Hiren Pandit: A Smart country needs Smart citizens. Smart education is needed to become a Smart citizen. Smart education requires a combined effort of a Smart education system, a Smart environment, spirited patriots, and Smart manpower. One of the conditions of collective effort is due participation and effective role of the concerned parties. The involvement of stakeholders at all stages of planning and implementation is also one of the characteristics of the fourth industrial revolution. It applies to all alterations, renovations, or conversions.
There is no substitute for work-oriented education to reduce the number of educated unemployed population. Reasons for not returning to agriculture after higher education need to be explored. Education should be multi-lateral. We need to give importance to our education sector to become a middle-income country. Education should be of proper quality. It is imperative to build and improve child, disability, and gender-sensitive education facilities and ensure a safe, peaceful, inclusive, and effective learning environment for all.
Vocational training, ICT, technology, engineering, and science need to be increased significantly. The National Curriculum Outline-2021 attempts to give a holistic view of education from pre-primary to class twelve. The framework will be piloted in two classes from 2021 and will be phased into full implementation in class 12 in 2027. It has brought about major changes in the curriculum and evaluation system of the students. All public examinations before class 10 have been canceled.
At this stage, the entire evaluation will be done through continuous learning activities in the school. Some assessments in various subjects will be based on learning activities and some assessments will be through examination. Changes have also been made in the SSC and HSC examination system. Apart from this, there is no opportunity to choose a department in class nine. Instead of going to the 11th standard, students can study in the department of their choice.
As per the outline, there will be no more books for children at the pre-primary level, i.e. nursery and play. Teachers will teach them directly in the classroom. After that, students from classes I to III will be taught three books, but there will be no exams. Students will be assessed based on various learning activities conducted throughout the year. From class IV onwards, the assessment system will have both learning activities and tests.
As soon as the Awami League government came to power, it adopted a program to eliminate illiteracy and as a result, almost a hundred percent of the population is now getting an education. Bangladesh is now ahead of many countries including India in terms of literacy rate. Moreover, establishing specialized universities in agriculture, engineering, medicine, and science and technology according to economic needs. These universities can directly contribute to our economic prosperity.
Emphasis on institution-centered continuous assessment in the new curriculum is positive. We have to go to this system gradually. It is undeniable that not only classroom learning but also learning through experience taking into account the surrounding, socio-economic conditions has been taken as the main learning strategy in this curriculum. Learning to do one’s work is important not only in the family but also in pre- and primary education.
There is a lot of discussion and criticism about the outline of the new curriculum. Various types of information have spread through social media in such a way that just as parents are worried, teachers are also a bit confused. As a result, its adverse effects on children are quite evident. Although some people have criticized the new outline, many educators and conscious circles are saying that the positive aspects of the outline are admirable and brave considering the goals of national education in the global context and at the same time they are expressing their opinions with some logical criticism.
The incorporation of projects and assignments in the education system is a laudable initiative. It is also a revolutionary idea to replace the rote test system; But in the case of project-based assessment, classroom teacher observation is necessary and a sufficient number of quality teachers are needed to implement it. In Bangladesh, the number of teachers compared to the number of students is already very insufficient, so the current system will be difficult to implement without effective initiatives.
The new curriculum, new textbooks, learning-teaching, and evaluation methods should be well understood by the teachers as soon as possible. Training after training should be done consistently. Again, there are various disparities in cities and villages. Therefore, for the implementation of the new curriculum, it is necessary to arrange for the appointment of sufficient and talented teachers, as well as to make them efficient by giving them the necessary training.
Systematic supervision and monitoring of infrastructural development and other related matters should be maintained. Apart from students, teachers and parents are also partners in the education system. Therefore, overall development in the education sector is not possible without them. They should also give importance to adopting the education system. Besides, the training system of teachers needs to be strengthened.
It is impossible to bring any benefit by introducing a new educational system without creating a field of practice. The business of guiding and coaching should be stopped. Besides, it is also important to bring back the habit of reading textbooks among students. Bangladesh is lagging in connecting the education sector with the world of work. A large number of our population come to higher education but many do not have a clear career plan. As a result, they are not able to coordinate their knowledge with the workplace.
The government has taken various steps to improve the quality of secondary-level education in Bangladesh. New courses have also been introduced recently. However, according to education statistics, there is a shortage of skilled, trained teachers in secondary schools. This crisis is especially evident in subjects like English, Mathematics, ICT, and Science. The government has emphasized training to make teachers efficient.
Now with the new curriculum, the pressure on science education at the secondary level has been reduced to some extent. Because according to international standards, earlier we had extra pressure on students at the secondary level. Now it has been reduced and only what a student at this level needs to learn is being taught. According to the new curriculum, teachers with a bachelor’s degree in science are enough to teach science to students. The new system will make it possible for a chemistry teacher to teach biology or a math teacher to teach physics.
By reducing the pressure on the education system, the pressure on the teachers will also be reduced and the shortage of specialized teachers will also be alleviated to some extent. Teachers are being made competent through subject-oriented training to teach the subjects properly. However, subject-wise graduate-post-graduate degree teachers are being recruited at the college level.
Because what will be taught at the college level will require subject-oriented teachers. Bangladesh is also gradually gaining capacity in the IT sector due to the opening of the University of Science and Technology, making information technology compulsory in education, and as a result, various IT products such as software, and cables have started to be exported outside the country. Earlier our education system was rote-based. Results depended on who was memorizing well.
Students used to study for good results in exams. Coaching and guidebook dealers were profiting by exploiting efforts to produce good results in a short time. This opportunity is not available in the new curriculum. Students will now learn hands-on. However, the new curriculum also has many challenges. It is not 100% permanent as it is now. In the meantime, several inputs have been received regarding the new curriculum and the government is taking advice on them. The evaluation method has a challenge. The government is looking at them.
The evaluation method may change. Besides, there may be more changes in the new curriculum. The government will resolve the suggestions at different levels by discussing them with everyone. The government is giving importance to one thing, that is the minimum skills and knowledge that a student needs to have at the age of 12, and the skills and knowledge that a student needs to have at the age of 16 should be ensured among all students of that age.
The educationists will lead the education, the government wants to arrange the education curricula in discussion with the employers. That is, now everyone is trying to connect the economy with education, we can change the places of education in keeping with the change in work style. According to the demand for employment, soft skills and hard skills can be developed among the students, and the government will work in that way. In this case, class IV to class-wise assessment will be 30 to 60 percent and examination will be in the remaining portion.
However, the assessment of several subjects will be based on 100% continuous learning activities. A variety of methods will be used for assessment during learning, including students’ communication skills, presentations, class assignments, or homework. Students will now be taught the same syllabus in classes 9 and 10 and take the SSC exam on the same ten subjects, which will be the first public examination. Later in class 11th, students can choose the department of their choice among the three streams of science, humanities and commerce.
Instead of the current conventional HSC examination, two separate public examinations will be held in classes XI and XII. After that, the final results of the HSC will be published by combining the results of the two exams. In this case, learning assessment for compulsory subjects will be 30 percent and summative assessment or examination will be 70 percent. The new outline presents an entirely new vision for the future. It refers to transformative skills–students will be able to integrate their acquired knowledge, skills, values and attitudes in diverse subjects to be applied at any level and in any situation in real life, earn a living and become accustomed to lifelong learning. Undoubtedly, this is a very timely decision.
If the new curriculum is to be implemented properly, each student needs to be looked at. Short- medium- and long-term planning should be done to reduce the teacher-to-student ratio through specific planning. In Bangladesh, in most cases, talented people do not enter the teaching profession. So, to bring talented people, they have to make proper arrangements. Effective initiatives should be taken to implement the National Education Policy of 2010. Guidance has been provided for parents on encouraging children to do homework, encouraging good work, and maintaining honesty and ethics.
These should be discussed with the parents. It should be eliminated through effective coordination of parents, class teachers, and heads of educational institutions. Bangladesh’s curriculum included ‘Agricultural Education’. There is criticism that agriculture is given too little importance in the proposed education system. How agricultural education can be further integrated can be thought of. The subject of ‘Health Protection’ has been included in the National Curriculum in the textbooks.
The ‘National Curriculum Framework-2021’ considers competence as a combination of knowledge, skills, values and attitudes to adapt to changing contexts. Undoubtedly, this is a significant milestone and a bold decision in the history of Bangladesh. Let such an education system be developed in the country so that our students become modern, skilled, educated and developed people suitable for the 21st century. Any innovation is a challenge. In other countries of the world, the curriculum is periodically evaluated and updated in keeping with the reality and era.
Since the new curriculum has been introduced in our country, the new curriculum has been adapted to both international standards and our local problems. Students can keep themselves in the leadership position by adapting to the new technologies that are constantly being invented. The new curriculum will create global citizens who will play a role in building Bangabandhu’s Sonar Bangla and at the same time will be ready to face the challenges of the 21st century and the fourth industrial revolution, helping to build a Smart Bangladesh.
The writer is a columnist and researcher