National Education Policy 2009
A teacher’s perspective
Md. Anwarul Kabir
THE education system we follow is a legacy of the British colonial education. The British Raj introduced its education system in the subcontinent for its own interest, not for the interest of the native Indians. For the British regime, the major driving force to introduce a newly formulated education system in India was to establish its hegemony and extend its rule. Lord Macaulay, the founder of the British colonial education system while framing colonial education policy proposed, "In India, English is the language spoken by the ruling class. Those Indians of the high class, who are in the government, also speak it. We must do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern, a class of persons, Indian in blood but English in taste, in opinions, words and intellect." A similar view was expressed by Sir Trevelyan, a major policymaker of British colonial education: "There is only one way to turn the thoughts of Indian nation in other direction. And that is to create Western thoughts among them [By introducing our education system.]". In 1857, Trebelyan told the British Parliament, "After such an education, a political revolution in this country will be unlikely and we will be able to rule over our Empire for long …. By increasing education and by giving jobs to more and more Indians, the British rule can be made permanent." So, the major objective of implementing colonial education system was to create a privileged class who would collaborate with the British regime.
Perhaps, the dangerous implication of the British colonial education system is the orientation of education towards jobs. The concept of "Lekha Pora Kore jey, gari ghora chore shey (those who study ride carts and horses)" has been instilled into the psyche of the common people of the 19 century, after the introduction of the colonial education policy in undivided India. The colonial education policy encourages us to mimic the Western education system without assessing our own context. For this reason, we just import education and technology from the developed world but fail to assimilate these in our socio-economic needs. For the same reason, we neglect many of our indigenous knowledge which could have been used for our own development in different fields.
After the collapse of British Raj, as we became a colony of Pakistan, we had little opportunity to march towards a pro-people education system. However, after independence, Bangabandhu rightly realised the emptiness of the prevailing derailed education system and emphasised the importance of people-oriented education. In 1974 he formed an education commission headed by Dr. Kudrat-e-Khuda, eminent scholar, scientist and educationist. Eventually, Dr. Kudrat-e-Khuda chalked out a scientific and pro-people education policy. Unfortunately it never got implemented after the tragic demise of Bangabandhu. Subsequent reactionary governments installed at the power centre took little interest in it. Afterwards, though, at least five education commissions/committees were formed and policies were produced, apart from National Education Policy 2000 albeit partially, no policy was enforced. However, after the change in government in 2001, National Education Policy 2000 was abandoned too. It may be noted here that Education Policy 2000 was formulated by a Committee headed by Professor Shamsul Hoque in light of Dr. Kudrat-e-Khuda's report during the last tenure of Sheikh Hasina.
In the above stated context, Education Policy 2009 has been framed by a Committee headed by National Professor, Kabir Chowdhury. This committee has assessed both Kudrat-e-Khuda's and Shamsul Hoque's reports and considering the present complex socio-economic and global set-up, it has attempted to produce a report more scientific and people oriented. The methodology followed for framing this policy was, in no doubt, a scientific and transparent one. In formulating this, the committee discussed with the representatives of around 56 relevant organisations. It also considered the opinions of many individuals who came forward. Moreover, people from different tiers of the six divisions participated in view exchange meetings and their positive opinions are incorporated in the policy. This, in turn, has shaped the policy into a pro-people one.
Perhaps, the committee has given more emphasis on their efforts to draw the objectives of education and so it has successfully captured the real essence of education. The policy points out the major objective of education is flourishing humanity and making the citizens creative, freethinker, ethical, respectful of their and others religions, free from all dogmas, tolerant of others' views, non-communal, patriotic and skilled ones so that they can lead the society towards development and advancement efficiently and effectively. Most of the 24 objectives drawn in the policy are pragmatic.
This is a paradigm shift from the colonial perception of the objectivity of education.
The salient features of the education policy are:
* Introducing of pre-school education
* Extending primary education from 5th to 8th class
* Merging secondary with higher secondary education
* Integrating Madrassah education and vocational education into the general education
* Establishing mandatory core subjects for primary level education: Bangla, English, Mathematics, Bangladesh Studies, Social Environment and Climate Change, and IT and Science
* Arranging common public examinations at class five, eight, ten and twelve
* Emphasising on vocational education
* Arranging a mandatory library equipped with necessary books in schools
* Providing more scholarships for the poor
* Prohibiting physical punishment
* Arranging education to indigenous students in their mother tongues
* Providing facilities for the disabled
* Standardising qualifications of teachers and providing more training for teachers
Restructuring Primary and Secondary level of education is, no doubt, a pragmatic step. Extension of compulsory free primary education up to class eight will essentially contribute much in accelerating literacy rate in the country. Merging Secondary level with Higher Secondary level education is more logical than existing compartmentalisation of the secondary level.
Like the developed countries, this policy has given importance on vocational and technical education. In fact, too many graduates in different streams of education have made unemployment rate higher in the country. According to the new policy, after completion of primary education the students will be able to follow the vocational education and phase by phase, they can also proceed to higher education. This vocational and technical education will enable the students in self-employed.
As a significant number of students of the country follow the Madrssah education, up-gradation of this stream of education has become necessary. At present, most of the graduates from the government controlled Aleya Madrassahs fail to achieve prospective jobs due to the lack of knowledge essential for modern job markets. Moreover, due to little or no supervision, especially over the Qawmi Madrassahs (most of them affiliated to Deobandi faith and teach Dars-i-Nizami system of medieval era.) teaches orthodox views of Islam which in turn, spreads the fanaticism in society. So in this context, integration of Madrassah education with general education as suggested in the policy will enhance this stream of education to a greater extent. Inclusion of general subjects like Bangla, English, Ethics, Bangladesh Studies, Mathematics, Information Technology, Social Environment and Climate Change as compulsory ones will improve the overall quality of the Madrssah graduates and they will have more opportunity to pursue general and technological education at a higher level. The policy also has emphasised on updating its religious curriculum. If this can be properly implemented, then it is expected many students from other religious faith will feel encouraged to follow Madrassah education as they do in India.
For higher education, the policy has strongly emphasised on research. It suggests that both the teachers and the students must work together. For research, it recommends more financial grants for the researchers of the university. Another important feature of this policy is to make higher education available in Bangla along with English. For this, it emphasises on translating more text books in Bangla. To ensure the quality of higher education, the policy has adopted several strategies. For instance, introduction of ranking system (for both public and private universities), calibration of grading policy can be cited.
In a nutshell, the policy is a more comprehensive one. Many other aspects of education, such as continuous teachers' training, education management, financial issues, teachers' recruitment policy etc. which are incorporated in the policy are not possible to discuss in this short article.
To improve the scenario of already decayed education sector in Bangladesh, implementation of a holistic education policy is a must. Every student needs to be developed emotionally, physically, socially, and intellectually. The education policy must acknowledge and emphasise the spiritual, intellectual, social, physical and psychological needs of young children from the beginning of its establishment and this will continue to foster balanced growth of each child. Besides promoting skill-based education, the policy must encourage children to learn and nurture the social and cultural values, integrity, tolerance, respect and love for others, and to be responsible persons. The students should learn all these values from their respective educational institutes. Hopefully, the Education Policy 2009, if properly implemented would instil the aforesaid values in the psyche of the young students and would effectively change the present state of education sector in the country.
However, successful implementation of the policy largely depends on different stakeholders and the government's initiatives. Introduction of a permanent Education Commission as suggested by this policy is a must to implement this pro-people policy in line of peoples' aspiration. As education policy of any country should not be a static one and with time amendment of the policy is a must, the proposed commission will do that to meet the demand of time.
(Md. Anwarul Kabir is a university academic at AIUB. He can be reached at email@example.com)