Cautious welcome for Bangladesh education reform plan

However, educators bemoan govt's lack of consultation with experts before proceeding with changes
Cautious welcome for Bangladesh education reform plan

A teacher takes a class at the Deshiapara Child Education Center in Pirganj, in Dinajpur district, run by Catholic charity, Caritas Bangladesh, in this Oct 15, 2018 file photo. Educationists including a Church official have cautiously welcomed a major overhaul of Bangladesh’s education system. (Photo by Stephan Uttom/UCA News)

Bangladeshi authorities are moving ahead with a major overhaul of the country’s school education system, which has received a cautious welcome from educationists and a top Church official.

The state-run National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) aims to phase in the new system for grade one to grade twelve students, from next year to 2025.

The plan will be finalized by March, according to the NCTB.

Reforms include removing formal examinations up to grade three to enable children to experience “active learning” in “practical and interesting lessons” instead of hurting them with the “burden of exams.”

From grades six to ten, which cover secondary education, the number of textbooks will be reduced, from the current 12-14 to 10.

Now, students choose different and specialized subjects in science, arts and business studies from grades 9-10, but the new system aims to introduce the same books for all pupils, and the selection of specific subjects is deferred to grades 11-12.

The new system intends to prioritize “practical learning” and “modernize the education system” to make pupils ready for today’s world, said Professor A.K. M. Riazul Hasan, an NCTB member.

The reform plan is welcome, but it should have been formed after consulting various stakeholders including educationists from prominent Church-run education institutes, said Jyoti F. Gomes, secretary of the Bangladesh Catholic Education Board, the body overseeing Catholic education institutes across the country.

“The authorities should have held dialogue with various stakeholders. Often, we see the government makes decisions alone … which put educational institutions under pressure. Sometimes, education officials learn new teaching methods from abroad, and make hasty decisions and apply them here without considering local realities and challenges,” Gomes told UCA News.

To make this new system effective, the government should train and support schools and teachers, so they can properly cope with the changes, he said.

“We like the idea of reducing the burden of exams on children at primary level. The less pressure we put on our children, the more they can focus on active and practical learning,” Gomes added.

While welcoming some of the proposed educational changes, one associate professor at Dhaka University’s Institute of Education and Research noted that many governments aspire to make “drastic changes” in the education system without proper research.

“Any change in education sounds good, but often changes lack a proper research and vision. Governments have an agenda to fulfil, so pushes for changes without really thinking about how it can improve the existing system,” said the academic who spoke to UCA News on condition of anonymity.

Despite being a small minority in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, Christians are highly applauded for their contribution in the education sector.

Church-run schools and colleges are regularly ranked among the top educational institutions in terms of academic excellence, extracurricular activities and discipline, making them much in demand among parents.

The Catholic Church runs one university, 12 colleges, 579 secondary and primary schools and 13 vocational training institutes in Bangladesh, teaching nearly 100,000 pupils a year, mostly Muslims.


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