THE education system is still unequal nearly five decades after Bangladesh’s independence. Successive governments have promised equal access to quality education for all but have failed to make it happen. The Awami League-led government worked out the National Education Policy 2010, but in its three consecutive tenures in the government, most of the policy recommendations have remained unimplemented. One of the main emphasises of the policy was that it will ensure a uniform primary education for all. But there are now 24 types of primary education on offer, including government primary schools, madrassahs, kindergartens, English-medium schools and NGO-run informal schools and they all follow curriculum of their interest. The rural and urban gap is pervasive in terms of ensuring access to primary education. Educational infrastructure for marginal communities and in hard-to-reach areas is underdeveloped. There are some government schools with just two classrooms for students of different classes. The prevailing situation, as argued by many educationalists, indicates that the recommendations are made with no intention or plan to implement them.
The declining quality of primary education has been a cause of concern for some time now. About 54 per cent of students in Class III do not understand what they read while around 33 per cent cannot read five words in 30 seconds, as a 2018 research of World Vision Bangladesh shows. All this while, government efforts have mostly been focused on arresting the dropout rate at primary level and ensuring access to educational institutions; little attention was given to improvement in education. Educationalists have blamed the government for lack of coordination between different agencies, inadequate budgetary allocation and compromising educational interest for political gains. The national policy recommends that the government should extend primary schooling to include students up to Class VIII and arrange for vocational training for students who have primary-terminal certificates so that they do not become economic burden on society, but there has not been much progress in this regard. To this end, a committee was formed in 2017 to assess the capacity of primary schools. Of the 50,000 kindergarten-type schools, only 600 are registered. Qoumi madrassahs and English-medium schools remain outside the monitoring purview of the government. The education secretary is reported to have said that many of the 65,620 primary schools are faced with a huge crisis of classrooms and qualified teachers. In what follows, it is not an overstatement to say that the education sector, particularly primary education, lacks directions.
Considering that quality primary education sets the stage for future development of children, the government must take immediate steps to begin implementing the recommendations made in the educational policy. For an effective implementation and its lasting effects, the government should review the organogram of the existing educational bodies and establish clearly-defined terms of collaboration between them. For improvement in educational infrastructure, it must increase budgetary allocation and the government needs to stop making decisions appeasing the ruling elite and religious leaders to enforce shared curriculum for all institutions.
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