Our education sector is at a stake due to the pandemic. Educationists are advising urgent measures to cover the losses. The existing crisis has intensified now more ever than before. Alongside recovery and restoration measures, a mid-term reform has to be thought out.
Ahead of the announcement of new education policy in 2010, five senior educationists in a joint statement gave nine proposals. That statement was published in different newspapers at the time. The policy of 2010 still remains unimplemented. The proposal of reputed educationists remains relevant.
Five eminent educationists are Professor Kabir Chowdhury, Professor Zillur Rahman, Professor Serajul Islam Choudhury, Professor Anisuzzaman and Professor Jamal Nazrul Islam. Only Serajul Islam Choudhury remains living.
The proposal of 12 years' ago is still relevant as there are shortcomings in our education.
Only proposal No. 8, which is a coordinated plan of basic education up to Class VIII, is no longer adequate. In accordance with sustainable development goal of 2030, a plan for universal education for up to XII has to be formulated.
Let evil politics from the educational atmosphere be removed and let specific steps including adequate finance be taken to implement the educational policy.
We support the education and human development goal written in the roadmap of 2021 by the grand alliance government. We want the success of this government's commitment to build a democratic and progressive country based on quality education for all.
People have huge expectations from the current government. We are worried that educational reforms are not taking place speedily. The steps that should be taken to achieve the goals are being hampered in many ways. We urge prime minister Sheikh Hasina and her government to take decisions to implement the following steps.
1. Students and the young generation have to be kept away from evil politics in the educational arena. Chattra League has to be disconnected directly and indirectly from Awami League in a bid to maintain good environment in the educational atmosphere. An order should be issued to the authorities of educational institutions and local government to strictly control criminal activities of students and outsiders at the campuses. This decision is also necessary to restore past glory of student politics.
2. There are differences as well as consensus over the main goals of the draft education policy published recently. Despite differences in some cases, the implementation of the goals which have general consensus should not be hampered in any way. After holding discussions in the parliament, steps should be taken to implement those goals.
3. The goals which have no controversy
Based on main curricula at all types of primary and secondary educational institutions, an opportunity for quality and unified education for children has to be ensured.
Minimum skill and knowledge in information technology, social study, history, math, science, Bangla and English language of all students of all types of schools have to be ensured. Scientific methods have to be applied for skill assessment.
Primary and secondary education administration has to be decentralised meaningfully. Each educational institution has to be accountable. They have to be given responsibility as well as authority. Giving importance on the leadership role of heads of all institutions, their skills, salary and dignity have to be increased.
4. A complete solution to all types of problems and detailed plan of action for implementation cannot be expected from the lone national education policy. In light of experience and during the preparation of implementation, solution to difficult problems can be found. For this purpose, a permanent education commission accountable to the parliament can be formed. This has been recommended in the draft education policy.
5. A national education act should be formulated for the management of education. The permanent education commission can lead it.
6. Supply of adequate resources and its proper utilisation is necessary for education reforms and development. Decision has to be taken on priority basis for the financing of education.
7. Extended education tax should be introduced as a means of financing in the education sector. By introducing 2 per cent on all existing tax for basic education since 2004-2005 and one per cent more from 2007-2008 for secondary and higher secondary education in India, three billion dollars are being collected. This fund is used for the development of primary and secondary education and lunch for children.
8. Policy of government expenditure has to be adopted in accordance with the number of students based on upazila in a bid to fulfill the constitutional commitment. A concerted decentralised plan and its implementation activities should be started for the expansion of universal basic education from pre-primary to Class VIII.
9. We have proposed three specific actions under the sixth five-year plan to expand quality and equality based basic education.
By engaging all guardians of schools and local government, arrangements for lunch should be made to increase study hours at primary schools.
Courses for preparation of teachers should be introduced as part of college degree programmes to enhance skills of teachers at primary and secondary level and to bring in meritorious youth to the education profession. Participants in this course will get education diplomas along with degrees including humanities and science. Students of this course have to be given stipend to attract meritorious students and after completion of studies, these students have to be given proper salary for taking up the education career for at least five years. A national teachers' corps can be formed. In ten years, 100,000 to 200,000 teachers of this education corps will be able to start bringing in changes in primary and secondary schools across the country. To make this step successful, this course has to be introduced in one or two selected colleges in each upazila of the country. Steps have to be taken to improve the necessary infrastructure of these colleges.
Planned action for elimination of illiteracy and education for old should be implemented for the sake of creating opportunity of education for all lifelong. Engaging local government, society and non-government organisations, a network of village based mass education centres and libraries countrywide should be built for this purpose. A goal has to be set to bring in youths out of schools for literacy and developing necessary skills at these centres. Village based IT centres and proposed community radio can be connected with education centres.
Leaving aside short term thinking and political point of view, bold and ideology based decisions have to be taken. Despite opposition and limitations, we believe the people will extend support if there is commitment for implementation of these instructions.
Prothom Alo talks to professor Serajul Islam Choudhury about the proposal of five educationists:
"Those instructions are not implemented and the main reason is that the education system is not being prioritised in that way. The entire matter has to be taken seriously. Education has now gone to the personal level. Besides, education has become a business. As a result, the responsibility a state has for education, is not being felt seriously. The government is not prioritising the education and health sectors and is not carrying out its responsibilities. However, these sectors are very important.
All developments happening in our country will be meaningless unless we cannot improve our education and health sectors. The entire matter is not being considered in this way. As a result, the instructions given in 2010 remain unimplemented to a great extent still today. I think if those educationists were alive, they would say the same."
Manzoor Ahmed is a emeritus professor at BRAC University.
*This article, originally published in Prothom Alo print and online editions, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.