Friday, May 24, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

Perspectives lost to ostentatiousness

Values of self and society that were inculcated have transformed to narrow views that are inexplicably focused on tirades and hatred rather than tolerance and co-existence

Update : 23 Mar 2024, 02:13 PM

There was a profound symbolism that inspired the design of the magnificent Central Shaheed Minar built in memory of the 1952 language martyrs. The figure of a mother mourning the tragic loss of her children created goosebumps complemented by the stirring bare-footed Probhat Ferry with individuals clutching a bunch of flowers.

That symbolism has given way to the uninspiring, distanced one-minute past midnight observation where bouquets and other floral decorations and banners that few really notice, almost hide the majesty of the Minar. And then we have the now archaic procession of meetings and seminars on how to implement Bangla in all spheres of life even as everyone scrambles for English medium or version education for children.

That most businesses and companies search for equal if not more English-biased language skills is a stark reality. The reminder is that for a country with a burgeoning import-dependent population, we still rely on internationalism for the broad growth of our economy vis a vis expatriation and exports. That’s where the education system has failed us.

The best minds that really inform policy, strategy and culture were mostly educated in non-English medium schools but where standards were strong so as to produce rounded individuals. Learning branched into various extremes of liberal arts and science with sub-branches into specialization.

As numbers grew and jobs didn’t, the focus shifted absurdly towards badly thought-out vocational training and just as incomprehensible religious education that is a pale successor to the more liberal version. The famous Aliya Madrasa didn’t churn out religious bigots except what we allowed to be an abject surrender.

Values of self and society that were inculcated have transformed to narrow views that are inexplicably focused on tirades and hatred rather than tolerance and co-existence. New values in conflict with commonly held views have been forced on young minds and an almost regimented approach has prevented questions being asked or views being voiced. The practice of elocution has been subverted by parroted narratives.

In the 1980s the people of West Bengal (Bangla as it is today) were in awe of how shop and institutional signage in Bangladesh sported Bangla and English. Barring most state offices, English signage is woefully predominant today. The rickshaw-puller recognizes “university” as opposed to “bishwabiddalay,”  “college” instead of “mohabiddalay” and so on and so forth. Changing the language quotient in a 200-year-old colonial system has to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. We chose the abrupt change instead.

Before school and college students are made familiar with a Bangla lineage, rewriting science and medicine books in the local language is impossible. Perhaps that’s why as of today no medical or law books are available in Bangla and worse still, no teachers adept in imparting education accordingly. In between has come the less important but definitively prioritized move to change Bangla words and spelling that apparently are at some odds.

Many countries have adapted sciences in their lingua franca. The sub-continent is happy where it is sticking with laws thrust upon us by the colonialists, governance systems that those creating them have moved on from and actually furthering the goals of cultural aggression imposed on us.

The British broke down our education, cultural, and social institutions, substituting them with a crass mismatch that a section of the population clung to for dear life. And when it came to independence from the colonialists it was the same section that began to craft, however muddled, the future direction. As we struggle in this catch 22 situation, the world moves on. Technology and science will be the future with the liberal arts and sub-branches playing a different role.

STEM schooling comprising science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is being pushed through. And liberal arts instead of being unique are to support that education. The jury is still out over where literature is supposed to be positioned. Oxford University is under pressure not to have Shakespeare as a major course. Whether Rabindranath Tagore or Kazi Nazrul Islam is positioned among the nextgen is a tough question but one that must be asked.

The muddle between original Bangla, the confusing Bangla-English mix, and growing use of regional dialect has to be addressed, as well as the use of Sanskrit and Islamic terminology. Perhaps the worst malady is a generation that appears not to appreciate traditional folklore and historical events and individuals. It’s bedevilled by superficial ostentatiousness that is covering over the core aspect of being Bengali.

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