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Bangladesh’s new curriculum wins praises. Are teachers ready for the challenge?

  • Kazi Nafia Rahman, Staff Correspondent, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2021-09-22 23:40:27 BdST

Educators have welcomed the curriculum planned by the government, but they see challenges in its implementation and doubt how much Bangladesh is ready for the new system.

The rollout of the new curriculum will begin in 2022 and by 2025 students will experience a new world of schooling without exams up to Class III, Education Minister Dipu Moni said earlier this month.

The government has added more classwork assessments with no distinctions in the streams of science, arts and business studies in classes IX and X.

In line with the outline of the new national curriculum, students will be assessed in classes and have a comprehensive evaluation.

“Learning will be fun. The burden of subjects and textbooks will be less,” Dipu Moni said.

The new system aims to wean students off rote learning and focuses on class activities -- a way to deepen the understanding of subjects.

Experts say the changes are much needed for a more effective and reality-based education system, but the government needed more review before bringing big changes.

REDUCING EXAMS?

Professor Serajul Islam Choudhury welcomed the scrapping of exams, saying the move will reduce pressure on students and costs.

“It is wrong to make the students focus on tests, guidebooks and private coaching in the name of public exams.”

Father Hemanta Peus Rosario, principal of Notre Dame College in Dhaka, says learning with reduced exams will be fun for the children. 

In his words, Primary Education Completion or PEC exams for Class V and Junior School Certificate or JSC tests for Class VIII “hampered” study. “These exams gave rise to private coaching. Little children had to take big exams. Without these exams, a lot of time can be saved and be used in the classroom.”    

“The children grow up in unhealthy competition to become first, second or third. This will go away now, but they will be evaluated,” said Shahan Ara Begum, principal of Motijheel Ideal School and College.

Mariam Begum, a professor of Dhaka University’s Institute of Education and Research, also sees the scrapping of exams for up to Class III as a good decision, but she thinks the abolishment of the JSC exams will affect the career of many students in rural areas. “Many cannot continue their studies after Class VIII. They would have been able to get a job with the JSC certificate.”

SCRAPPING STREAMS

Father Hemanta said the blurring of the streams for Class IX and X is a good side to the new system, but making the syllabus is still a challenge, especially for grades XI and XII, because they get only one and a half years to complete college education before Higher Secondary Certificate exams.     

He believes the time is not enough for the HSC students of science streams if they do not have a strong basic knowledge of science.

“All other countries have four years for higher secondary education, but it’s only two years in our country. The government should think about it.”

Prof Mariam said the “gaps” students suffer during the transition to higher education may widen due to “a lack of subjects in grades IX and X”. 

Principal Shahan Ara supported the move to eliminate the streams, saying it will reduce pressure on the students. “We force the children to study science and become doctors considering it as an issue of prestige. But this is decreasing their knowledge of the real world, social sciences, geography.”

“When they achieve poor grades in SSC, they choose the commerce stream, or switch to arts from commerce. Now after studying in Class IX and X, the students will themselves understand which path they should take.”       

WHY CHANGES?

Prof Serajul thinks the government should have made it clear that it had been “experimenting” with the education system. He also believes the changes should have been based on public opinion rather than through a bureaucratic channel.

He questioned the decision to launch PEC and JSC tests, and then scrapping them. 

“Now we haven’t received an explanation why the exams are scrapped. This is public education. So, the people should know the reasons behind holding extra exams, and why these are scrapped now.”    

“Was the previous exam policy wrong? Such experiments with education are not right.”

CHALLENGES

Prof Mariam sees challenges in executing the curriculum. “We are changing the curriculum and the evaluation system. Are schools and teachers ready for the new challenges?”

Principal Shahan Ara is also doubtful about the implementation of the plan. She said the creative learning system, launched around a decade ago, has not actually been useful. “Many teachers in the rural areas do not even understand the system.”

“The execution of the changes will be the biggest challenge at a time when we could not implement the previous curriculum in so many years. It will be unrealistic if we think that we will be able to actualise bigger changes in teaching and learning easily now,” said Prof Mariam.

She thinks it would have been easier for the teachers and students to adapt to the new system if the changes were brought in phases.