Tale of a Dying Education System

Cover Story

By Sohrab Hussain

“Education is the backbone of a nation” no one can object this statement for sure. Since the time Aristotle and Plato human being understood the utmost value of education. In past, better education enabled several nations to thrive March and on the other hand, ignorance rushed several established powers to be ruined. We send our children to schools, colleges and universities to be better educated and better human. We rely on schools hoping that schools will accomplish their duty of teaching properly and relinquish our responsibility of educating our children. We fund schools with a view to securing the best outcome. But we hardly think that what can be the actual outcome of education either money or a job. In fact, the primary purpose of a school is to guide the child’s discovery of himself. Imagine a school in which we see children as seeds to be nurtured. Here, the teacher is a garden who tries to bring out the potentiality already present in children. The great philosopher Socrates said “education is not the filling of vessel but the kindling of a flume”. Unfortunately, we are busy to fill the vessel. Quality education depends on planned curriculum, quality teachers and favorable environment. But how much quality education our schools can ensure is a question of fact now.
For the government has not been supplying modern research equipments in SSC and HSC level, we has yet to see an education friendly environment as well as trained teachers. Government established only 85 teachers training colleges which cannot ensure quality training for infrastructural inadequacy and insufficient logistic support. Numerous academic coaching centers are mushrooming throughout the country where students, kicking off their future in dustbin, are being enrolled to know short-cut process to score good grades instead of learning anything. Common trends  among our Parents is that they are schooling their children to complete graduation to earn money for what students consider educational costs as an investment with a view to  returning more profits. Similarly, a number of English medium schools, where access is available for the children of aristocrat families due to higher educational costs, are also guaranteeing higher profits with sophisticated infrastructural facilities and modern equipments. Moreover, these English medium schools are importing foreign cultures which accelerate social erosion and cultural conflict between young and old generations.
Government formulated a rule for students to participate in a monthly examination per month and twelve times per year. As a result, guardians and teachers nurture them to make good results in these exams instead of quality education.  It pressurizes students to study restlessly even in holidays. Literature was scrapped from the syllabus in SSC and HSC levels with the introduction of communicative English, affecting students’ scope for obtaining the power of imagination. The present content of communicative English would not be able to provide the students with a strong base in English language. As a result, the students are not receiving quality education from the primary to secondary level.
In recent years education business has become a common phenomenon among the leaders of ruling party. Establishing new schools and charging a huge amount of money by the name of donation for admission in these schools are now open secrets to all.  In addition to that, reportedly by using administrative power ruling party’s leaders are occupying different positions in some famous schools in which admission fees are charged ranging from 5,00,000 to 10,00,000 BDT. Money became the only criteria for studying in those schools instead of merit and intelligence. Moreover, the story of education business does not end with the leaders of ruling party. Its student ally Bangladesh Chattra League (BCL) is reportedly alleged with education business.  Along with some other terrorist activities in different university campuses it has been institutionalizing the education business with its gun power. In its editorial page the Daily Prothom-Alo on June 29, 2014 published an article  under the headline  “admission business of Chattra League” covering the news how BCL men pressurized the Dhaka College authority for admitting some students from waiting lists overlooking the merit list.  As their political strength failed to work out in this case, the BCL activists ransacked the principal’s room. Likewise, the Daily New Nation published news on October 27, 2014 alleging BCL activists for driving vandalism in numerous colleges countrywide including the capital city in support of their “Admission Business”. Educational institutions are supposed to admit students on the basis of their merits, while BCL activists want students to be admitted in exchange of “commission” paid to them. Reportedly allegations are coming from several famous colleges, such as, Azizul Haq College, Bogra; Narayanganj Women’s College; Kabi Nazrul Government College, Dhaka,; City College, Rajshahi; Mominunnesa College,  Mymensingh; and numerous others.
The problem does not end here. The more acute problem we are now facing is the leak out of question papers. Recently the leak out of question papers in all public examinations has become a common story. From Primary School Certificate (PSC) to Bangladesh Service Commission (BCS) no public exams held in recent years undisputed. The most ironic thing is that before the exam night question papers are found in different social Medias including facebook or students are seen to gather in photocopy shops for question papers.  In practice, political leaders and government employees are engaged with the leak out question papers using political and administrative powers. BCL men play major role for circularizing of those leaked out question papers.  A Bangladesh Government Press employee leaked the question paper of the written test for the recruitment of assistant teacher at public high schools out of the press hiding a copy inside a fake press uniform. Another employee of BG Press was arrested with Tk 28 lakh at his BG Press office. With his arrest six government employees have been arrested so far.
The analysts, educationists, critics demand for better education but government does not prioritize this issue to enhance facilities in rural areas. Local administration cannot develop infrastructural conditions of educational institution for intensely centralized government and poor fund in educational sector because of the lack of development friendly budget. In recent years, comparatively, budget has not been increased in education sector. Poor allocation of fund in education sector indicates the indifference of government to education sector.
Recently, in public university admission test, some candidates were arrested for misuse of technology in exam room. University authority handed over about 45 candidates to police for their illegal attempts. University authority also said that they do not compromise regarding neutral stance and transparency in admission system.  It is actually the result of our defective education system by which they cannot learn basic knowledge; it provokes them to be involved in illegal attempts to pass in the admission tests. Another instance of education business is this digital admission business. At least 100 syndicates – comprising DU teachers, Chhatra League leaders and activists, general students and coaching centre instructors – have been active in the capital to run this digital admission business. Though the authority has taken initiatives to demolish these syndicates but government’s detachment is pushing them back.
Government prefers apparent success of good results over the actual learning. As a consequence, while the percentage of students securing GPA-5 in SSC and HSC level examination has been shot up in recent years, Dhaka University Admission Test denotes degradation in standard of our education. In admission test of Dhaka University 2014-15 session, almost 83 percent of total applicants proved disqualified for not securing the minimum required marks to pass the exam. The educationists reproached this plenty of GPA-5 which enlarges the figure of our ultimate failure. The present Bangladesh Awami League (BAL) government took some initiatives to rocket up the results in all public examinations to show the government’s success in education sector. Apparently, government’s policy is to increase the number of GPA-5 by hock or by crock. In practice, limited seats in our public universities are not capable to allocate the increased number of applicants to qualify them for the university studies. Once, no admission system had been introduced and universities enrolled students based on HSC result. But authority started admission test system to come up with potential students when the number of students had been increased not their potentiality. To get the best students, university authorities have been conducting admission tests to filter in and out for last two decades. In particular, the procedure of Dhaka University admission tests has not been debated ever by any authority since it maintains a higher level of academic standard and uniform question pattern.
If we justify the statistics of recent admission tests of Dhaka University we can figure out the dysfunction of educational institutions in SSC and HSC level. Only in 2014-15, the failure shows that 96.9% candidates failed in Cha unit, 79.39% in C unit, 90.45% in B unit, 83.45% in D unit and 78.5% in A unit. In this current session, the admission test results show that 214,371 (82.56%) candidates out of 259,649 candidates failed to obtain minimum pass marks. The failure rate in 2013-14 was 83%, in 2012-13 it was 83% and in 2011-12 81%.
Minister of Education Nurul Islam Nahid at a press briefing at the secretariat of education ministry alleged university authority for such failure of students in admission tests and addressed the admission system of Dhaka University to be faulty. He also rebuked, in a provocative language, the university authority for continuing this faulty mechanism since very past. He also threatened to take legal action against university authority if they do not step ahead to change the defective (in his language) admission system. In counter to the charge, DU vice-chancellor Prof AAMS Arefin Siddique said, “It is not correct that the admission process is faulty. We conduct the admission tests according to our own system; anyone can not interrupt our system”.
Eminent educationist and emeritus professor AF Serajul Islam Chowdhury also blamed the students for their failing the admission tests. “The admission seekers failed because of poor preparations. The students may have done well in SSC and HSC examinations. But there is no correlation between good results and quality of education,” he said.
However, it is unquestionably true that the educational institutions in primary and secondary level, which builds platform of students, have failed to ensure quality education. Education minister should shoulder the onus of such defective educational systems as well as his irritating statements.
The Awami League government has been running down education standards throughout its tenure. Once an Argentina author Alberto Manguel said in his book  A History of Reading “As centuries of dictators have known, an illiterate crowd is the easiest to rule; since the craft of reading cannot be untaught once it has been acquired, the second-best recourse is to limit its scope.” Likewise, the actions of present BAL government seem to make our whole nation deaf and dumb to rule us for centuries.  People are now becoming aware about this fact. If it continues a vast public outbreak is must to come.   If they are determined to restore their reputation, they should take initiatives to ease the education systems of our country for the students to maximize their potentialities. Government should also remember that complex education system decreases quality students for over burden of books. The attempts of labeling the failure cannot protect the image of a political party rather frank confession of failure can open thousands of doors to resolve the problems. But, the government has lied down on its fluffy mattress and jumped into a dream, inside of mind.