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7 December, 2018 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 6 December, 2018 08:29:38 PM

Need effective basic education for all

We actually need to establish effective basic education at least up to class1-8. The status of such basic education would be universal
Abdus Sattar Molla
Need effective basic education for all

Formal education of 16 to 18 years duration in the modern world is divided almost equally (each of 5-6 years) into three stages: Primary/Elementary, Secondary and Higher. A review of the education systems of 182 countries reveals that the highest number of countries (87) have the Primary Education (PE) up to Grade-6. The USA, the UK, Germany, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and China have PE up to Grade-6. However, adjudging only six years of schooling as inadequate, these countries and many others having developed education systems, made education mainly up to Grade-9 (In some countries up to Grade 8,10 or even 12) universal terming that ‘Basic’ (not Primary) to contain UNESCO principle of universal schooling at least up to the age of 14.

Till 1954, PE was up to Grade-4 in the present Bangladesh and its length was elevated to five years (up to Grade-5) in 1955. This continued for the rest of our East Pakistan days, and is still the case today. However our first Education Commission (1972) in independent Bangladesh, headed by the reputed scientist Dr. Qudrat-A-Khuda, proposed in its report published in 1974 the elevation of the PE stage to Grade-8. That Commission argued that PE up to Grade-5 was utterly inadequate as universal compulsory education. For providing “basic knowledge on economically important subjects”, the duration of PE must have been elevated to Grade-8 (Bangladesh Education Commission Report, P. 23)-the Commission observed.  

Later most education commissions of independent Bangladesh re-iterated the urge of elevating PE to Grade-8. The last education commission (why it was named as a mere ‘committee’ is a question!) formed in 2009 for formulating an education policy just repeated that urge in the government approved “National Education Policy-2010.”

However, after long 7-8 years of efforts, the process of elevating PE up to Grade-8 is said to have stalled. To my understanding, there is no point of despair in failing to elevate PE up to Grade-8. However, why our longing for a lengthy PE fails realization for decades is a pertinent question, indeed! Reasons are many. The very first reason is: our longing was not a well thought-out plan. Being an education researcher, I termed that longing an ‘illusion’ in an article captioned “An analysis of the education policy” published in The Daily Star on 29/09/2009.

Elevation of PE up to Grade-8 first proposed by Bangladesh Education Commission was without sufficient knowledge of the world education systems. During 1972-’74, there was no Internet and Bangladesh had a few foreign embassies as information exchange centers. The learned members of our first education commission did not know that required universal schooling was dealt with by Basic (not Primary) Education system worldwide. The succeeding commissions and committees just followed the urge expressed in the first one.  

Dr. Siddiqur Rahman (a member on the 18-member Education Policy Committee), a retired professor of IER, DU could find a number of obstacles. Adding three grades to 5-year primary schools would require about TK. 700 billion to build massive infrastructures and to appoint qualified teachers. In the same time, the present infrastructures in high schools would remain underused. That is why Prof. Rahman proposed (in a vernacular article: “Ways of elevating PE to Grade-8”, Prothom-Alo, 05/07/2009) renaming ‘Lower Secondary’ grades 6-8 as ‘Upper Primary’ keeping those grades in secondary schools, maintaining the status quo of primary schools pertaining education at grades 1-5.

I find more problems in implementing the 8-year long PE. The incumbent teachers at grades 6-8 in secondary schools would need to be re-appointed in primary schools where their students would study. Such lowering of status of high school teachers to that of primary level would create sense of demotion in those teachers. Besides, even if the country could afford the expense, 8-9 years (Introduction of 1-year pre-primary would make it exactly 9 years!) of education in a single school could create monotony in students' minds, and the desire to study in a higher seat of learning, alongside elevation of grade level would be defeated. So, there is nothing to regret in halting the process of elevating PE to Grade-8.  

Since most developed countries have 6-year primary schooling, we can, however, try to add Grade-6 to our primary schools. We can offer some type of vocational studies for students who would finish study of Primary-6 as in China. Some type of vocational/technical training is a must for employment since imparting “basic knowledge on economically important subjects” in general schools (and Madrasas) is practically impossible.

Once we can elevate primary education to Grade-6, the three stages of our general education system would form a good pyramidal structure like 7+6+5. Including 1-year long pre-primary, the duration of primary schooling up to Grade-6 would be 7 years; as Grade-6 comes down to the primary schools, lower secondary would begin at Grade-7 and secondary stage up to Grade-12 would be a 6-year long study. If we keep general higher education of 5 years (4 year Honors and 1 year Masters), the aforementioned pyramid is obtained.

Many people in Bangladesh still use the term ‘Intermediate’ for our higher secondary sub-stage (Grades 11-12). Actually a 2-year long ‘Intermediate’ stage (in between secondary and higher) created during British Period was made void in 1963. Since then ‘higher secondary’ has been the uppermost sub-stage of the secondary stage of education. The so-called ‘Intermediate’ short 2-year education program in between the secondary and higher is now non-existent all over the world. This has been absorbed within the secondary stage of education as its uppermost sub-stage named differently as upper secondary or higher secondary (as in Bangladesh) or pre-university in different countries.     

However, the HSC course, once dropped from many Honors-Masters colleges of Bangladesh was re-introduced mainly for business purpose, not for better education. HSC in such big colleges is subject to be neglected; while this sub-stage in secondary schools can enjoy the highest priority. St. Joseph Higher Secondary School in Dhaka is a grand example. All our cadet colleges, in essence, are “Model Secondary Schools” pertaining education at grades 7-12.       

We actually need to establish effective Basic Education at least up to Grade-8. The status of such basic education would be universal by declaring it ‘compulsory’, free of tuition fees (that is now up to Grade-5) and issuing “Basic Education Certificate” (BEC) on passing a public examination (preferably making it the first public examination) in place of the present JSC/JDC. Thus both students and parents will feel pressure in finishing such functional basic education. On finishing such universal basic education, some students would somehow be unable to continue further general education. For such students, we can provide a mid level technical course so that the ‘graduates’ can have good employment to be valuable citizens having worthy livelihood.  

The writer is an education researcher and a member of BCS (General Education) Cadre.

E-mail: asmolla@ymail.com




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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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