Reforming primary education is critical to sustain development

Published : Tuesday, 3 March, 2020 at 12:00 AM

Bangladesh is pursuing developments in different areas in a very fast pace. It has been a story of tremendous achievements in the last decade. We have been able to place ourselves as the role model of development in front of the global audience and different under developed and developing countries are learning from our example. But along with these developments, it is very important to ensure that we can sustain our achievements.

For that, we must have a capable future generation in the form of globally competitive human resource. Unfortunately, we are standing far behind in that aspect. Considering the current context, it is heartbreaking that we cannot be very hopeful about the next generation who will take the charge of this country a decade or two later. To come out of this scenario, we must shape up our future generations from the very beginning of their lives and hence, we should ensure an effective primary education for all children of this country.

Though the children’s fate in Bangladesh has changed a lot over the years and they now have better access to their basic rights especially education, yet the situation is not satisfactory. The government has initiated several programs like free primary education, free books, subsidized food, free food materials, free access to digital study materials and many others. This has made the parents, chiefly from rural areas, interested to send their children to schools but then too our country is still lagging behind in ensuring quality education to a great extent.

In Bangladesh about 30 per cent of the people live in extreme poverty and many families are quite unable to fulfil the basic needs which compel them to engage their children in risky works. About 22 per cent of the children in Bangladesh are illiterate, 30 per cent know how to signature their names, 36 per cent of the children have primary education and only 10 per cent have secondary education.

Approximately 80 per cent of students enrolled in grade one complete primary school. High drop-out rates due to poverty and poor quality of teaching and learning are serious problems for primary schools. Only 46 per cent of boys and 53 per cent of girls attend secondary school. About 50 per cent of primary and 80 per cent of secondary level students drop out of school in Bangladesh.

A total of 3,094,265 students took part in the PSC and Ebtedayee exams in 2014. These students appeared in the JSC and JDC exam in 2017. But only 24,68,820 examinees appeared in JSC and JDC exam in 2017. So, a total of at least 6,25,445 students who completed primary education in 2014 did not appear in JSC. Moreover, those students who appeared in JSC in 2017 were supposed to appear in SSC exam in 2020. A total 20,47,779 students took part in the SSC and equivalent examinations in 2020. Hence, at least 4,21,041 students who appeared in JSC in 2017 did not appear in SSC. Moreover, many drop out even before PSC every year. This is a continuous scenario of the education sector of Bangladesh. These dropouts are actually more concerning for the society as they often gets involved in anti-social and anti-national activities.

Different research and studies in recent times also showed that the parents are still to an extent not interested to send their children to schools and if they do, many children do not get the opportunity to have education over the primary level despite efforts from different stakeholders. About 13 per cent of the children of Bangladesh are involved in child labors and they are deprived from education and other child rights. These children mostly get engaged in works related to earning livelihood and their childhood is shattered. At the age of playing and studying, they are pushed into hard labour which does not allow their mental and physical growth as well as to explore their true potential.

Considering the abovementioned scenario, we should not get disheartened as Bangladesh government under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has taken several drastic steps to bring all children to school and the scenario is improving day by day. But the serious concern lies with improving the quality of education which will turn the children of today into a great human resource and leader of tomorrow.

There is no way we can sustain our development and progress if efficient human resource cannot be created. The government is chasing Vision 2041 and SDGs and considering the natural contexts, the children and teenagers of today will be in leadership to sustain and continue chasing those development goals. So, it is critically required that, we focus on creating a competitive future generation of Bangladesh.

Many countries of the Middle East like Libya, Syria, Iraq is in jeopardy because humanity was not preserved among the young generation. Developed countries have invested highly behind building their next generations as their schools use scientific method of teaching exploring the creativity inside the students. Our neighboring countries like India also has progressed a lot in this area as they are offering specialized education to their children from the very beginning with consideration to the interest of the students. This will help them to ensure continuous progress in the future also.

Focusing on quality primary education is a must to create a great future generation. But unfortunately, our primary education is completely lame. The curriculum is not up to the mark and sadly, the quality of teachers is dissatisfactory. Moreover, the whole primary education system of Bangladesh is focused on non-creative education which blocks the power of imagination of a child. It is a mere competition of memorizing something and throwing that back on the exam papers. That is why, education becomes a burden and torture to the students. There is nothing interesting in the primary education in our country.

Usually, the books for primary classes are full of mistakes and also disorganized. It indirectly promotes memorizing which offsets creativity. The quality of teachers is a major concern. Our government frequently changes curriculum and the teachers often cannot cope up with that change. Hence, they had to push the students on the course of memorizing. Moreover, with widespread corruption throughout the nation, the teachers are also severely corrupt just like the parents of the students. It is very unfortunate that, the parents today invest in leaking question papers so that their children can bring good results and the teachers also run this business along with their business of coaching. There is no future of this nation when our parents and teachers are both corrupt. We can never blame the next generation for being involved in ill-practices considering the current practices.

We often the teachers involved in crimes like rape today. Many students committed suicides due to ill behavior of teachers in last few years. The torture in the form of taking coaching from different teachers is crushing the parents. Teachers are often misbehaving with the students. We cannot express the misery of our schools in words. But ideally, the situation should never be like that.

Bangladesh Army runs a school named ‘Proyash’ at 11 cantonments of the country for children with special needs. The way the teachers and children interact in those schools is commendable. Every child is dealt with utmost care and they are receiving the best possible education within their limits. The school focuses on sports and cultural activities and parents can rest assured that though their children have special needs, there is high possibility that they will turn into assets for this country. But our schools who deal with fully capable children are making their students handicapped.
Today is a time of social media or to be more generic, media.

Moreover, we are into the ages of marketing. Now-a-days, we see many arrangements related to the children – different events, competitions and many things else. Today, it is very hard to keep a talent hidden – some beggar boy’s song or rap music becomes viral in seconds. But sadly, this media competition is not bringing any good for this country. Many will disagree but we are creating a sick generation who are tangled with drugs, social media, ill culture and silent depression.

Bangladesh government must take immediate steps to change the curriculum at the primary level. The new curriculum should focus on improving creativity of the students. Teaching manners, social values and cultural norms should be highly prioritized as without those, the education cannot provide a capable future generation. There must be marking assigned to these character learnings and it must be in the form of exam-based learning as well as observations. The teachers should be trained to deal with children and they should be certified separately to deal with kids. The parents and teachers should be legally punished in the court if found involved in any corrupt practice but the children should not be for the misdeed of their parents and teachers. We must promote a child-friendly environment and mentality at every primary school of Bangladesh.

Along with preparing the future generation, we must promote a culture of opportunity at the top tier. The capable youth should receive enough opportunity to move upwards in all aspects. Like; if we talk about politics, the youth should be promoted in good positions inside a party in terms of his contributions and works. The political parties must be open in the aspect of promoting youth. It should be the practice in government and non-government institutions and offices too. At every level and area of the country, this practice is a must as we want to create future leaders in every sector.

It is all about preparing an appropriate pool of youth for taking the leadership roles tomorrow to continue and sustain the developments of this nation. Whatever good we are doing today requires to be sustained in the future for the progress of this country. In the current context, we are not ready at all. Hence, it is essential that we start working at the bottom and the top simultaneously. Hence, we must give a solid educational and moral base at the primary level as well as need to ensure opportunities for the youth at all level. If we can do both, then we will be able to become a developed country soon – the dream we are chasing for a long time.

The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and
Vice-Chairman, Democracy Research Center (DRC)

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