Bangladeshi schools with global exposure can offer an atmosphere of ‘global village’ to both children and their guardians, says Munira Quader, a school education specialist.
According to her, the students, who are holistic in their development and quest for knowledge, are the ones who truly attain success in their career and life.
Munira Quader, head of primary (I-VI) section of Singapore School Kinderland, Gulshan, has found that most students inherit a deep sense of “belonging” and relevance towards the nation.
“Most students build enough confidence to refine themselves to engage in local and global platforms,” she said in an interview with Prothom Alo.
She also emphasised the importance of being more tolerant so that the future generation may avail the opportunity to explore their strengths and become leaders of the nation.
On why English-medium schools are not affected by the national crisis of question paper leaks, one who served more than two decades in running schools in Dhaka and Chittagong, Munira Quader pointed out, “A deep respect and concern to hold on to a prestigious exam pattern provides the virtue of preserving the secrecy of the question papers.”
She has observed a clear shift in the learning process - from book-oriented education to the concept of fun learning.
Despite her own brilliant results at both Bachelor’s and Master’s levels in international relations, Dhaka University, as well as at secondary and higher secondary level, she feels that expectations beyond limit and constant comparisons should be avoided in providing education to children.
She spoke on a wide range of issues of secondary level of education during the interview, the full text of which is presented below:
Prothom Alo (PA): What are major features of education that you are trying to instil in children?
Munira Quader (MQ): As with all educational institutions, our prime focus is on academics, constituting Bangla, English Literacy, Numeracy, Science, IT and extracurricular activities such as swimming, which is mandatory for all students, and ECA clubs. However, our teachers also enhance other crucial aspects of growth such as moral imparting, relevance of being a proper citizen, imbuing tolerance and respect towards citizens of other nationals, and social and religious harmony. As our school pledge asserts: truth, equality and progress for our nation and of the world.
PA: How far are you optimistic about future of Bangladeshi children at home and globally, in view of their merit and sophistication they attain through education?
MQ: By virtue of being involved both in global and in home-front academics, I can truly feel a great sense of optimism in our future generation. This optimism emanates from being a part of the journey in the learning process of our students. Most students inherit a deep sense of “belonging” and relevance towards the nation and even though academics still takes precedence in the form of fierce competition, most students build enough confidence to refine themselves to engage in local and global platforms. Our teachers have diversified in the recent years to facilitate our learners to harness their strengths. A befitting example would be our two young entrepreneurs Ayman Sadeq and Sajid Iqbal who have been featured in the “Forbes 30 under 30’’ for their business entrepreneurship. Interestingly enough, both are graduates of our local universities and that speaks volume of the merit and sophistications our students can attain!
PA: Can you please share with our readers your experience and realisation in the process of teaching amongst a wide range of audience/students?
MQ: My prime experience was that of self realisation and discovery. I began my career at 16, while I myself was a student. Throughout the years I realised my virtues and vices. I discovered and diversified ways to impart academics, not just to the top tier students but to students that required extra care. This opened my world to the realisation that it is not just the top academics that are truly successful, but students who are “holistic” in their development and quest for knowledge, are the ones who truly attain success in their career and their lives. These are students who go the extra miles to better themselves, who don’t take anything for granted, who participate wholeheartedly in any opportunity given and is always open to change. This is reinforced through positive attitude imparted by school, parents and of course by accepting the two principal features of life: there is no success without failure and there is no short cut in life.
PA: Have you noticed any difference between Bangladeshi and foreign students in your classes? How do you help the children reconcile among themselves and transform differences into harmony?
MQ: The best aspect of being children is that they are most accommodative to any situation. This is where humanity conceptualises into its truest form. Of course once the series of dogmas regarding diversity or race takes precedence it can go either way. However in most cases I have witnessed positive vibes outweighing any negative feature where mutual admiration and trust eclipse any adversity. In SSK, for example, I see our foreign students showing deepest respect towards our national anthem, while our local students aspire to create a conducive environment for these youngsters to fit in perfectly. From an early age they are taught and encouraged to respect and work alongside their foreign peers and resolve any untoward incident harmoniously. This has been possible because of the generous support and understanding of our parents. Through the joint effort of school and our parents, SSK has transpired into one happy “global village”!
PA: Unlike the Bangla-medium schools, we usually don't hear about question paper leaks in English medium schools. What are possible reasons?
MQ: One of the chief concerns of the international examination board is the highest level of discretion in preserving the question papers from becoming public. Since these exams are taken on a global platform, the educational institutions of different countries are grouped in different zones depending on their geo-strategic locations, and all students belonging in the same zone sit for the exam within a given timeframe while the set of questions differ from one zone to another. The core team in charge of the question papers have the highest level of integrity and abstains from divulging information in the run up to the exams. A deep respect and concern to hold on to a prestigious exam pattern provides this virtue of preserving the secrecy of the question papers.
PA: In Bangladesh context, especially in earlier generations, there was hardly any joy with education. Has that changed and how far?
MQ: I feel the academic arena has undergone massive reformation in the recent years. Academics in the yesteryears had been completely book-oriented and that is where the “joy” in learning eluded us. Students were grouped one slot with one set mind limiting them of any options to explore. However, the platform has shifted in the recent years with the concept of ‘fun learning’ taking precedence. Students nowadays are given individual attention, kinaesthetic teaching is emphasised, teaching is imparted through visuals and practical hands on which is not only fun, but aids a child to retain the lessons. Teaching had become an art!
PA: What are some of the strengths and weaknesses of our education as a whole?
MQ: Education has taken a holistic notion in the recent years where the textual curriculum is fortified through theme-based reinforcements. That is a very positive change in our educational system, it has become more practical based and hands on features facilitate the textual curriculum. This way the intake becomes easier and that is why, particularly in English-medium schools, students fare just as well as any international student and at times even better. The negative is the level of competition that dictates the students to perform beyond his/her capability taking tolls on students who begin to dislike academics. The stress of not being able to perform on a “satisfactory” level renders the student to lose self-esteem. While motivation and positive encouragement is greatly appreciated, constant comparison with a capable student can be seriously de-motivating for any aspiring student. Expectations beyond limit and comparisons should be avoided completely.
PA: We nowadays see competition, often unhealthy, to attain or be in the 'top position'. How is the position determined and how can a school get rid of such competition and thus focus on education properly?
MQ: While competition is somewhat healthy in view that it sets some standard, this concept of “no alternatives but the top” is significantly de-motivating. The “top position” in academics can only be attained by one child, rendering the rest of the students in a state of despair because not everyone has the ability to be “the top” in academics. This needs to stop in order to promote healthy growth amongst our future generation. I feel there should be a mass merit list where more than one student can achieve to attain to be a part of merit students. Students can be “toppers” under various criteria, and not only in academics. If we look at the array of “geniuses’ throughout history, we see that a significant number of them failed to attain school grade level and yet they became the top personnel in their own fields. Every child learns differently, every child is a topper in his/her own field. We need to identify those areas and encourage him/her to bring out the best. Positive reinforcement and perseverance is the key to success. School is not the end of life; it is in fact only the beginning. Comparing two people yields nothing but negative consequences. Allow a child to explore his/her strength and his/her weakness. These need to be instilled into students, teachers and parents alike because every individual is different. They learn differently and they excel in different quarters in their lives. Thus in order to abolish unhealthy competition, there need to be a greater degree of understanding and tolerance amongst both teachers and parents. Let us be more tolerant so that our future generation may avail the opportunity to explore their strengths and become leaders of the nation.