Education in Bangladesh, be it on the primary, secondary or higher levels, seems to be in the doldrums. It has gone through phases of trial and error year after year with no tangible results for the better. At times, it has experienced bouts of downslide, prompting the educationists and policy makers of the country to look into the matter with topmost priority.
As has been observed by many, what is going on at the educational institutions in the name of imparting education is nothing but a mockery of the whole system. According to unsparing critics, it's a sinister alliance of a group of people who use students as their pawns which is running the show in the education sector. The system, as it stands now, seems to have been set up by vested interest quarters with a hidden agenda: deceive the students, exploit the guardians and mint money and, at the same time, keep everybody happy. How do they achieve success? They do not have a magic wand. Yet they gain from their stratagems.
As students, they are happy because they can pass the examinations, they can even achieve grade point average (GPA)-5 without much difficulty. They don't have to read textbooks or attend classes regularly to pass the exams, not even in order to get a GPA-5. What they need to do is just pay money and help the coaching centres (long mushrooming all over the country) do the rest.
They are least bothered if the students haven't learnt anything worth. They don't care a fig if the students cannot write a paragraph of 4 to 5 sentences correctly, even though they have passed with distinctions (GPA-5, golden GPA-5 and what not). It's no use lamenting the fact that students cannot qualify for admission into a reputed public university despite being armed with all these distinctions. The bitter truth lies in the poor performance of students in the university admission tests. So what if a brilliant student does not get a chance in the public universities? There are now so many private universities in the country to welcome aspiring students. The young learners need not bother much, because their parents will pay the exorbitant tuition fees.
The parents are happy because their children are not only passing the examinations at ease, but also many of them are getting fabulous-sounding grades. The teachers and university managements are happy because their pupils are doing well in the exams, and at the same time their pockets are getting bulged. In the earlier phase, the Education Board officials were happy because they could proudly report to the higher authorities that the percentage of pass and the number of GPA-5 achievers had increased manifold over the years.
The irony is there is hardly anyone around to tell the truth that the education system in the country, inherently plagued with procedural shortcomings and corruption, is not heading towards the right direction. It has to come out of the clutches of the vested interests if the education sector has to show marked improvement in quality. It is the quality of education, which the country lacks acutely.
The reasons are plain and simple. The educational institutions are not well equipped with the things that are essential to proper education. They do not have sufficient numbers of qualified, trained and experienced teachers. The poor numbers of teachers they have (many of them teaching part-time) do not teach well in classes. They keep the lessons pending for the students to go to coaching houses, which are allegedly run by them or their fellow-mates.
Many of the private universities are reported to be running in violation of all norms and regulations required for such institutions. Some of them are alleged to be meant for selling certificates only.
Private coaching centres have lately become crucial seats of learning. This type of coaching has indeed become, rightly or wrongly, a flourishing business. There is hardly any student who does not take a private coaching and it costs a lot. Even the poor families, who can hardly afford two square meals a day, have to bear the burden of this extra financial pressure for their children.
In a recent newspaper article, a lecturer at a college mentions when the grading system was first introduced in 2001, the percentage of pass in SSC was 35.22 per cent. In 2016, it stood at 88.29 per cent. In 2001, only 76 students got GPA-5 in SSC exams. The figure rose to 109,000 in 2016. The increase is 1500 times.
Do we have to believe that the merit of our children has increased 1500 times in the last 15 years? It is not the case. The news of 82 per cent of the GPA-5 holders failing to get admission into Dhaka University says otherwise.
Many of our educationists involved in policy making have started believing that there is something seriously wrong with our education system. It is limping not only because of inefficiency, mismanagement, corruption and infrastructural weaknesses; but also because of the faults embedded in the system.
We do not have standard text books for our children. The textbooks that are prescribed by the Board authorities are, in most cases, of very poor standard both in look and contents. The students do not find them attractive or interesting. They cannot easily understand what the authors want them to understand. The teachers are not willing to take pains in class to make the students understand their lessons.
The examination method, both in setting question papers and evaluation of the answer sheets, is faulty to the extent that it has been purposefully built to ensure that the students can easily pass the exams, even get good grades, without taking much pains on the part of both the students and the teachers. It is no more a secret that the examiners are instructed to give marks liberally. However, the crux of the matter lies in the inappropriate curriculum or syllabus.
The writer is a retired Captain of merchant navy.