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18 January, 2020 00:00 00 AM

Prof. M A Jabbar’s curriculum mission

Curriculum-making, revision and implementation requires wisdom, tenacity and sagacity. Prof. Jabbar had all these qualifications and qualities along with utmost dedication
Dr. Abdus Sattar Molla
Prof. M A Jabbar’s curriculum mission
Prof. Muhammad Abdul Jabbar

The total education plan of any level is termed curriculum. Curriculum contains the objectives (specifically termed also skills and competencies), contents or subject matters, teaching-learning process and assessment measures in its purview. Independent Bangladesh has completed three full cycles of primary and secondary (Grades 1-12) curriculum development and revision process that began in 1976. Prof. Muhammad Abdul Jabbar was the key person leading all these cycles of curriculum process. Thus, he established himself as the pioneer of the national curriculum of Bangladesh. This father figure of curriculum development in Bangladesh breathed his last on January 15, 2016 in Dhaka.

M A Jabbar, born and brought up in Mymensingh Town, had his pre-university education (both matriculation & Intermediate) also in Mymensingh. He studied chemistry in both Honours (1952) and Masters (1953) levels in the University of Dhaka. He was fond of education science and obtained Bachelor of Teaching (BT) degree in 1956 from Dhaka Teachers Training College (TTC). He then took overseas training on education science in the USA; on finishing the study, he was awarded M A in Education from Northern Colorado University in 1961. He taught in Dhaka TTC for some time. He also taught in the Institute of Education and Research (IER), Dhaka University for about two years (1961-’63).

However, Prof. Jabbar liked not to be content with curriculum matters only theoretically. Instead he chose to make education science and curriculum as a life-long practice. So, he left his IER lectureship in 1963 and joined the Government of Pakistan as an Assistant Education Adviser. He was promoted to the post of Deputy Education Adviser in 1968. After Liberation, Government of independent Bangladesh also appointed Prof. Jabbar as Deputy Adviser of Education in 1973.

Bangladesh Education Commission (1972) Report was published in 1974. A National Curriculum and Syllabus Committee (NCSC) was formed in 1976 chaired first by Prof. Shamsul Haque and later by Prof. Zillur Rahman Siddiqui. Prof. Jabbar served as its Director and Member-Secretary (i.e., the second position in the committee) all through. His best contribution to the curriculum of Bangladesh was made during 1976 to 1980 as the key person behind developing seven volumes of reports on National Curriculum and Syllabus in the light of Khuda Education Commission Report. The seven volumes were on: 1) Primary Education (Grades 1-5), 2) Lower Secondary Education (Grades 6-8), 3) Middle Secondary Education (Grades 9-10), 4) Higher Secondary Education (Grades 11-12), 5) Technical Education, 6) Teachers’ Training, and 7) Examination & Evaluation in Education.

Prof. Jabbar was the Director of the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) established in 1981. However, the government could not build a house for NCDC; it was working in a rented house in Elephant Road. The Textbook Board had a spacious building in Motijheel; so the government decided to use a part of its level 6 for NCDC in 1983. The NCDC was merged with the Textbook Board in 1984 and thus the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) was established.

Prof. Jabbar was appointed the first Member (Curri¬culum) of the four-member (including its Chairman) Board of NCTB in 1984 (Since 2004, NCTB is governed by a five-member Board). He served here till 1987. Prof. Jabbar finished government service in 1988 as the Director (Administration & Finance) of National Institute of Educational Administration, Extension and Research (NIEAER) which was later (1992) renamed as National Academy for Educational Manage¬ment (NAEM).

Prof. M A Jabbar, however, never distanced himself from the curriculum process of Bangladesh. The second cycle of curriculum revision of grades 1-12 in independent Bangladesh went on during 1986 through 1996. Prof. Jabbar worked with curriculum-makers more intimately this time as the chairman of the secondary curriculum report writing committee. Thus three big volumes of reports, specifically on the lower secondary (Grades 6-8), middle secondary (Grades 9-10) and higher secondary (Grades 11-12) were written (by many) and edited by him.  

As the National Education Policy-2010 was developed and approved, the third cycle of revising the national curriculum went on during 2011-’12 based on the new education policy. This time Prof. Jabbar worked as the Convener of the Technical Committee that provided technical support in revising the curriculum for the third time in Bangladesh.

In addition to the tenacious job of curriculum-making, revising and editing curriculum documents of Bangladesh, and working as education consultants of UNESCO and World Bank, Prof. Jabbar worked for curriculum abroad in Thailand, Australia, the UK, the USA and Canada for some time under UNSECO fellowship. Wherever he worked, he did the job with utmost care and sincerity. For this, he deserved more respect and honour than we could show to him.   

In December, 2018, NCTB ‘crafted’ an auditorium adjacent to its library at level 7 and named it “Muhammad Abdul Jabbar Auditorium” gratefully. I thank NCTB authorities for this noble gesture. But NCTB seems to be reluctant in preserving its own curriculum documents. Of the seven volumes of NCSC reports (production of whose was Prof. Jabbar’s greatest contribution) only few copies of two volumes: Volume-2 (lower secondary) and Volume-3 (middle secondary) are now available in NCTB Library, all other volumes are missing!

I would like to mention here a very important saying of world-renowned scientist, Sir Isaac Newton made over 300 years ago. He said, “If I have seen (something) further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” This means that present contributions of researchers are based on the works done by others before. Most of earlier works are published periodically in journals and are kept more permanently in books. Prof. Jabbar, being fully aware of this, brought about 1500 copies of the first curriculum documents from NCDC with him (as he informed me in 2006), kept in NCTB. He kept also some copies in BANBEIS and NAEM libraries. But no institution now possesses all the seven volumes. I would like to urge NCTB authority to collect the missing volumes and to prepare fresh soft copies so that these rare curriculum documents can be uploaded in the Board Website, making available to all curriculum researchers and practitioners. Some hard copies should also be preserved in NCTB library.

Curriculum-making, revision and implementation requires wisdom, tenacity and sagacity. Prof. Jabbar had all these qualifications and qualities along with utmost dedication. His was a curriculum mission. He led the implementation process of our first two cycles of curriculum. Then the gradual or incremental system of implementation was followed having prepared not only textbooks but also the teacher guides simultaneously. The implementation of the first cycle of curriculum started with Grade 1 & 2 in 1978 and gradually reached Grade 11-12 in 1985-’86. The second cycle, beginning in 1992 with Grade 1&2, reached HSC in 1998. Curriculum dissemination training for secondary level was done in the very first year of secondary curriculum implementation in 1996 (I was a trainee as well).

However, Prof. Jabbar was no more leading the implementation process of the third cycle of our national curriculum (2012). This time curriculum of Grade 1 through 9 began implementation only with textbooks (teacher guides were prepared and dissemination training were conducted later in 2 years). Such hurriedly prepared textbooks are bound to be substandard and later piecemeal corrections were not enough to reach the expected standard.

The fourth cycle of curriculum revision has started this year. Hope this time, in honour of the curriculum guru, implementation process will begin after proper preparation and shall follow the gradual and incremental process logically.

The writer is a curriculum researcher and member, BCS (General Education) Cadre.  Email:



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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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