and Professor Dr Zafar Iqbal -- have given their opinions in policy-making forums and asked the government to rethink and scrap both these exams.

Poor pay for the teachers

It is really unfortunate that the school teachers are ill-paid in this country, and that they do not even get the proper respect from society. 

Because of their poor salaries, most of them are compelled to run coaching businesses. 

Since independence, no government has taken any significant initiative to offer decent/lucrative remuneration to these school teachers who are the real nation-builders. 

And due to the poor pay, meritorious students do not come to this profession by choice. This is also a major impediment to ensuring quality basic education for all.

Books full of mistakes

Over the years, it has been detected that students are getting, to some extent, misprinted and unedited books. Last year, Bangla books (from class III to VIII) were marked with some glaring mistakes in terms of spelling and information. 

Even some of the greatest poems were replaced by the sub-standard ones in Bangla textbooks. Some English version textbooks are not well translated.

Recommendations

a) Take proper steps to approve the “Right to Education” law as per the commitment of the Education Policy 2010 headed by late Professor Kabir Chowdhury

b) Revamp the entire education system to ensure uniform quality education for all 

c) Make a strict guideline for the schools to follow the approved chart of tuition fees

d) Take effective measures to train teachers 

e) Make sure the creative education methods are properly implemented and practised at schools

f) Strictly implement the law banning coaching businesses.

g) Revise the composition of school management committees so that educationists head governing bodies

h) Form an independent pay commission for the teachers at all levels

i) Take strong action against the corrupt individuals who are involved in question paper leaks

j) Scrap PEC and JSC exams immediately

Sheikh Nahid Neazy is Chair and Associate Professor, Department of English, Stamford University.