E D U C A T I O N – B A N G L A D E S H
Nafees Abrar, Maliha Momtaz
If the recurring episodes of the Education Ministry of Bangladesh experimenting with the policies of the national curriculum had an intro, more often than not, it’d be a series of explosions from Dexter’s Lab. While some of those policies have proven themselves to be quite potent, such as the significant 22% decrease in the school drop-out rate in the last ten years, the increased availability of stipends, and the magnified accessibility of inclusive education¹ — the frequent changes made to the curriculum are often far from effective, as some of them almost never stretch beyond the the land of promises towards the land of planned and organised implementation. Though the curriculum was last revised 8 years ago in 2012 — further proving the authority’s lack of vigilance in regards to consistently monitoring the system, detecting the issues, and solving them — an outline for a new curriculum has been proposed to be operative from January 2022, by the Education Ministry of Bangladesh.
The proposed curriculum includes an array of both restructured and new policies, of which some of the remarkable ones are — a) The cancellation of PECE and JSC examinations altogether, b) Dissolvement of the 3 separate disciplines of subjects (Science, Business Studies, and Humanities) in secondary school through introducing a single curriculum for all, c) Subject reduction in both secondary (5 subjects as of now, a few more might be added: Bangla, English, Mathematics, Social Science, and Science) and higher secondary levels (7 subjects: Bangla, English, ICT, any 3 subjects from any discipline, and 1 elective vocational course), and d) The decision of keeping SSC as the sole public exam in school levels, and dividing HSC in 2 phases, each at the end of 11th and 12th grade².
According to an official document, the main goal behind the reformation is to make Bangladesh secure the status of a “developing country” by 2024, and to make sure that the students may become more skilled under less pressure. Although this sounds promising in theory, it might not be very effective in reality due to the major issues that the educational institutes, along with the very authority in charge of overlooking the education system of the country, still face. In that case, how feasible is the decision to introduce so many reforms to the education system; and that too, all at the same time?
First of all, let’s talk about the problems the teachers might face in regards to the decision of reducing the number of subjects, and merging some of them together. In institutions that accommodate both secondary and higher secondary grades, most secondary school teachers are rarely ever assigned to teach higher secondary levels and therefore, they mostly specialise in teaching the conventional, discipline-specific subjects.
However, as the new curriculum suggests, secondary grades won’t be having separate Science, Business Studies, or Humanities centric subjects anymore. Therefore, it might lead to two possible conclusions with problems attached to both. Firstly, as the supplementary subjects (Physics, Chemistry, Economics, Geography, etc.) related to disciplines like Humanities and Science will now be merged to form single subjects, such as General Science and Social Science; the study materials could drop by a wide margin. This might lead to the teachers struggling to adjust working with so less scope of in-depth topic selection.
Secondly, as the higher secondary grades would still include the said supplementary subjects, many secondary school teachers could get relocated to teaching their respective subjects in the higher-secondary grades. Although they should have the qualifications for that, years of specialising in teaching only secondary grade materials could hinder them from spontaneously adjusting to the vast difference in the critical depth between secondary and higher secondary study materials; eventually leading to an overall drop in the education quality of higher secondary grades in the beginning. Also, in the light of these issues, teachers from institutions that only accommodate grades up to secondary school and those from rural, or suburban areas are bound to suffer even more.
In the second place, there’s the matter with students dealing with the varying distinctions among the subject numbers and depth in secondary and higher secondary levels. While the subjects set to be taught in secondary school are the same for all, students in higher secondary grades will get to pick 3 subjects from any discipline except from the compulsory courses/subjects. Now, each of those will be as critical as usual, and require previous fundamental knowledge to understand. However, as secondary grades won’t have discipline-specific subjects anymore, the scope for understanding the basics still remains uncertain. Not to mention that the time at hand would lessen too, as they’ll have to sit for 2 phases of the HSC examination, each at the end of both grades 11 and 12. So the question still persists, if the students will get sufficient, proper guidelines from the teachers (who’d also be facing an array of problems due to the reformation) — to cover up the basics and get a tight grip on the syllabus in such a short time.
This brings us to our last point — one of the goals of the government is to decrease the guide and coaching dependencies of students through this new reformation². The cancellation of all public exams before SSC is a sensible decision, as it takes off all the unnecessary burden of schoolwork, extra mock tests, and tutorial classes young pupils are forced to face. Now, the inability of teachers to form the bridges between the students and the textbooks is one of the main reasons why students refer to guidebooks and go to coaching centres. However, between both the teachers and the students struggling to adjust with this massive shift in the system, that inability is more likely to increase. Therefore, in regards to the likeliness of higher secondary students having to cover both the basics and in depth studies for each subject in an unbelievably short time, there still lies a chance that they might have to become even more dependent on tutorial classes and coaching centres.
In sum, with multiple gaps in the proposed reformation that can be exploited in numerous ways, positive outcomes can only be anticipated if the Education Ministry of Bangladesh can implement their system in an organised, flexible way with little room for error, preferably with alternative plans at hand if something goes wrong. After all, if students have to attend tutorial classes for not getting yelled at in case they somehow fail the mental health related subject that might get introduced, it’ll be one of the greatest Bangladeshi ironies of the decade. Won’t it?
- Where our education system has failed
- Primary, Secondary Education System: Major reform on the cards
The writers are part of TDA Editorial Team.