Education Act not enacted either by Nahid or by Dipu Moni

The national education policy was drawn up during the term of former education minister Nurul Islam Nahid under Awami League-led government in 2010. A committee was formed in January the following year to make a draft of the education act in order to implement the policy. In the meantime, Nurul Islam Nahid has served two terms as the education minister. Dipu Moni has been serving as the education minister since January 2019. More than four years of the government's five-year term have already passed. But the education act is yet to see the light of day.

The authorities have been dragging the issue on in the name of discussion for over a decade. According to sources of the education ministry, it is uncertain whether the law will be passed even in the current term of the government.

The National Education Policy was made during the Awami League government which is still in power. Yet the education policy is not being implemented and various issues pertaining to the education sector are being resolved through executive orders or under separate laws.

People associated with the national education policy formulation committee say that the draft law is not coming into being mainly due to the lack of commitment of the policy makers of the education ministry.

When asked, an official of the ministry preferring not to be named, told Prothom Alo that there was no progress on the draft law.

Steps were to be taken to bring together all laws, regulations, orders relating to education and to introduce the Integrated Education Act for the implementation of the National Education Policy. For this purpose, the Ministry of Education formed 24 sub-committees to implement the education policy in January 2011, one of which was making a draft of the Education Act.

At least 50 meetings were held on the draft of this law since then. The ministry drafted the law with the opinions of various people and sent it to the cabinet division several times. But the cabinet division sent back the draft pointing out various 'errors and queries'. Despite innumerable meetings and discussions, the law never saw the light of day.

Disagreement over coaching and guidebooks

In December 2016, the draft law legalising coaching and private tuition under the name of 'shadow education' was sent to the cabinet division by the education ministry. But in the face of controversy, the ministry took the initiative to revoke and revise it. Next year, the ministry drafted a law banning coaching, private tuition and all types of note-books, supplementary or test books. It was not finalised eventually. After that, a consultant was appointed and the draft was finalised, but never enacted.

However, while guidebooks have been banned in the latest proposed law, it allowed to bind, publish or market supplementary books with the approval of the government. However, no educational institution or any teacher can compel students to buy or read those guidebooks. Forcing or encouraging the purchase or reading of these books will be considered misconduct. The proposed law also allows coaching with registration. However, no teacher can teach any student of his own institution in the coaching centre. Apart from this, no teacher of any educational institution can give tuition to any student of his institution.

It has been discussed at the government level that as the National Education Policy was made more than a decade ago, it will not be practical to just legislate the policy based on the previous context. So the law has to be made in the current context.

Professor SM Hafizur Rahman of Dhaka University's Institute of Education and Research told Prothom Alo that it is necessary to review the education policy formulated a decade ago and upgrade it.

People related to education say that many decisions of education cannot be implemented due to lack of law. For example, the important decisions of the national education policy, including making primary education up to Class VIII, have not been implemented. Again, in the absence of law, many teachers have been violating an earlier directive issued by the education ministry regarding coaching and tuition for years.

In August 2012, the Ministry of Education framed a policy to stop coaching business by teachers of educational institutions and directed that teachers of public and private schools, colleges and madrasahs cannot teach students of his own institution privately or in coaching centres. Even teachers cannot teach in commercial coaching centres. However, a teacher can give tuition to maximum of 10 students at home per day. And in exchange of government payment, teachers can run extra classes for weaker students within the institution with the consent of parents. However, no one can be forced to take these extra classes.

Many parents of students studying in different schools of the capital objected that many teachers in the schools have created such a 'situation' that they would have no other option but to send their children for tuition to those teachers. Students have to take tuition from many of the teachers who teach in the classroom.

According to BRAC University Emeritus professor Manzoor Ahmed, the proposed law has been held up over the decision whether or not there will be coaching or private tuition, guide books and so on. However, he told Prothom Alo that the way the proposed law is being formulated, it does not seem very important to him. Rather, there should be a Right to Education Act with guidelines on rights, funding, decentralisation and equality, etc.

Lack of commitment

The draft education act has been discussed and reviewed at the ministry level. It has been made media headlines again and again, but to no avail.

When asked, the co-chairman of the National Education Policy Formulation Committee, Qazi Khaliquzzaman Ahmed, told Prothom Alo that the law was necessary to implement the national education policy. Many other things could not be implemented due to the absence of the law. He feels that the law has not been passed so far due to lack of commitment.

*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo Bangla online, has been rewritten in English by Farjana Liakat