New curriculum starts with incomplete preparation

Prothom Alo illustration

A group of students were seen playing in a tiny playground at the Eskaton Garden High School in Dhaka on 8 January. Some students of Class VII were walking around on the field. They only have one class a day. They have received only three out of the 10 prescribed textbooks.

Teachers of the school said that the teachers of secondary level are attending in-person training on the new curriculum, which will end next Sunday. The annual sports and cultural programmes are also going on at the same time. Therefore, the classes under the new curriculum can’t start in full swing before 15 March.

On the the same day at the Motijheel Primary School, it was seen that the new curriculum was introduced in Class I, even though the primary teachers were yet to receive any training. Teachers of Class 6, 7 and 8 were, however, undergoing training.

Students of all classes were yet to receive all the books. The classes hadn’t begun at full swing.

Even though this new curriculum will bring big changes to the education system, revolutionise the way students are taught and evaluated, and make sweeping changes to the contents of textbooks, some are alleging that the implementation of the new curriculum has begun throughout the country without full preparation.

Fears are rising about the probable effects of starting the new curriculum with such inadequate preparation.

However, officials of the directorate of secondary and higher education claimed the teacher training programme has begun, albeit a bit late.

Usually, classes hardly take place at the beginning of the year as schools are busy completing admission, book distribution and other such formalities.

So a small delay in training will not hamper the implementation of the new curriculum. Moreover, teachers were given some concepts in the online training, which took place last month.

Meanwhile, primary education board officials said it’s taking longer to start the training of primary teachers due to the primary scholarship examination and other reasons.   

And officials at the National Curriculum and Textbook Board said the students will receive the textbooks of the new curriculum very soon.

On 1 January, classes of the first, sixth and seventh standard students began under the new curriculum. The new curriculum will be implemented in the second, third, fourth, eighth and ninth standard from next year. Then, in 2025, it will be implemented in the fifth and 10th standard. The new curriculum will be adopted in the 11th standard in 2026 and 12th standard in 2027.

In the new curriculum, a big chunk of a student’s evaluation will be done through regular schoolwork. Till third standard, there will be no exams and students will be evaluated on their schoolwork.

From fourth to 10th standard, students’ evaluation will be done through regular schoolwork and summative work, meaning exams, in five subjects. In the remaining five subjects, evaluation will be done solely through various classroom activities.

In the 11th and 12th standard, 70 per cent of the evaluation will be done through exams and the remaining 30 per cent will be done through school work.

However, the exams will also be completely different to what it is right now. Various methods like assignments, presentation, communication and practical work will be used for evaluation.

The result will no longer be published using grade point average (GPA). The students will be evaluated in three stages. The first stage is the initial stage of competence, the second stage is named the middle stage of competence and the last and the best stage is labelled as the competent stage.

There will be another change that all students till 10th standard will have the same subjects. The three streams– science, business studies and humanities– will be introduced in the 11th standard. Previously, students would choose one of the three streams after the eighth standard.

The SSC exam will be held only on the 10th standard’s syllabus. Currently, the exam takes place on ninth and 10th standard’s syllabus.

Two board exams will be held at the end of the 11th and 12th standard. Both those results would be combined to determine the HSC result.

Training of primary school teachers yet to start

Teachers are one of the mainstays to implement the new curriculum, but they are not prepared yet. The five-day in-person training has begun for teachers at the secondary level following the start of the academic activities under the new curriculum, but training is yet to start for the primary teachers.

There have been allegations of negligence against primary education administration over the implementation of the new curriculum. Initially the plan was to introduce the new curriculum in Class One at some specific schools and evaluate the outcome before implementing it all over the country. However, the new curriculum is being implemented in Class One this year without any trial and now some allegations have surfaced regarding the administration's delay in the training.

Asked about why the primary teachers have not been trained as yet on the new curriculum, NCTB member (primary education) AKM Reazul Hasan told Prothom Alo that the Directorate of Primary Education said that teachers attending the diploma course on primary education had examinations throughout December.

Besides, the national student assessment was prepared last month.

Training was also delayed because of the primary school scholarship examination in late December and the textbook festival at the beginning of the year. However, the training would begin soon, he added.

Formulation of the new education curriculum took long and the time for introducing it was scheduled. But the question is whether implementation of the new curriculum has been given due priority.

Training at secondary level

The Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education (DSHE) has been working prepare teachers at the secondary level for the new curriculum. The NCTB set the outline of five-day training for all teachers in December last year, but training for teachers at secondary level started on 6 January. The training was held on 6, 7, 13, 14, and 15 January.

DSHE set a goal to train 820,000 teachers at the secondary level after getting information from the Bangladesh Bureau of Education and Statistics (BANBEIS), and to date, 280,000 teachers have received the training.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, DSHE director (training) Prabir Kumar Bhattcharjee told Prothom Alo, “Some 350,000 teachers including 32,000 headmasters will receive the training and teachers who are getting subject based training will be trained in February.”

Training for teachers at secondary level is underway at upazilas and thanas across the country. Teachers from the capital’s Ramna thana are being trained at the Willes Little Flower School and College.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Ramna thana education officer said some 715 teachers would be trained here. Visiting the school on Friday, a group of teachers were seen standing in a circle.  A trainer at the centre of the circle was giving lessons to the teachers around him.

The trainer was Md Saidur Rahman, a senior teacher of Islam and Moral Education at Shahnuri Model Girls High School. He became a trainer after first undergoing a six-day training. A total of 70 teachers were supposed to take part in the training. However, some 53 participated in it.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Saidur Rahman said he was taking a demonstration class for the sixth grade, with the trainees posing as students, to show them practically how the classes should be conducted as the new curriculum stresses on practical learning.

Positively referring to the new curriculum, this trainer said that the training would have been better if it had been done a month or two earlier.

Another trainer said, “The implementation of the new curriculum is still in the preliminary phase. All the books are still not available and the training has just started.”

A teacher of the Willes Little Flower School, who took part in the training, said, “It is not possible to implement the new curriculum effectively without training. Therefore, the training should have been started before the start of this year.”

However, DSHE director general Nehal Ahmed told Prothom Alo, “It’s not that the teachers have started taking classes without any training at all.  The teachers have already been trained virtually on the outline of the new curriculum. They also had training on the overall curriculum virtually last month. Now they are being trained up in person. Nobody will be allowed to take any class without training.”

According to the sources in the DSHE, the cost of the training programme for the teachers has been estimated at Tk 6.5 billion.

Problems as all books not available

Books of Class 1, 6 and 7, prepared in light of the new curriculum, have changed. There have been major changes in all areas including the content and arrangement of the books.

But, while the new curriculum has already started, not all the students of these three classes have received the whole set of books.

For instance, going to Motijheel Government Primary School it was learnt that while the Bangla and English books of Class 1 had arrived earlier, Mathematics books did not come until 8 January. Till that day only three books of Class 7 had arrived. All the books of Class 6 had arrived.

Since all the books of these classes are brand new, implementation of the new curriculum is being hampered as all the new books are not available.

According to sources at the NCTB, not only the books of three classes of the new curriculum, but all the books of all classes are delayed this year.

NCTB chairman Md Farhadul Islam, however, said that they hope the students will get all the books by 15 January.

On the one hand students did not get all the books and on the other hand, the teachers haven’t been fully prepared.

In response to the question as to in such a situation how much impact can the new curriculum have on education, member of the national curriculum development and revision core committee M Tariq Ahsan, a professor at Dhaka University’s Institute of Education and Research (IER) told Prothom Alo that there is no alternative to good preparation in implementing the new curriculum.