Bangladesh has a complex and multiple system ofeducation having composition of general, madrasah, technical and some others fields of education. Every system has their respective curriculum with nominal similarities among all systems. Recently, the ministry of education has drafted and proposed the Education Act, 2016 for public opinion and comments in order to conduct and regulate the whole system of education in Bangladesh. Within few months, the proposed act will be passed as an Act of parliament. The newly proposed Act has a huge prospects towards the students in terms of knowledge, morality and religious point of view but the fact is that how much of the Act will be implemented in accordance with the constitution of Bangladesh as well.
The proposed Education Act, 2016 contemplates an education process where the ‘patriotism’, ‘social and religious consensus’ as well as ‘moral values’ should be promoted through the curriculums of the respective classes. The act also requires that the ‘standard books’ should be prepared for promoting religious education and the formulation of books be in such a way where the moral teachings form different religions be preferred (section- 49). The Act has a sound and positive attitude towards every religion for promoting morality as well as the Act has promulgated some principles whereby the students will have social, religious, cultural and national consensus without communal attitude towards anyone.
Recently, the NCTB (National Curriculum and Textbook Board) has adopted the whole new curriculum of different stages of education. Radical change has been brought about in the contents of different classes. But the fact is that newly inserted contents of different books have deliberately divested the moral teachings, social norms and principles of Islam in most of the cases. The contents, specially the primary and secondary level, are much crippled in terms of religious education in comparison to the past curriculum. The general education system is more victim to the newly insertion than that of Madrasah, since the general system contains few religious fields but newly, it has been mores shortened. This contents will deprive the students from the religious inspiration, morality and human insight in two ways, firstly by the marginalization of certain Islamic teachings and secondly, by the exclusion of different writings (stories and poems) that was formerly incorporated in the syllabus of different books. Anti-religious attitudes are incompatible with the proposal, so the curriculum may have a possibility to be re assimilated, if the act would enact and that have a positive consequence on the students.
Now I would like to go through the exiled contents of different books that were incorporated in the past curriculum. Basic Islamic teachings and principles have been excluded, such as, striving or endeavor (jihad) is every activity for preaching and promoting Islam for the sake of Allah. A small deed can even be a jihad and which is a compulsory duty on every Muslims as well as one of the five basic pillars of Islam but such an elementary issue has been overlapped by an small concept that jihad is a ‘religious deed’ only. The signs of hypocritical or fraudulent character (munafik) and the role of Islam for the prevention of that heinous attitude or act have been exiledform the contents of class nine ten. Islamic teachings and principles towards the patriotism, inheritance and jihad (striving or endeavor) have been ousted from the contents of ‘Islam and moral teachings’ of class eight. The virtual and decent life history ofSalman Farsi, Abdullah Ibn Masood, the grandson of the lastprophet, Imam Hossain, the companions of the prophet Muhammad (peach be upon him), Imam Gazzali, one of the most renowned scholars of the Muslim ummah, JabirIbnHaian, the father of the chemistry, have been overthrown from the new curriculum but all of these were incorporated in the past in that book. The biography of several prophets and companions of the last prophet (peach be upon him) have been excluded from class seven. Among them, the prophet Ayub, Amir Hamza (R), Belal(R) and Khalid Bin Walid (R). The later 3 are companions of the last prophet, besides them Imam Shafi, Imam Taimiya and Khawaja Mainuddinchistee as well, great scholars of Islamic sharia, been excluded but these men are the spiritual inspiration of cores of Muslims and they are also the manifestation of Islamic golden age and heritage as well. Always dependenceand rightousto almighty Allah, Islamic viewpoint towards the performance of promise has also been excluded from the contents of class six. Islamic requirements towards the good character has been ousted.So, by the enactment of the proposal, these basic Islamic teachings and proposal should be re-inserted as the requirement of the proposal is to promote the religious education.
Along with the religious teachings, other books play a crucial role for flourishing the consensus of the Bangladeshi nation, patriotism, human insight, strong morality, history and culture of Bangladesh among the students as well. But the changes have brought about in general book as well may have catastrophic consequences on the students in terms of shortage of knowledge. Life history of the first caliph of Islam, Abu Bakar Siddique, the poems of poet zasimuddin, Farrukh Ahmed and al Mahmud have been excluded from the Bangla book of class three. A poem written by Humaun Azad, namely ‘Book’ or ‘Boi’ in class five, where he inspired the students deliberately not to promote Islamic tradition and knowledge. ‘Human religion’ written by Lalon Shah impliedly condemns the veil tradition of Muslim. Mohesh, a story bears the history suppression of Muslims by the Hindu land lords and Nildarpan, a story carries the strong evidence of the repression of the people by the British have excluded which will deprive the students from the history of our emergence. The newly included contents are very trivial and non-pragmatic for the students in comparison to that of prior. The standard of literature also not so good as well. These contents may fail to achieve the ultimate object and purpose of the education. So, change into the present curriculum is crying need right now and the possible way is that to enact the proposal and re affirm the contents of respective clase.
Article 2A of the BD constitution says that ‘the state religion of the republic is Islam’ but the state shall not accept any ‘discrimination against, or persecution of, persons practicing any particular religion’. Article 41 (a) of the constitution says that ‘every citizen has the right to profess, practice or propagate any religion’. Freedom of religion, one of the fundamental rights guaranteed in our constitution as a right that everyone can practice any religion without interference of others and which is the fundamental duty of the state to ensure free practice of religion. The education act 2016 has inserted laws relating to the interference with religious sentiment. The proposed section 21(3) provides that ‘no activities shall be conducted in educational institutions that would invade any religious sentiment’ and if anyone violates the sub section 3 of 21, then he would be punished with taka, not exceeding, 2 lakh or imprisonment with maximum 6 months or with both. So it is the implication of the law is that region would be protected and ensured for decent practice. But the reality is not like the same as the requirement of the constitution and the laws proposed in the act.
Provocation of religion, though, prohibited by law here in Bangladesh. But the fact is that several topics have newly inserted in the different contents that are severely instigating and provoking as well towards the Islam. ‘Human region’ written by Lalon shah has condemned the veil tradition of Islam. ‘Candidate’ or prarthi, a poem that makes partner the sun with the supreme power of almighty Allah that is one of the fundamental prohibited sins in Islam, namely Shirk. ‘Lalshalu’ written by sayedwaliullsh is also a defamatory story to the Islamic belief and tradition. ‘Rahman’s mother’, a story where has shown the veil as the impediment of advancement. In ‘Our culture’, Islam has been described as ‘stranger’or ‘alien’ and in ‘let live’ or ‘baschtedao’, it has been inspired not to be bound with religious ‘bigotry’(?) rather life has to be ‘free and unbound’(?). How can these contents be compatible with the constitution and this act as well? Hundreds of thousands people in our country sincerely believe and practice Islam as their way of life. Religion has shaped our tradition and culture over the centuries and religion is the deeply rooted issue in our own culture. As the second largest Muslim populated country in the world, we have a well-connected relation with religion, especially with Islam. So all the anti-Islamic attitudes in the contents must have repeal and re-assimilate the curriculum for building a glowing nation.
The draft Education Law 2016 proposes up to five year jail or tough fines for operating institutions without registration. It also bars schools from screening children or charging fees for admission in class. Primary education will be free and compulsory till class VIII, including two years of pre-primary for children aged 4-6. Secondary education will be from class IX-XII. It says meting out corporal or mental punishment to students will be punishable by three months in jail, or a Tk50,000 fine. In the prosed act, public examination at class five has been ousted and this change is positive according to some commentaries. The law also proposes that English-medium schools must include Bangla and Bangladesh Studies in their curriculums. Bangla, English, mathematics, Bangladesh studies and ICT will be compulsory at secondary and higher secondary-level education in madrasas that can bring more hardship to Madrasah students. The law also proposes establishing a permanent commission to monitor the implementation of Education Policy 2010 and other education-related issues. Night course in the public universities have been granted in the act but this recognition may bring a criticism from different sectors the society. Though there may have so many different opinions but the proper implementation of the proposal would bring pleasure to the educational arena and students as well.
There are two mainstream education subsisting in our country namely the general and Madrasah system. Madrasah education contains vast religious, Arabic and moral education along with the same curriculum conducted in general education system but the general education has only some religious and moral education. Except the religious and moral knowledge, there is no fundamental difference between the two systems of education. Though the constitutional requirement is that the state shall adopt effective measures for ‘establishing a uniform, mass oriented and universal system of education’ under article 17. But the proposal has not taken initiative, except in few cases, for making a universal education but primarily on thing can be done is that to reduce the contextual difference between the two main stream of education namely the general and madrasah education. So religious teachings of general education has to expand in accordance with madrasah education. This can be the easiest way.
Education is critical to human development, enlightenment and emancipation. It is a powerful vehicle for securing social justice. It is said thateducation is much stronger than sword but without moral education it can never be the sword. Since the education act has brought about lots of prospects, soall the requirements and instructions incorporated in the BD constitution and the proposed Act, 2016 have to fulfill for the protection of the next generation; otherwise the students would never be able to realize that what has been distracted from them and now what they are learning. To cultivate and protect our own culture, history, social, religious and moral values, a radical change has to be conducted in the curriculum of education, otherwise the great purpose of education may not emanate.
The writer is an LLB student at the university of Dhaka and geopolitical analyst.