Centralisation of education

Anujit Saha | Published at 12:00am on August 04, 2019

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Students celebrating Secondary School Certificate examinations results on May 6, 2019 at Annada Government High School in Brahmanbaria. Many of them will shift to Dhaka to get the opportunity to study in top-tier colleges. Most of good colleges are centralised in the capital city. — Focus Bangla

A huge number of students after completing their school certificate examinations head to Dhaka because of centralisation of quality educational institutions. This practice is, on the one hand, forcing students to move out of their hometown into a new territory and, on the other hand, putting enormous pressure on them from an early age to get an opportunity in the coveted colleges. It is no longer students’ aim to create, think and experiment, but rather their actions are increasingly utilitarian in nature, where everything they do is for edging others out, writes Anujit Saha

YOU might think something as basic as education cannot be possibly commoditified to the extent that it results in a national crisis. For what is schooling other than a class full of students with a teacher knowledgeable enough to guide them in their path of self learning and exploration? 

But during my discussion with Arun Dey, a SSC candidate from Dhaka, he tells me about this rampant and sick competition that every student has to go through after passing 10th grade. He himself had to be part of it, and tells me about how many passions he had to quit for even during his vacations he was not spared from the monotonous learning of random facts and figures he needed to know to reach the metrics of ingenuity the top colleges want from our students. 

This is the race to be allocated to one of the few highly ranked colleges in our country, with a functioning science laboratory and a qualified staff. That does not sound so wrong, right? What is life without the thrill of the race of being better than your comrades and belonging to a school reserved to a few? 

But what about the people who cannot get into such colleges, or who do not have the capital to move to Dhaka where most of these colleges are located? Majority of the institutions in the remote areas have vacant teachers’ posts, with even some government schools being ill equipped.

On top of that, scientific and computer laboratories seem like a farfetched dream to the pupil, which puts them behind in terms of practical syllabus matter in the curriculum which has a 25 marks component in the board examinations.  The pupil hence have no choice but to scramble to the town schools, private tuitions, and coaching centers to make up for the lacking of these schools. 

The candidates are being taught to forget what vacations are, what self improvement looks like, and what personal innovation means. From the day they are done with their school certificate examinations of the 10th grade, they need to enter the race for the few hundreds of seats in better colleges for which thousands compete.

The scenes in front of such schools on the day of admission exams are horrific: hundreds of students with their guardians pushing their way through lines to get into the hall as if their lives depend on it. Many candidates complained later, that the jam at the entrance gate caused them to enter the hall as late as 20 minutes after the test had started, making them scram to their desks in the hope of somehow salvaging their futures which are greatly dependent on this day.

For it is nothing but a train they need to catch to ensure they get into a top university in the near future, which over the years has become the penultimate goal of the rote learning generation we have created.

It is no longer their aim to create, think and experiment, but rather their actions are increasing utilitarian in nature, where everything they do is for edging others out.

Majority of schools without admission exams accept students in terms of their HSC examination results. This allocation is done by the education authorities that allow each candidate to select 10 prospective schools for application.

But the real trauma is not the part about the admission tests and the allotment, but what follows it. The most ambitious students select the top schools in this country, but somehow in a nation of 64 divisions all these schools are centralised in one city known as the land of opportunities — Dhaka. 

Even in the best case scenarios where somehow they can get into these colleges, an unimaginable burden falls on the shoulders of these youth. They need to resettle into a completely new and unknown territory far from home. These meritocratic students now have to completely rebuild their mental peace, make new friends, and abandon all of their relations and progress back home. But what is wrong with that as humans are meant to evolve and adapt to changes in pursuit of a better living?

Studies ran by research organisations show how the two years of an intermediate student are the most vital ones for them to have the independence of free thinking and building their personalities to help them best realise the majors they want to pursue and the fields they want to expand their expertise on.

But when you make these students to move to a new town, face a lot of increased financial burdens , and suffer from the mental trauma  of having to live away from the place they grew up in, we think you kill the side of the students which needed to grow and learn from the atmosphere it is suited to.

In terms of their accommodation, most of these colleges do not offer residential facilities, adding salt to the wounds of these students. This has caused a spiral of commercial student hostels near colleges. These hostels are often substandard in terms of its overpopulation and insufficient fresh water supply. But these helpless students often have no choice but to be content with the privilege of at least having a roof over their heads, no matter how bad the rest of the house is.

Avijit Saha, a candidate from Tangail who got into a top tier college in Dhaka, tells me about the silver lining he sees in his life. He says ‘Yes I am having to live in a crammed room away from my family, but 80 per cent of my friends back home are in the despair of not getting accepted into their expected colleges and are having to stay back in the poorly funded colleges we have back in Tangail.’

He also calls out the systematic sexism of how most his female peers did not even dare to apply to schools in Dhaka due to such horrific accommodation services, where most commercial hostels are strictly boys’ hostels.

The state has failed to provide adequate scientific laboratories, qualified personnel needed to produce quality education in the regional institutions in remote areas. But amidst all the disadvantages, some of the best performing institutions in the board examinations are from districts other than our capital, which shows the unimaginable amount of potential in our young scholars all around the country who are systematically being demotivated by our education system.

We see statistics where it is our national pride of having a steep increase in literacy rates, where education is being taken more seriously than ever, with college admission tests being the most vital happening in a pupil’s life. But in the process we are creating a youth indifferent to the social issues, politics and the injustice around them.

But how can you blame them when they do not have a second to spare, even during their hard earned vacations, to look around and see what is happening. For to them, every second wasted is them losing out to their peers around the nation eying for those limited and coveted seats in institutions which further add to the cause of producing rote learners with little innovative and experimental intuitions. 

This great disparity is one of the most eye opening indicators of how capitalism as a concept has failed our systems and commercialised our rights to obtain quality education. It has turned adolescence into years of struggles and competition rather than self development and progress. Someone needs to break the system, or we are heading towards a dystopian world.

Anujit Saha is a student of SFX Greenherald International School.