Information and communications technology, a compulsory subject at the secondary and higher secondary levels, has been a burden for the majority students since the subject was introduced for lack of necessary facilities and skilled teachers at institutions and due to flawed textbooks.
Students of the classes from VI to XII said that they received little opportunity to learn basic computer applications and maintenance for not having computer labs at schools and colleges or the device at their residences.
In many cases, they said, teachers who teach them Bangla, English, mathematics or civics impart ICT lessons in the classes VI, VII and VIII even nine years after the ICT was made a compulsory subject in 2012.
The subject has been introduced with the aim of making the country’s students computer-literate so that they can ably compete in the contemporary job market, the ICT curriculums claimed.
But even to prepare for examinations, students have no other option but to receive private coaching from ICT teachers appointed by few institutions or from university students studying the subject, they said.
Many students, especially of non-government schools located on the outskirts of Dhaka and district towns, said that they had so far received the opportunity just once or twice to use a computer.
‘I have never touched a computer key though I had studied the ICT for two years,’ said Tania Sultana, a class-VIII student of Baganbari Adarsha High School in the capital.
The school, its head teacher SM Abdul Mannan said, has only one computer while its students are mostly from poor families without the ability to access a computer.
According to many government and non-government school and college teachers, no government school has any teacher with an ICT background as no such post is there while only a limited number of non-government schools with large funds have a single ICT teacher each for hundreds of students of the classes from VI to XII.
‘Very recently, the government has appointed ICT teachers at government colleges,’ said Professor Mujahid Billah Farooki, principal of Government Ashek Mahmud College, Jamalpur.
Students, especially from the business and humanities groups, struggle to understand difficult programming languages, theories and mathematics included in the higher secondary ICT textbook, Mujahid Billah said.
Mujahid claimed that he had personally written to the National Curriculum and Textbook Board chairman to exclude such topics from the mandatory ICT textbook considering the weakness of commerce and humanities students in mathematics.
According to Government Laboratory High School and College head teacher Md Abu Sayeed Bhuiyan, Bangla, English or science teachers are assigned to impart ICT lessons while the subject contains very complex theories and mathematics which even skilled science teachers find difficult to handle.
Students are therefore required to take private coaching from skilled teachers appointed by some non-government schools, said Abu Sayeed, also the president of Bangladesh Government Secondary Teachers’ Association.
‘As a result, discrimination is developing among students depending on their access to or affordability of the learning opportunity,’ he said.
As both Sayeed and Mujahid said, fortunate students secure good marks at the examinations as many marks are allocated for multiple-choice questions and practical examinations which students take at their own institutions.
Intesar Nibras, who obtained GPA 5 in the HSC examination of 2019, including in the ICT, said that he learnt MS Word typing and opened his e-mail account after passing the examination though he had to study algorithm, coding language, networking theories, mathematics and even C++ programming language under the textbook.
‘My cousin, a computer-science graduate, helped me with those topics and my knowledge of mathematics from my science background was an added advantage. But my friends from commerce and humanities groups had to struggle to learn Boolean Theorems, De Morgan’s Theorem and several other theories included in the textbook,’ Nibras said.
Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology’s computer science and engineering professor Mohammad Kaykobad said that the objective of introducing the ICT as a compulsory subject at the schools and colleges should be making the learners computer-literate by ensuring skilled teachers and requisite laboratories.
‘It’s not that easy that you would give a Bangla teacher training for three months in the ICT and they would become competent to take ICT classes. But it happened so in our country,’ Kaykobad said, adding that students would never acquire the computer literacy if they do not get the access to the device.
The ICT textbooks and curriculums, Kaykobad went on, must be simplified as theories and mathematics on networking, web-designing and programming are taught in the undergraduate-level computer science and engineering courses.
‘Do we want to make all the students of the country computer programmers? If not so, what’s the rationale for introducing these topics at these levels?’ he asked.
Post and telecommunication minister Mustafa Jabbar said that his name was on the credit list of writers of ICT textbooks as he was involved in the curriculum development 20 years ago.
‘The textbooks were written by the NCTB experts without following our suggestions,’ he said.
Textbooks and curriculums must be modified in order for giving focus on making the students computer-literate, Jabbar said, adding that the education ministry must also provide the necessary facilities to the institutions simultaneously.
NCTB curriculum specialists Md Munabbir Hossain and Lutfar Rahman, who developed the ICT curriculums, syllabuses and textbooks along with other experts, admitted that they faced difficulties developing the textbooks for the classes from VI to XII, adding that the higher secondary textbook has also no alignment with the secondary textbook.
Munabbir and Lutfar, economics and political science graduates respectively, said that they were engaged in developing the textbooks because of their posts.
Claiming him a self-taught computer-literate person, Munabbir said that he has basically written the ICT textbooks for the classes from VI to X.
Retired Shahjalal University of Science and Technology professor Muhammad Zafar Iqbal, who edited all the ICT textbooks, said that the curriculums and syllabuses must be modified first for making the textbooks more student-friendly in the context of Bangladesh.
NCTB chairman Narayan Chandra Saha said that the board was working to modify the curriculums, syllabuses and textbooks.
Directorate of secondary and higher education director general Syed Md Golam Faruk said that the education ministry was working to create posts of ICT teachers at the government schools.
‘We are also developing labs at all government and non-government schools and colleges,’ he further said.
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