With the advent of a brand new year, educational institutions get a cheerful look as textbook festival is celebrated across the country. About 36,210 million free textbooks were distributed on the first day of the year among 42.6 million primary and secondary level school students of Bangladesh for 2017 academic year. Certainly the distinct scent that emanates from freshly printed books with colourful illustrations has encouraged the students to concentrate more on studies right at the beginning of their academic calendar. Earlier, the results of JSC, JDC and PEC examinations were published on December 29, 2016. The pass rate in this year’s Junior School Certificate (JSC) examination and Junior Dakhil Certificate (JDC) examination is 93.06 percent while the rate is 98. 51 percent in Primary Education Completion (PEC) examination. A total of 247,588 students have obtained GPA-5 in JSC and JDC exams. The figure was 196,263 last year. The numbers of GPA-5 holders and pass rate have increased this year than the last year. The average pass rate has increased by 0.73 percent while the amount of GPA-5 has increased by 51,325. Despite these statistical portrayals of success, there are criticisms that though the number of pass rate and GPA-5 are increasing, the quality of education is going down.
We asked country’s eminent educationist Professor Serajul Islam Chowdhury about declining quality of education. He replied, “Main purpose of academic education is to unfold the latent talents of the students and prepare them for their future life. Pass rate or the number of GPA-5 never can be the chief criterion to measure the quality of education. Unfortunately, the government wants to prove that the quality of education is improving through higher pass rate and increasing number of GPA-5 holders. But every year during the university admission test, we find that the admission seekers including those GPA-5 holders can’t even achieve the minimum pass marks! There are allegations that the examiners are suggested to examine the answer scripts with a sympathetic attitude. This is completely ridiculous. Such attempts are providing a wrong idea about the assessments of the students. After achieving GPA-5, they become optimistic about their future, but when they don’t get desired subjects and better institutions for higher studies, ultimately they become frustrated. If we deceive our young generation in this way, we can’t expect a bright future.”
Well, the role of knowledge providers, recipients and overall environment is equally important for ensuring quality education. Students should get enough opportunity to cope with the environment. Teachers should be trained properly and well paid so that they don’t need to think about their family expenses and can concentrate on the qualitative changes of their students. Research and innovation to enrich education system should be encouraged with adequate funding. Without considering these factors present examination-based education cannot make any change.
While talking about the examination-oriented education system, Professor Abdullah Abu Sayeed, founder of Bishho Shahitto Kendro, stated that, “Once guardians used to send children to stay in the houses of the teachers so that they could learn the life skills. Back then there was no examination system. Students were true knowledge seekers. With the passage of time everything has changed. As the quality of the students is measured only by the results, now they have become examinees. Instead of acquiring knowledge, they focus more on achieving better marks or grades. All are in a race to get GPA-5. Most of the students don’t find any pleasure in their academic studies. They are just bound to participate in the examinations. Excessive number of examinations steals their joy of childhood. Educational institutions should be attractive for the students so that they can learn the importance of aesthetics.”
Access to quality education is essential for development. Education not only provides value to children, youth and adults to be active citizens and fulfill themselves as individuals, but also contributes directly to reduce poverty. Quality education is a peoples’ right. That is why the state’s role is particularly important in this regard. Quality education depends on how the government designs its educational research and management policy as from primary to university level, students, educational institutions and the guardians follow that strategy.
Sayeda Atikun Nahar, Associate Professor, Institute of Education and Research (IER), University of Dhaka, shared, “Education is based on the textbook curriculum in Bangladesh. In an examination a student has to write answers of some questions based on textbooks. An examination on a certain day can’t measure the actual quality a student achieves throughout the year. Students’ every day performance, participation, enthusiasm, discipline, behaviour and extracurricular activities should be included as a part of the academic curriculum and the teachers should be suggested to evaluate a student considering all these features. Unfortunately, the education system of Bangladesh is quite the opposite.”
Article 15 of our constitution ensures education as the basic right for every citizen of Bangladesh. First part of the article states that, “It shall be a fundamental responsibility of the State to attain, through planned economic growth, a constant increase of productive forces and a steady improvement in the material and cultural standard of living of the people, with a view to securing to its citizens- (a) the provision of the basic necessities of life, including food, clothing, shelter, education and medical care”. Article 17 mentions about free and compulsory education. It articulates that, “The State shall adopt effective measures for the purpose of – (a) establishing a uniform, mass oriented and universal system of education and extending free and compulsory education to all children to such stage as may be determined by law and (b) relating education to the needs of society and producing properly trained and motivated citizens to serve those needs”. Besides, article 19 evaluates that “(1) The State shall endeavour to ensure equality of opportunity to all citizens.” And the second part of it states that, “(2) The State shall adopt effective measures to remove social and economic inequality between man and man and to ensure the equitable distribution of wealth among citizens, and of opportunities in order to attain a uniform level of economic development throughout the Republic.” After forty-five years of our independence, when we look at our education system, reality doesn’t match with the words written in the constitution. Three education systems – Bangla medium, English medium and Madrasah – are available in our country. And there are at least eleven kinds of education systems in the primary level. Guardians choose education system for their children according to their monthly income. Under this kind of system a little child faces a clear economic and cultural discrimination from a tender age, which gradually increases with time. Private tuitions, coaching centres, guide books and multi-standard educational institutions have turned education into the most expensive commodity. If the current system of unequal opportunities based on the economic classes doesn’t change, the dream of providing quality education to all will remain a far cry.