The Daily Star yesterday honoured 1,118 O and A levels graduates for outstanding achievements, including 52 who ranked among the world's top scorers in the exams of 2008 and 2009.
The outstanding students were awarded with medals and certificates of excellence in a ceremony styled 'Saluting the Nation Builders of Tomorrow', attended by the awardees' teachers, friends, families, and special guests in the capital's Shaheed Suhrawardy National Indoor Stadium.
The 11th annual award ceremony was marked with jubilation as the audience burst into cheery applause while the names of the awardees were being announced in the four-hour event sponsored by Brac Bank Ltd, BAC, and Edexcel International.
Awardees from 63 English medium schools gathered at the venue. Musical and dance performances by students of several schools made the ceremony lively. The Daily Star initiated the unique annual event in 1999. This year 736 O level and 382 A level graduates received the awards.
Among the 52 world's top scoring students in different subjects 31 are of O level and 21 are of A level, with many of them scoring the world's highest scores in multiple subjects.
For the first time, Tk 15,000 was awarded to the top scorers in computer studies by Nabeel Trust, a memorial trust to honour the memories of a brilliant student Mufrat Nabeel Rahman who passed away in 2007. He was a student of Bangladesh Medical College at the time of his death after passing A level from Scholastica. From now on, the award will be given every year.
Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid presented the certificates and medals to the future nation builders.
Speaking as the chief guest, the minister called upon the students to dedicate their knowledge and competence for the welfare of the country and its people.
Congratulating the students, he said, "You have got comparatively better opportunities of studying in good schools of international standards and achieved the feat. So you should be accountable and responsible to the nation and its people."
The minister said the government wants to bring massive changes to the education system to impart modern and global standard education.
"We want to build a prosperous nation by freeing the country of poverty, illiteracy, and corruption. We want to make sure that modern knowledge and technology are within the reach of the country's people, in order to build a digital Bangladesh," he said.
"A new optimism and possibilities for building the nation have arisen in the country, and it is the new generation who can do it. We have to prepare the new generation for that," he added.
Nahid said the new generation must be imbued with patriotism and ethical values along with modern education.
He said, "It is not possible to be successful in life staying aloof from the nation. So, you must be accountable to your roots, and must never forget about the people."
Calling upon the students to love Bangladesh and the nature, The Daily Star Editor and Publisher Mahfuz Anam said, "Apart from acquiring more knowledge, you have to inculcate a caring heart. You must have fellow feeling for the country's people, and have a caring feeling for those who are not so fortunate as you are."
"Just acquiring knowledge or just achieving great results is only a half of your achievement, the other half is achieved when you love your country, when you are able to give your best to build your country," he added.
He said merit is the biggest criteria of achievement in the twenty first century, and intellectual ability is the real resource.
"We definitely have the mental ability, and the intellectual capacity to make our own place in the world," he said.
He urged the students to dedicate all their performances to the country, adding that the real award will be won when the students will use their talents to build the nation.
Mentioning the challenges the country is facing due to high population, limited land resource, and climate change, he said the students have to learn to conserve energy, and learn new habits to protect the nature.
"As future leaders of Bangladesh, you must go green. You must acquire greater knowledge about the climate change, and greater knowledge of how to mould our society," he said.
British High Commissioner Stephen Evans said, "Here in Bangladesh, we see an ever increasing desire in young people to contribute to the future of your country."
Syed Mahbubur Rahman, deputy managing director of Brac Bank Limited, said, "To create effective leaders in our society, we believe, the education system should be based on meritocracy where the talents like you are nurtured, encouraged, and rewarded."
Conducted by Elita Karim of The Daily Star, the ceremony was also addressed by Isabel Sutcliffe, director of regulation, standards, and research of Edexcel International, UK, and Abdullah Al Mamun, a consultant of BAC.
Nandita Hore of SFX Greenherald International School, who scored 11 A's in O level exams in one take, spoke on behalf of her batch-mates.
Nafis Anwari of European Standard School, who got 6 A's in A level exams, spoke on behalf of his batch-mates.
ACHIEVERS TALK TO THE DAILY STAR
Students with outstanding results go abroad for higher education and do not return as the country lacks good higher education and career opportunities, observed some of the students who were awarded by The Daily Star.
Reaz Uddin Ahmad, who obtained 5 A's from Bangladesh International Tutorial in 2009 said, "I do not blame them for not returning home after completing their study abroad as they find very less scope to build a career in the country."
He also said the government has to take steps to build infrastructures, industries, etc. aiming to establish more businesses and create job opportunities.
Sadiaa Haque, who obtained 10 A's from Dhanmondi Tutorials in O level exams, said she wants to pursue higher study in Quantum Mathematics but finds no alternative to going abroad as there is no scope for good higher education here.
Magfur-e-Alam who secured A grade in ten subjects in O level exams from Bangladesh International Tutorial said, "I only received private tuition in economics as I want to develop expertise in the subject."
But it is better to study at home instead of running for private tuitions to achieve good results, he added.
Shafkat Fahmid, of Cider International School, who secured 11 A's in his O level examinations, wants to be an economist and his desired institution for higher study is Harvard University in the USA.
The students also emphasised the need for bringing changes to the country's education policy and the curricula of Bangla medium education system for minimizing the gap between the standard of Bangla and English medium education.
The curricula of Bangla medium education need to be updated. The trend of taking examinations by memorising notes on a few selected questions must be stopped, they added.
Nafis Anwari¸ who got 6 A's in his A level examinations from European Standard School and currently studying in civil engineering department in Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, said, "I want to develop some unique designs for infrastructures or buildings in Bangladesh that can withstand earthquake".