Equal access to quality education is vital for our progress

Published : Tuesday, 4 October, 2022 at 12:00 AM

Bangladesh, being a country with huge population and limited resources, has come far due to the heavy developments during the last decade. The country has been even termed as the role model of development. In attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Bangladesh has portrayed serious progress. Ensuring comprehensive and equitable quality education and encouraging opportunities for lifelong learning for everyone are critical components of the SDGs. Although Bangladesh has also pursued this objective quickly, it still needs more attention from the authorities because equality and quality must be attained for it to be truly successful.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 is quality education. The United Nations (UN) has defined 10 Targets and 11 Indicators for SDG 4. The goals are set for period till 2030. The goals among others include ensuring that all receive complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education, ensuring they have access to quality early childhood development, substantially increasing the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, eliminating gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations, ensuring that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy,  ensuring that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development etc.

During the British era, the foundation for Bangladesh’s educational system was established. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman gave the order to create a national commission in 1972 following Bangladesh’s declaration of independence in 1971. In 2010, Bangladesh formulated an exceptional education policy. This regulation made pre-primary education mandatory for one year. The government will provide free and mandatory education up to Class VIII in accordance with the national education policy of 2010.

Despite several steps to ensure quality education throughout the country, the constitution of Bangladesh does not recognize education as a right. Education is mentioned in Article 17 of the constitution as a directive principle of state policy. Even though it is said that education is a state policy, the government offers free education up to the intermediate level. We do not understand why the government does not make education a fundamental right given that it offers the chance for free education whilemost of our neighbors have already recognized the right to education as a fundamental right.

In 2002, the Indian government incorporated the right to education in its constitution as a fundamental right of the citizens through Article 21A. The right to education is a fundamental right of Maldivian residents, according to Article 36 of the Maldives’ constitution. Education was made a fundamental right for all people up to secondary level in Article 17 of Nepal’s interim constitution in 2007.  Article 25A of Pakistan’s constitution states that, “the state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children from the age of five to 16 years in such manner as may be determined by law.”

In addition, the right to education has been recognized and ensured by some international laws. Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948 proclaims: “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Education shall be directed to the full development of human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among racial or religious groups.”

The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR, 1966), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, 1979), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC, 1989), and more recently the Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities all contain provisions that guarantee the right to education (2006). Additionally, it has been integrated into a number of national constitutions and regional accords.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has appealed to everyone to cooperate in creating a developed nation, free from hunger, poverty and illiteracy. The literacy rate of Bangladesh was 48.8% in 2008. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina put special emphasis on education and in 2022, the rate is at 74.66%. it’s a great achievement. But after regaining power in 2009, she declared to take the literacy rate at 100% by 2014 and instructed the leaders and activists of her party to at least make one person literate each. But we could not reach that goal. To achieve ‘Vision 2041’, which will enable us to achieve the SDGs, it is imperative that education become a fundamentally guaranteed right for all children.

Dropout rates are a major concern at all educational levels, from primary to secondary, secondary to higher secondary, and higher secondary to undergraduate. Recent data show that approximately 25% of students who enroll in primary education drops out before secondary, approximately 33% of secondary school graduates drop out before higher secondary and more than 50% of students from higher secondarydoes not avail undergraduate study. Poverty is the main socioeconomic factor contributing to the high dropout rate in Bangladesh, although there are other reasons as well. The situation is quite concerning for women and underprivileged groups. Moreover, a huge portion of children never sees the light of education in Bangladesh.

In Bangladesh, the level of schooling varies greatly. For instance, rural education cannot match that of urban areas in terms of quality. Few schools, colleges, and universities serve as the nation’s ambassadors for high-quality education, while others fall short of expectations. There is a large discrepancy as a result. The educational content itself also differs greatly. Most of the top schools also teach additional literature or disciplines in addition to the core curriculum. However, a sizable portion of the population is still outside that facility.

Moreover, there are a huge number of children in the madrasas, orphanages and Lillah boardings in Bangladesh. These institutions are taking responsibilities of the children’s growth and education and we must admire that. There should be a common education for all educational institutes including these religious institutions, not conflicting with the religion, considering the country being an over 90% Muslim-majority one. Many students from these religious educational students gets drop out every year and they can easily get involved in fundamental or terrorist activities. Hence, the common education should include the history of the country as well as our culture. The English-medium institutions, which often vary in their curriculums, should also have that common education as a must.

Equal access to quality education must be ensured in Bangladesh. The educational program should be uniform for all students till higher secondary. The topics like the history of Bangladesh or our liberation war should be taught to all kids. The curriculum should be the same for everyone, including pupils in general education and those attending madrasas or technical institutions. A uniform curriculum and teaching style must be used to ensure that teachers and institutions are not prejudiced toward any ideology or group. Although it may seem like a huge challenge, the government should make every effort to guarantee this right to all pupils throughout Bangladesh.

To reach our goal in education, the PM should again declare her revised timeline to reach 100% literacy rate in Bangladesh and should take extensive programs.We are a democratic country. If our people are not educated, they will not realize the real meaning of democracy and even will not be able to exercise their rights. Hence, it is very important that, every child of Bangladesh receives equal and quality education so that he can become an asset for the country.

Future human resources will be compatible if we can guarantee quality education to all students in our nation and create conditions where the number of dropouts is greatly reduced. This educated population will undoubtedly be able to support our growth. Bangladesh will eventually lag behind if this continues. We thus expect that the government will view education as a fundamental human right and direct its attention on giving every Bangladeshi child an equal opportunity to get a quality education.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Chief Patron, BangabandhuShishu Kishore Mela

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