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18 February, 2020 11:14:34 AM
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Reading habits declining among students

Despite a steady improvement in literacy rate in the country, a lack of interest in reading book reflects some structural flaws of the education system
Mosharrof Hossain
Reading habits declining among students

As in many other developing countries, the core issue for education policymakers in Bangladesh is to increase students’ access to education and boost educational attainment rates. Tremendous progress has been made in these areas over the past decades. Unfortunately though, the habit of reading books among students is gradually declining in the country. It is needed to identify the reasons behind this trend.
This requires detailed analysis. When it is asserted that the habit of book reading is declining, does it mean that there was a time when people of Bangladesh used to read more? The rate of adult literacy was significantly lower four decades ago. Only around 30 per cent of the total population was literate - able to read and write. The population was also smaller, around 82.0 million. The country's population has now reached around 17 cores while the literacy rate has increased to around 73 per cent. It means, a large number of people are now able to read books.
Nevertheless, several indicators show that fewer people are reading books compared to this large population. Despite a steady improvement in literacy rate in the country, a lack of interest in reading book reflects some structural flaws of the education system. Students in schools and colleges are not usually encouraged to read books other than text and note or guide books. The so-called 'out books' including fictions and non-fictions are not acceptable to most of the guardians and teachers. They think that by reading these books, students will lose attention to class works and examinations.

There are teachers and parents who inspire their students to develop interest in reading books. But many of the students rarely pay heed to their words. They spend most of the time in Facebooking rather than reading. While talking to some college and university teachers they said that many students nowadays are using the social media in the classes ignoring the teachers’ instructions. Hard competition in the job market creates anxiety and insecurity especially among the middle class families. So, they prefer to prepare themselves for the competition ahead rather that reading for pleasure.

Many people in different professions are also not reading books. Some of them didn't grow up with the habit of reading. There are other people who were used to reading books but failed to maintain the habit due to increasing stressful lifestyle. Just think about the chaotic traffic situation which compels people to spend their valuable time on roads. Inconvenient and hazardous public transport also provides little space for reading on board.

Then comes the fact of easy access to internet through smartphone. From students to workers, from housewives to professionals, everyone seems to be addicted to the digital world. With electronic devices in hands, they have access to almost unlimited options of entertainment.

However, these students pass SSC and HSC examinations and get admission in private universities. Everyone knows about the general standard of education in most private universities. After graduating they fight for jobs. But many can’t do well in written exams and get good jobs.

  People can't get a good official job without passing written test.

Yet a growing number of Bangladeshi students are going abroad in their quest for world-class degrees to obtain the skills and confidence, which will put them on a par with their global peers in employment sectors.

Foreign missions in Dhaka have reported that an increasing number of Bangladeshis with HSC certificates are crowding their offices for visas in pursuit of higher education.

The United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany and Russia are among the most sought destinations, but in the recent years  a steady rush has been observed for some very good universities in Asian countries like Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Japan, China and others.

The students are going abroad to have qualifications and skills for becoming global citizens and improving future employment prospects. Academics, however, blame failure of Bangladesh education system for this brain drain, which deprives the country as majority of these students do not return after completing their study or training and start living in foreign countries.

Bangladesh approved first private university in 1992. Now there are 95 such universities. Half of these universities got approval after 2007.

A UNESCO data shows that Malaysia, the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, India, Saudi Arabia, Japan and the United Arab Emirates are top ten destinations for the Bangladeshi students.
Usually Bangladeshi students going abroad are from the affluent class with English medium background but these days students from middle class families are also going abroad. Universities of these countries usually offer different scholarships, waivers of tuition fees. But getting scholarships or tuition waivers takes time and previous academic achievements do matter. Most universities around the world require an English language proficiency test for those whose native language is not English.

IELTS is the most commonly used and accepted international standardised test for that. On the other hand, most universities in the USA prefer TOEFL. SAT is a basic requirement for undergrad education all around the USA. Graduate Records Examination is the graduate level equivalent of SAT for admission into graduation schools.

Students can get valuable information regarding universities and education system of different countries from education exhibitions that take place in Dhaka and elsewhere in the country each year. If the education ministry comes forward to take initiatives to monitor the situation, it will bear fruit to a great extent. The government should put importance on basic lesson but not on passing percentage.

 The writer is a journalist of The Independent

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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