Education in Bangladesh Points to Ponder

Kazi Falguni Eshita

Nowadays, tiny tots carrying heavy backpacks stuffed with books can be seen everywhere. Children spend at least four to a maximum of ten hours at school during weekdays. They not only have to handle the constant pressure of homework, but they also have to go through a new kind of torture called the coaching centres. My question is, are we really teaching kids, or forcing them to study against their will? Don’t we have any way out? Today I picked up my pen in search of answers to such questions.
In Bangladesh, we have three to four types of education system:
The General Education System: Here the pupils are required to study the national board curriculum, mainly in Bangla. Recently, English version of board education also seems pretty trendy.
Madrasah Education: This emphasises on religious (Islamic) education with some simple, basic knowledge of certain subjects important, with a main focus on teaching The Holy Quran and Arabic.
Technical/Vocational Education: Those who prefer to have certain practical knowledge instead of being with books all the time, keep this type of Education on top of their priority list.
The primary education, namely grades one to five, is made mandatory for everyone by the government. Even then, some students, mainly in the poverty stricken remote, rural areas, drop out of school. They do so mainly to help their parents earn some extra money. Some students, especially girls, have to stay home to look after their younger siblings while both of their parents work outside. Unfortunately, even today, some little girls are married off just after completion of their primary studies. Parents usually blame poverty for taking such a brutal decision.
On the other hand, in developed countries like The United States of America, education is mandatory for people starting from six to eight year olds, and ending somewhere between sixteen to eighteen.
Even two decades back, when there was no such thing called Primary School Certificate or the Junior School Certificate exams, children used to take studies as entertainment. Very unfortunately, today, the tables have turned around. Children spend the major portion of their days digging into textbooks instead of going out to a huge field to enjoy outdoor games. There is this creepy-crawly thing called GPA 5. Children, along with their parents, prefer to chase after that instead of getting some real life knowledge from friends, or from various experiences.
No, I am not saying letter grades are not important. Obviously, a good academic background would assist a child to develop a good career in the future. My question is, whatever is happening, is it going towards a positive or a negative path? Even the PSC board question papers got leaked out just before the exam, introducing our children to a dark word called dishonesty, or Durnitiin Bangla. If we really want these innocent minds to learn something good, do we have to teach them cheating?
Even the English medium students have to go through the agony of coaching or extra care after school. Sometimes, if they refuse to go to a coaching run by any subject teacher, that particular subject’s grade might be affected. They have to bear with all this only to get A in all the subjects. They have to do this either to satisfy their demanding parents, or maintain their social prestige. Why?
In our neighboring country India, little ones learn in a very entertaining way. There is no such academic pressure, which might take a toll on them later on. They give greater emphasis on public or board exams at the secondary or higher secondary years.

In Bangladesh, the school education is divided as the following:
Primary: Year 1 to 5.
Junior: Year 6 to 8.
Secondary: Year 9 and 10.
Higher secondary: Year 11 and 12.

After completion of the HSC exam, a student would be about 18 to 20 years of age. How many well-known corporate organisations would allow an 18-year-old to start a job? Even the lowest entry-level job requires at least an undergraduate degree.
Let us go back to America again. They also complete high school certificate at the age of sixteen to eighteen. Way before completing high school, they can start earning in various ways. No work seems trivial to them. How many Bengali students would accept dishwashing at restaurants as a mode of earning money? Yes, people would argue that these days there are quite a number of call centers for students to work at. Besides, some well-known food places like Pizza Hut employ students in various positions.
We do have several cadet colleges here in Bangladesh where military discipline is a must. Such special trainings help students to be self -dependent and teach them to protect themselves in any situation from a very early age. This is one good point of Bangladeshi education.
Dhaka University (DU) is known as the Oxford of the East. Established in 1921, this institution has about 33000 students and 1800 faculty members. There are quite a number of departments like Arabic, Bangla, English, Finance, AIS (Accounting and Information System), Biological Sciences and Crafts etc. Dhaka University does provide good education at a much cheaper cost compared to the private universities. Though decreased in number, the bloodshed regarding student politics did not become completely extinct from the campus.
My own parents were scared to let me go to DU even after I got allowed in the Department of Economics. First of all, Dhaka University is quite far away from my home, and secondly, I am not allowed to travel alone due to various personal reasons. Many business students crave to be a part of the IBA department. Many students sit for the admission test, but just a few get allowed.
Recently, news caught my eye. Lots of students took the admission test for the DU English Department, but not even half of them could prove their eligibility to be students of that particular department.
This gives rise to another question. Don’t we have enough meritorious students around us? Of course we do! The only problem is, the institutions where the medium of instruction is Bangla, does not actually bother much about English skills. Besides, students are way too much dependent on memorisation. Similarly, English medium institutions do not help much to develop Bangla language skills. Yes, it is true that English is required everywhere, as it is an international language. We also must learn about our own language and heritage to know our roots.
In America, the community colleges or junior colleges usually offer two- year associate degrees, after which students may go for under graduation.That is a four-year course, namely fresh man, sophomore, junior and senior years. Undergraduate students are usually aged between18 and 22 years. In vocational and adult education, ages vary.
The best part of American education is that, they expect the average resident to hold a high school completion degree only, unlike us. Anything above the 12th grade is completely optional there.
It is true that education in the developed countries is financially more expensive than our education, but they do have certain strict rules, which we do not. Plagiarism is considered a fatal crime, and students found guilty of it are highly penalized. Whereas, in Bangladesh, some people carry little notes with microscopic data to be copied, even in the public examinations. I do not think many of them get caught.
Some people might think that the private universities in Bangladesh hardly teach anything, and a fat amount of monetary donation would allow anyone to get admitted in a well- known private university. This conception is wrong! It takes a great amount of effort to maintain decent grades in the private institutions too.Of course I acknowledge the private universities established in the last decade of the 20th centuryaround the world may be compared with each other. Westminster, Bedfordshire and some other universities in the UK are contemporary of the North South, Asian etc universities in Bangladesh. Look at their world ratings. Altogether our universities are having disastrous performance.
Dishonest teachers and unethical students in collusion with the university business entrepreneurs stigmatising the public and private universities. Certain unseen corner of a particular area in the capital city is famous for the notorious activity of selling fake academic certificates for a particular amount of money. Do we really need to do this?
With a little bit of willing and honest effort, all the loopholes of the Bangladeshi education system could be closed. If the authorities concerned could work together to create a better education system, thousands of students who fly out of the country in search of better education every year, would remain in Bangladesh.

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