Nusrat Jahan, a Class V student of a reputed school in the capital, said that she did not get time for leisure as her school set a target to finish all the textbooks by July through regular classes and additional coaching.
She said her teachers at the daily regular classes and extra one-hour coaching session at the school gave her a lot of homework for which the 11-year girl required to go to private tutors and spend till midnight to finish all the tasks.
Her teachers told her that the remaining four months of the academic year would be spent for revisions and model tests with the aim of ensuring GPA 5 to all students of the class at the upcoming primary education completion examination.
‘I sometimes feel drowsy and hardly get any time to play or watch cartoons on TV channels,’ Nusrat said.
Her mother Roushan Ara said the school was exerting extra pressure on her child and in turn the cost of education spiralled, adding additional financial burden on her husband while she herself was straining herself to manage all the extra responsibilities.
‘But, we have to make sacrifices in the interest of my only child and her result. I fear termination if my child failed to maintain the routine as do other students,’ said Roushan Ara.
Like Nusrat and her mother, parents and pupils of different schools in capital are also under duress as all reputed schools such as Viqarunnisa Noon School and College, Ideal School and College, South Point School and College, AK High School and College and Shamsul Haque Khan School and College and others are of the opinion that the institutions adopted similar strategies for ensuring outstanding results in the PECE, JSC and SSC examinations.
At the end of Class V, students take primary education completion examination known as PECE, Class VIII students sit for the public examination Junior School Certificate exam, while after completion Class X, students sit for SSC examinations.
Our correspondents from Chattogram, Sylhet, Rajshahi, Mymensingh, Tangail and Rajshahi informed that the reputed schools at the respective districts were also organising mandatory coaching at their schools under different names like extra classes, model tests and others for preparing the pupils for the upcoming public examinations.
The school authorities charge between Tk 1,000 and 4,000 for attending such coaching and force the parents to send children in those.
Educationists and curriculum experts observed that for securing top positions in the public examinations many reputed schools exert tremendous pressure on the children and their parents forcing them to attend coaching and model tests holding even though the government stopped publishing top lists of the schools aimed at discourage competition.
They observe that over commercial attitude of the school management committees for attracting more students at the non-government schools force the teachers to focus only on the exam results instead of ensuring development of competencies as stated in the national curriculums.
They said that schools’ approach to education was not teaching lessons to the children but to make profit by enrolling greater number of students showing good results.
‘You cannot expect better when the country’s education policy encourages commercialisation of the sector. The schools are behaving like commodity sellers and the government has no control over such a huge business,’ Dhaka University retired professor and a thinker Abul Kashem Fazlul Haque said.
Dhaka University’s Institute of Education and Research professor SM Hafizur Rahman, from his experience of developing curriculum and textbooks with National Curriculum and Textbook Board, said that no teacher can complete a textbook within half of an academic year.
‘They can just read a book and give homework but cannot make the pupils understand the lessons as per expectations within a short period of time,’ he said adding that students in such process might obtain good marks in examinations but would lag behind in acquiring knowledge.
For his research purpose, Hafiz said he talked to students of Agrani High School who told him that they found a chapter of a textbook written by him very difficult.
‘Then I found that the teacher finished the chapter in two days when I wrote it to be finished in 11 classes for easy absorption,’ he said.
‘The approach is completely centred around examination results for which the school authorities put pressure on the children burdening them with additional tasks of learning through coaching at school and in private,’ he said.
In this exam-focused culture, the additional pressure on the children for obtaining good marks in the public examinations also lead to mental ennui.
Experts feel this hectic schedule of learning may lead to some serious consequences, impairing their sound growth.
‘The parents and teachers are creating tremendous pressure on the children for obtaining good marks. Such unnecessary pressure may affect their growth and develop psychological disorders,’ child health specialist professor Abid Hossain Mollah said.
Abid Hossain also testified to the rising cases of psychosomatic diseases in children in Bangladesh, which he believes are related to stress.
Following a survey on 578 primary educational institutions across the country Education Watch Report of 2014, published by Campaign for Popular Education, revealed that on an average Tk 8,212 was spent for PECE examinees as private expenditure for education during the year and the rate for many students crossed over Tk 60,000 each at urban schools.
‘We noticed no significant change in the past five years in the education system in terms of quality but it was becoming really expensive at present,’ CAMPE’s deputy director KM Enamul Hoque said.
South Point School and College principal Hamida Ali said that they organised mandatory coaching at the school so that pupils were not compelled to go to substandard private coaching.
Ideal School and College principal Dr Shahan Ara Begum said that the school organised coaching only for the ‘weak’ students.
‘We distributed the government circulars to all the teachers for not taking private coaching,’ she said.
Viqarunnisa Noon School principal Ferdausi Begum refused to talk to New Age regarding the allegation against the school that it was holding mandatory coaching for Class V, VIII, X and XII students at the school.
Directorate of primary education’s additional director general of M Abdul Mannan claimed that coaching was not organised in government primary schools and they would bring activities of the kindergarten schools under monitoring soon.
Directorate of secondary and higher education director general Professor Syed M Golam Faruque claimed that the agency was doing investigations against some reputed schools for arranging coaching at their schools besides various other allegations.