The English essayist, poet and politician Joseph Addison once said, "what sculpture is to a block of marble, education is to the human soul." His definition of education in relation to the human soul rightly highlights how it shapes and defines individuals and how those individuals then go on to shape and define the world we live in. Before our very eyes, China, South Korea, Malaysia and numerous other countries have used education as both the backbone and the catalyst of their development. The time has come for us to take a page out of their book and haul our education system into the 21st century. But often there has been a decided lack of vision when it comes to dealing with education in Bangladesh. The inherent structural deficiencies of our educational system are often papered over with pictures of joyous students brandishing the victory sign, celebrating the end of their struggle through primary and secondary school.
In the 21st century our education system must rethink its very roots for it to serve its students better. While knowing the past will always remain important, education must be more forward looking, relevant and accessible with a definitive slant towards imparting life skills. But even that cannot materialise without good teachers. Across the Atlantic when Barack Obama called for a review of the education system in America he said, "if a teacher is given a chance or two chances or three chances, but still does not improve, there's no excuse for that person to continue teaching. I reject a system that rewards failure and protects a person from its consequences." The same attitude must be recreated in Bangladesh, as teachers must also be held accountable for their actions. If they are to lead our new wave of education they must perform or move over, the stakes are too high.
The government must also look into the curious system in Bangladesh that allows three different streams of education (Bangla medium, English medium and Madrassas which are divided into two subsections as well) to run parallel to each other. Only after structural problems such as that are sorted out can we expect the qualitative change that we so desire. But the change will not happen over night, there will be successes and failures that we will have to learn from, without veering away from our target
The fact of the matter is that when we put our minds to it we can succeed and that is a claim backed by empirical evidence. The second Millennium Development Goal (MDG) was to achieve primary education for all by 2015, and currently we are on our way to achieving that goal with net enrolment at 87%. Over and above that, in 2005 we achieved gender parity in primary and secondary education as the ratio of boys to girls now shows a clear bias towards girls.
We also notice a disturbing tendency of setting up a new Education Commission to formulate new Education Policies every time there is a change in government. Politicisation of teachers along with curriculum is another vice that afflicts our education system. All this must change if we are to move forward as a nation.