Education: Back to the Future

Maskwaith Ahsan

Maskwaith Ahsan

The writer is an Online Journalist and Offline Media Educator.

Our present education system has been relegated to the status of merely a degree-awarding mechanism that is inherently immune to the quality of students it produces. It wasn’t always like this. There was a time when education was inspirational and full of romanticism for life. To name a few, teachers like Sardar Fazlul Karim, Sirajul Islam Chowdhury, Abdullah Abu Sayeed and Syed Manjoorul Islam were true mentors and role models who shared common aim: to shape lives.

But somewhere along the line, we rebooted ourselves and started to weigh life on the scales set up by corporate induced media reality. This alternate way of life, however, lays no merit on education. It’s just like an army ruler diverting part of the education budget towards defence, thus inadvertently down-playing the importance of education in the development of a nation.

Khan Ata in his portrayal of a philosopher king in Abar Tora Manush Ho tried to convince our freedom fighters to return to classrooms. Such few characters are occasionally honored in our media for their wisdom and chivalry, but to no avail. Teachers have been rendered ineffective and useless; reminiscent of old black and white films in which they symbolize poverty and sorrow. In today’s Bangladesh, a teacher could at best be an object of a corporate campaign ‘sada moner manush’ or receive invitations to state banquettes where their presence is needed to convince the world that reactionary intellectualism is still alive.

Reality is starkly differently. Teachers are routinely manhandled by the very students they teach. Political greed is forcing students away from classrooms and onto delinquent paths.

Our public universities largely breed civil servants with small salary packages as compared to India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. They either surrender to the god of corruption or to fate. Trapped by fear of uncertainty, enormous talent is wasted.

Private universities, on the other hand, generate corporate managers with moderate earnings. Their highest achievement is being able to visit coffee shops, wear trendy costumes and live a watered-down version of the American dream. This group anticipates Baishakh just as it enjoys Halloween.

Then there are the madrassahs which produce only zealots. They exist in limbo: caught in the dream of Muslim brotherhood yet choosing to bomb their opposers in the name of religion.

These three streams of society live in parallel reality; cross paths at traffic signals or during Friday prayers. There’s nothing to show for any education: no respect, no tolerance, and no peace. And in this entire game, patriotism is used as a punching bag.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. I believe we have reached the limit of desperation. No education, no future. It is as simple as that. The nation awaits an education policy that will revive the glory of education and, more importantly, educators.

Teachers should be given the honor and privilege that they historically and culturally deserve. It’s hard to believe now, but even in Bangladesh real education flourished at a time when teachers were accorded the status of being ‘the wise men’ of society. We need to redevelop that mindset. We need to inculcate among masses that teachers are not mere imparters of information; rather they are those who guide us through the web of knowledge towards wisdom.

And in order to do that the first step is to make this profession more lucrative as compared to other sectors. Remunerations and perks for our educators should at least be brought at par with corporate and bureaucratic scales. This step alone will be enough to attract those intelligent and visionary students who are passionate about teaching but reluctant to make a career out of it.

Once teachers are released from the stress of making ends meet, they will have more dedication, energy and time for their students. Bangladesh is running out of everything: energy, water, patience and peace. The time has come for the government to realize that the multi-faceted crisis facing Bangladesh cannot be solved without capable and honest leaders. Luckily, this is not a chicken & hen dilemma. We know for a fact that sound education is the only means to evolve a nation capable of handling itself.

Another point of concern is that the criminalization of politics and failure of state mechanism are at a climax. Both the Awami League and BNP should stop spoiling their student cadres and start vocational trainings for them so that these young party activists can be turned into revenue earners instead of living lives based on extortion and petty handouts.

The people of Bangladesh have been ready for a long time to make sacrifices for the sake of good education for their children. It’s now up to policy makers to pre-empt calls for social revolt.

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The writer is an Online Journalist and Offline Media Educator.


385 Responses to “Education: Back to the Future”

  1. nayeem hossain

    I think this is going to one of the fundamental battles of our time. The issues shown by you are very valid. But I think University level is not the issue or the source of the problem here. In your article you have mentioned pioneer educators of the post war era. We here stories about teachers who shaped lives of students even at a younger age. I am talking about school level education. Students learn to compete with friends, mistrust, pressured for fake success “10 out of 10 scores” from the very first day they try to get into a school. The pictures in front of schools for admission tests are simply sad.

    With this desperation of parents comes the by products. Teaching business, admission business. These kids grow up knowing the teachers are not there as mentors, but as an employee. They teach because they pay them. At home or in a coaching center. Ask any parent if they want their child to grow up to become a singer, painter or writer and see their reaction. The kids who are making an alternative career path are also taking it only when they see there are chances to make money.

    The problem lies in our schooling system. The school level has to change. School districts need to be reshaped and made creative. Grading system is a joke! Teachers pay scale should be reshaped as you said but also heavily taxed if they are in private tutoring business. There are three different streams of primary education system creating three different breed of next generation. Integration of these so called “mediums” is a must.

    There are over 2000 active NGOs in the education sector. If all of them are really working by now our education rate should be in the 80s. Evaluation of schools and NGO projects is a must. Evaluation of not just SSC results. What kind of curriculum the district is running will ensure funding. The urban sector has enough demand and supply that they can be left on regional curriculum. This would provide Government enough manpower and additional funds for the rural areas. Also primary schools that are failing can be given to NGOs to run. This would ensure the schools are running and the NGOs activity is monitored.

    There are so many things we can do. The first step is to know where the problem is and what it is. We still have a faint heartbeat somewhere. Need to follow it and find a way to make it a drum beat. 🙂

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