THE figures of examinees in the Primary Education Completion Examinations of the general stream and the equivalent Ibtedayi Education Completion Examinations of the government-approved madrassah education — as the minister of state for primary and mass education on Thursday disclosed at a briefing on both the examinations beginning today — bring to the fore some points to ponder, mostly related to the quality of primary schooling of the general stream. The minister of state said that the number of examinees taking the Ibtedayi Education Completion Examinations this time is 3,50,371, which is higher by 30,983 on the number of examinees, or 3,19,388, who took the examinations in 2018. The 2018 figure was also up by 25,007 on the 2017 figure. On the general education front, the number of examinees taking the Primary Education Completion Examinations this time is 25,53,267, which is lower by 2,23,615 on the number of examinees, or 27,76,882, who took the examinations in 2018. The 2018 figure was also down by 29,214 from the 2017 figure.
Although the minister of state sought to put the increase, by 9.7 percentage points, and decrease, by 8 percentage points, down on a decline in the population growth rate, the director general of the Directorate of Primary Education sought to explain the issue saying that people in rural areas, where the population growth is higher compared with urban areas, prefer sending their children to madrassahs. But the argument appears untenable as the facilities that the government afford primary students — free education, free textbooks and Tk 100 in monthly stipend — are the same for institutions of both the types. What rather appears to have come at play is the declining standard of primary education of the general stream. Many of the students of qoumi madrassahs, where education is low-cost and which offer the added advantage of board and bread, may have enrolled on ibtedayi madrassash in the last year of primary schooling which increases the number of examinees in the Ibtedayi Education Completion Examinations. While this so happens, with the quality of primary schooling continuing to decline all over Bangladesh, people financially well off in urban areas prefer sending their children to English-medium schools which may have decreased the number of examinees in the Primary Education Completion Examinations. Besides, a decline in primary enrolment and in registration for the public primary examinations is said, as New Age reported in the first week of November, to have happened because of stepped up oversight of some loose ends, which left unattended created a scope for some schoolteachers and primary education officials to inflate enrolment and registration for the misappropriation of public money. Figures inflated out of ill motive are reported to be getting close to what the actual figures are.
The increase or the decrease at hand does not appear to have reached a pass to cause much of worry, but what remains worrying is the reason that triggers the increase or the decrease. The government must run research on the issues to establish the reasons and act accordingly while it must put in more efforts to improve on the standards of primary schooling so that many who now turn away from primary schools can repose their trust back in what the institutions offer.
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