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No longer a place of learning

  • Published at 12:05 am May 14th, 2019

Our progress will be stunted if we don’t change the way we teach our children

The origin of the word “school” is very interesting: It comes from the Greek word “skholê” meaning “leisure.” At that time the school was meant for the soldiers who did not need to go to war or for the farmers who would not go to plough their lands. School time was only an hour long. As days went by, schools became the centres for learning.

In the context of the present condition of education in Bangladesh, we have little or quite nothing that we can be proud of. If we review the recent results of all the public examinations, namely JSC, SSC and HSC, we would see fantastic pass percentages -- in reality, the quality of our education shows a definite downward trend.

A good example would be the SSC results this year.

This year, 82.2% examinees passed the SSC and equivalent examinations. However, the pass rate in 2018 was 77.77%. The number of successful candidates in 2019 has increased but the question remains the same: What about quality? 

It is very unfortunate that, at present, the scope of the education offered in our schools have narrowed down to a great extent -- they are hardly places for learning anymore. The World Development Report (WDR) 2018, published by the World Bank, highlighted the poor performance of schools in Bangladesh. Students are lagging behind in basic language competencies and numeric skill, although they attend scores of exams round the year.

These exams only measure their ability to memorize certain rules and sentences. Unfortunately, they acquire very little knowledge and, again, get very few avenues to apply that limited knowledge in real life. In many cases the examinations determine the activities of a particular lesson and the overall syllabus.  

According to the report, the four major areas that require our attention are: A quality early childhood program; transforming teaching and learning into a genuinely active child-centred approach; stronger school governance and management; and adequate public investment to support these actions.  

These priorities are very difficult to achieve unless all stakeholders work collectively.

However, schools can play a very significant role. First of all, students spend long hours with limited opportunities for recreation in their schools. Schools can create recreational activities for students while also helping them develop their communication, negotiation, leadership, and overall social skills.

Furthermore, majority of parents and guardians are worried about the increased screen time of their children. However, there are plenty of activities they can do with their children at home or in school. Activities like debating, storytelling and essay competitions can develop their language skills.

On the other hand, drawing and crafting can improve their motor skills and level of confidence. Above all, it will strengthen the bond between parents and their children. Participation in mathematics and science competitions can nurture the scientist in them. Development of different skills should be considered at the primary level, not suddenly at the tertiary level.

Many schools are taking initiatives to help students develop such skills. For example, Hurdco recently came up with a very innovative approach of learning where students went to a grocery store for their study tour.

This kind of activity can ignite curiosity in the young minds. It provides an opportunity to ponder and explore. Another example is the Honesty Shop from the Cardiff School where there is no shopkeeper and students buy stationary on their own and simply drop their money. This is how they practice honesty every day.

We need our students to develop not only a moral backbone but also be capable of participating in the global arena.

We should equip them with adequate knowledge and skills to face the challenges in an increasingly globalizing world.

The need of the hour is to transform Bangladesh into one of the most progressive nations in the world, not only in terms of the economy but society as well. To that end, we need sweeping reformations in our education sector. 

Anika Tasneem is a freelance contributor.