Education agenda is one of the main schemas for every political party in Bangladesh as well as many countries across the world. This agenda is always politicized by the politicians and the party. It is good news for Bangladesh that recently the Chairman of the National Education Policy- 2009 Formulation Committee Prof. Kabir Chowdhury handed over the final draft of a new education policy to the Education Ministry Nurul Islam Nahid.
Various media reported that since the independence of Bangladesh, successive governments have formed at least eight education commissions including Dr. Qudrat-e-Khuda Education Commission 1972. The new education policy is one of the important agendas for the ruling government that included in the election manifesto. Awami League affirmed before the election that enrollment at the primary level of education would be raised to 100% by 2010, and education up to the level of bachelor’s degree would be made free in phase, while health care for all would be ensured by 2013. Of course, the forming of the education committee was a noble initiative for the government as well for the nation. Besides, the Sheikh Hasina government also increased the education budget 2009-2010 than any other years.
As we can see that Bangladesh education sector has been going through its chronic problems, such as quality education policy, quality of education-contents, relevance of curriculum, quality of teachers, lack of quality teacher’s training and teaching methods, school buildings and safety, accountability, effective local and national assessment tools, inadequate research funds and institutions, lack of quality educational leaders, and lack of partnership with stakeholders (student-teachers-parents-other stakeholders partnership).
It is affirmative indication that the proposed education policy 2009 incorporated the general education and Madras education, which will enable to solve a long-time multi-dimension educational practice in Bangladesh. The Sheikh Hasina administration also has emphasized educating Madrassa students on general and vocational curricula alongside religious education to bring up a skilled population for the nation.
The committee widely proposed and modified the curricula and years of studies in primary and high school levels. Besides, the committee has emphasized vocational education in the proposed policy according to the needs of the nation. However, the committee has excluded some of the vital elements, such as promoting volunteerism, environmental studies, health and nutrition, character education, and conflict resolution. If we research on the last 37 years of Bangladesh education, then we can ask questions on the quality of education that the primary and higher educational institutions have been providing to the nation! What kind of education the elderly people have received? What kind of education the children have been getting from the schools and colleges/universities in the present day? People’s negative, destructive, unproductive, unprofessional, unskilled, and unethical behavior and attitudes, and actions could be the most important elements in order to justify the outcomes of the education.
A holistic education policy implementation is most essential in the reality of Bangladesh. Every students need to be developed their emotional, physical, social, and intellectual growth. The education policy must acknowledge and emphasize the spiritual, intellectual, social, physical, and psychological needs of young children from the beginning of its establishment and this will continue to foster growth in each child. Besides promoting skill-based education, the policy must encourage children to learn and nurture the social and cultural values, integrity, tolerate, respect and love others, service to others, and to be a responsible person. The students can learn all these good values from schools.
Early age is the best learning stage of every child. What the children learn at the early age they remember and practice them at a later age. The modern educational institution’s main goal is to nourish and develop each child’s spiritual, physical, emotional, social, academic growth and knowledge, and skill. The school focuses on the growth of the whole person. Education should emphasize the great products and discoveries the human mind. Curriculum should help students clarify their beliefs and values and thus achieve commitment and dedication to guide their lives. To achieve the goals the school works closely with every student and develops a strong relationship and partnership with all parents and stakeholders to make the school effectiveness and productive. If there are quality education policy for the primary and high school levels and thus implement effectively, then the students can develop knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values necessary for a productive life to go to higher education or to serve the community, nation, and world.
For example, in addition to the final exam in the end of the 12th grade (high school), the government can adopt 100 hours volunteer service in the education policy. Every student must complete his/her 100 hours volunteer service to the community through various organizations/social clubs in order to achieve the high school certificate. This service will enable every student to be involved in social activities. They could see deeply the social problems, social needs, their responsibility to the community. This exposure can enrich their knowledge to analyze the problem, learning to think effectively, and promote ability to critical thinking in solving the community problems. This would also increase the young volunteerism and help them become socially responsible and care giver citizens.
Of course, the specific contents such as, environmental studies, health and nutrition, character education, and conflict resolution are very important to include in the primary and high curriculum. Numerous researches have shown that Bangladesh is one of the countries that by next 20 years Bangladesh will be highly affected by the climate change. As the school is the social institution and it is the right place to teach children about environmental issues and teach them how to take care the earth. Indeed, children can learn about their health and nutrition in school. In order to be a healthy person, children must know what they should eat, how to eat healthy food, what kind of nutrition in the food, and what food is important for their body. It has impression that healthy student, healthy think, and healthy student become good student. The same way, children also can get lessons to develop skills in conflict resolution and to promote character/moral life education in the early age. This learning is for life-long that would help student’s daily life and to the later workplace as well. These subjects could apply to teach according to the grade levels. It might be raised the question that who would teach these subjects? Therefore, it is very important for school’s effectiveness that the teachers must be knowledgeable, upgraded on the contents, and skilled to teach the classes. In addition, the government can create job opportunity for primary & high schools to teach health & nutrition, conflict resolution, environment, and so on. Today, the nation and the world do not need only high skilled workforce, but also need more moral developed workforce as well.
It is no doubt that the new education policy 2009 has proposed wisely excluding some of the rudiment guts that could promote a holistic person. Without promoting solid early age foundation of a child, it is impossible to build a child to absorb the digital Bangladesh and to live in the digital world. Early development of a child in a school promotes children a good/moral and productive habit, self-control, skilled, discipline life, and responsible citizen. The government should emphasis knowledge-based, skill-based and character-based education for all children equally to make the nation and the world a better place for all of us.
(Nirmal Gomes is a specialist in Educational Administration & Policy Studies; Int’l Scholar Winner- recognized by the Center for Global Education, the Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, and Freelance Journalist)