The Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report 2016 has called upon governments to start taking inequalities in education seriously, tracking them by collecting information directly from families - both rural and urban.
Sarwar Md. Saifullah Khaled
The Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report 2016 by UNESCO has come up with findings that Bangladesh is expected to achieve universal primary education in 2055 and universal lower secondary education in 2075 while universal upper secondary education not until the next century. The GEM Report, launched on September 06, shows the potential for education to reach all the global goals outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs).
The GEM Report says that education needs a major transformation to fulfill that potential and meet the current challenges facing humanity and the planet.
Aaron Benavot, Director of the GEM Report, said on the specific issues of Bangladesh that schools, communities and businesses all need to think about how they are making sure young people have the skills and knowledge to make the move to greener industries and greener ways of living. He mentions that floods and cyclones, including river erosions, have destroyed thousands of schools in Bangladesh in the past decade, as other climate-related disasters have devastated school systems in many other parts of the world.
Benavot, who has decades of experience in global education policy analysis and comparative research, said that if we want to address our pressing environmental and societal problems, we need to take a long hard look at what and how we are learning in the educational institutions.
On a question relating to Bangladesh, Benavot said that Bangladesh, like many other countries in the world, is going to be decades late in achieving its global education commitments. He explained in this regard that new policies and innovative approaches must be taken to change this course. But the change in mindset needed to combat the most challenging environmental issues is not going to happen on its own, and certainly not by hanging all our hopes on today's students. Bangladesh is one of the world's most densely populated, populous and most flood-prone and cyclone-prone countries. The climate experts project that 27 million people in Bangladesh will be at risk from sea level rise due to climate change by 2050.
Kate Redman, Communications and Advocacy Specialist of GEM Report, said that with increasing frequency of floods, cyclones and river erosions, many environmental migrants from rural areas become slum dwellers in Dhaka, the densely populated capital of Bangladesh. Unsurprisingly, the school system is routinely affected by climate-related challenges like floods and cyclones. Providing Bangladesh-specific statistics, Redman said education can be used to raise awareness of climate change, reduce vulnerability to it and mitigate its consequences. Schools can increase knowledge and awareness of the people about environment and climate change by incorporating environmental sustainability into classroom materials and curricula.
The UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova said that a fundamental change is needed in the way we think about education's role in global development, because it has a catalytic impact on the well-being of individuals and the future of our planet. Now, more than ever, education has a responsibility to be in gear with 21st century challenges and aspirations, and foster the right types of educations, values and skills that will lead to sustainable and inclusive growth, and peaceful living together. Yet only 6.0 per cent of adults in the poorest countries, and less than 1.0 per cent in Bangladesh have ever attended literacy programmes. If we want a greener planet, and sustainable futures for all around the world, we must ask more from our education systems than just a transfer of knowledge. Benavot maintained that we need our schools and lifelong learning programmes to focus on economic, environmental and socio-cultural perspectives that help nurture empowered, critical, mindful and competent global citizens.
In Bangladesh, after the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) prepared and endorsed a school manual on climate change and health protection, 1,515 students in 30 schools received classroom training based on the manual while 1,778 students in 30 control schools received a leaflet on climate change and health issues instead. Six months later, results of a post-intervention test performed at both schools showed that the training led to dramatic increases in Bangladeshi children's knowledge of the topic. According to available data the poorest females have almost six fewer years of education to their name than the richest males in the country.
The rise in female educational attainment in Bangladesh may have accelerated the country's remarkable fertility decline, including by lengthening the interval between child births. The median child birth interval increased by 26 per cent between 1991 and 2007, to 44 months. By 2007, birth intervals were about 40 per cent longer among women with secondary or higher education than among illiterate or uneducated women. People's access to electricity has been shown to have a positive impact on education outcomes in many countries, including Bangladesh. Inequality in education, interacting with wider socio-economic, environmental and cultural disparities, heightens the risk of violence and conflict.
As regards Bangladesh, the United Nations lauds Bangladesh's commitment to SGDs. The UN Secretary General's Special Adviser on the 2030 Agenda for SGDs, Dr. David Nabarro, said he has always been amazed and impressed by the commitment not just by the government but also by the civil society and women groups and community organisations in Bangladesh on all aspects of development to achieve SDGs by the stipulated time. He added that the development gained by Bangladesh in various areas so far including the education sector is a testimony of the commitment and strength of Bangladesh.
However, a recent study drawing on data from 100 countries over 50 years found that countries with higher levels of inequality in schooling were much more likely to experience conflict. The GEM Report has called upon governments to start taking inequalities in education seriously, tracking them by collecting information directly from families - both rural and urban.
The writer is a retired Professor of Economics, BCS General Education Cadre.