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Education

Will the Situation Improve?

Ershad Kamol

Not much exclusive research has been carried out in the country to improve the country's standard of education, which is in a mess to say the least. It is true that a few individuals have done some research for the improvement of the sector; however, these findings have never been executed by the government. During the last 38 years, however, different governments have approached the donors for the development of the education system and adopted some of their precepts blindly. As a result, education has become an instrument of divisiveness in society. The trouble-trodden education system is expensive but far from being satisfactory in terms of standards, though the section 17 of the National Constitution of the country ensures a uniform and equal education for all. But the reality is that roughly three streams of mainstream education i.e. Bangla medium, English medium and Madrasa, exist side by side in Bangladesh. However, there are many sub-streams, especially at the primary level. There is a huge gap between these streams in terms of expense, standard and approach. The existence of the three different education systems are producing citizens who have no common outlook and are contributing to social fragmentation.

Scholars in the country who want to make a change in the current education system have formed an organisation named Bangladesh Forum for Educational Development (BAFED). With the Unesco playing a supporting role. This forum has created a platform for the presentation of findings of research works to ensure enhanced visibility and recognition of the researchers from the community and policy makers at the national level.

Unesco-BAFED organised an educational researchers’ conference on November 22 at the Meeting Room of the IDB Bhaban. It was the 13th arrangement, informed Dr Abu Hamid Latif, chairman of BAFED. Professor Dr Alauddin Ahmed, adviser to the prime minister (education, social development and political affairs), was present as the chief guest at the programme.

Local research must be promoted - a major conclusion of the conference.

 

Five research papers were presented at the programme-- "Implementing the Education Policy: The Instrumental Role of the Sixth Five Year Plan" by Dr Manzoor Ahmed, "Professional Teachers Literacy: The Case of Adult Literacy and Learning in South Asia" by Dr Wolfgang Vollmann, "An Evaluative Study of ELTIP Teacher Training: The Training Room Ideals Versus Classroom Realities" by M Zulfeqar Haider, "Social Constructivism as a Facilitative Paradigm for Inclusive Education: How Certificate in Education (C-in-E) Curriculum is responding to the Demands of Teacher Preparation for Inclusive Education in Bangladesh" by M Mohammad Tariq Ahsan and "Classroom Teaching-Learning Practices of Secondary School: How the Teachers are Performing?" by Dr Selina Akhter.

Internationally acclaimed education researcher Dr Manzoor Ahmed's insightful research works focuses on how the proposed national education policy can be implemented in phases in the upcoming Sixth Five-Year Plan, which is expected to begin from 2011. Dr Manzoor has focused on the improvement of primary, secondary, vocational training and teachers' training. He has suggested introduction of eight-year-long Universal Primary Education (UPE) in phases incorporating the existing facilities. "The Eight Year UPE is achievable and must be achieved in a decade," his paper reads, "A coordinated Upazila wise assessment and planning is essential for this purpose. A majority of the primary schools may continue as five grade feeders to the selected Eight Grade Schools. The key concern should be ensured that the deficit of the current primary education are not extended."

He also focuses on the standardisation of the existing education system. To incorporate dropout students in the national development, Dr Manzoor suggests introducing vocational training. He wants conceptual and infra-structural development of the vocational training institutes. At the same time he suggests giving emphasis on English language proficiency and computer literacy.

His research paper also mentions the funding for the implementation of the education policy. "Public expenditure should be increased from the present 2.27 percent of GDP preferable to six percent but at least to 4.5 percent in 10 years," his paper reads.

The former Director of Unesco of Dhaka Dr Wolfgang Vollmann's paper gives an overview of adult literacy learning in the South Asian countries. He suggests improving the training of the facilitators (teachers). He also believes that after much training these facilitators can be included in the mainstream education.

Giving some practical references M Zulfiqer Haider's paper gives a negative evaluation of donor driven projects on English Language Teaching Improvement Project that has been running in the country for the last seven years.

Mohammad Tariq Ahsan's paper basically focuses on the necessity of social awareness generating campaign to introduce 'inclusive education' that provides opportunity for the differently-ableds to study in mainstream educational institutes. And Dr Selina Akhtar's paper is a critical analysis of faulty teaching system at the secondary level.

"We invite the abstract of recent researches on the education sector by giving advertisement in the newspapers," informs BAFED Chairman Dr Abu Hamid Latif, "A committee including a representative from the Unseco selects the research papers to be presented at the conference. "We also publish the insightful research works in two journals in two languages annually. The Bangla version is distributed to the teachers and instructors; and the English Version titled Bangladesh Educational Journal is distributed to the policymakers and academicians in the country and to foreign countries using the Unesco channel."

But, what is the impact of these researches? Frustrated, Dr Latif replies, "Research work is neglected in the country. Even the policymakers does not bother to have a look at the research work published in our journals. Executing the insightful findings of these research works is not in the agenda of policy making in the country.

"On the other hand, the government always depends on donor agencies who appoint excessive numbers of consultants having different views, who have little idea about our condition. These consultants, create problems for the local researchers. As a result, many donor-driven educational projects have not functioned properly. The foreign consultants focus on creating new projects for doing consultancy, rather than for improving the situation. Moreover, the government is surrounded by bureaucrats. The professional experts and researchers, in deed, have very limited access to the policymakers."

However, Education Adviser to Prime Minister Professor Alauddin Ahmed has assured that the situation will improve. "Since the Article 17 of Our National Constitution ensures uniform and mandatory education for all, our government is keen to provide this constitutional right by implementing the proposed education policy in phases," he says. He also informs that the current government is planning to allocate six percent of the GDP in education sector.

 

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