Educationist Professor Serajul Islam Choudhury talks to Mushfique Wadud on the new education policy, the challenges in implementing it and the state of the education system in the country
The present AL-led government had formed a committee to formulate the national education policy who submitted the draft copy of the education policy 2009 on September 7. Since independence, seven such education commissions and committees had been formed, however, none of the policies ever saw the light of day. What do you think are the main challenges to implementing the new education policy?
Unfortunately, politics and bureaucracy are the two main obstacles to implementing these policies. One government prepares a policy and after its tenure ends, the new government brings new ideas into its policy. They even change history. Moreover, some foreign bodies suggest experimental modifications as conditions for providing loans. The bureaucracy collaborates with all of these.
The first challenge, of course, is the financial challenge. Secondly, the human resource is another significant challenge. Improving the quality of teachers is very important. For this, two things require focus. One is proper recruitment and the other is proper training. In recruitment, we should ensure the teachers’ commitment and merit. Teachers should have interest in the teaching profession.
Unfortunately, nowadays, most of the teachers become teachers because they have no other options. This is happening as teachers no longer have a good social status. Teachers can be given representation in different local bodies to garner their social status. Another big problem, during the recruitment of teachers, is partisan appointment.
The third challenge is accountability, which educational institutions lack. For that, there should be social vigilance.
Proper curriculum is also a big challenge. The syllabus should be properly organised by experts and the curriculum should entail cultural activities. Unnecessary experiments for text books and syllabus need to be stopped.
You mentioned finance to be a big challenge. Many experts feel that the new policy is an ambitious education policy as its implementation requires Tk 65,000 crore.
Funding is, of course, a big problem. Only the government will provide the funds –this idea needs to change. I think that, along with the government, some private organisations should come forward with the funding. Rich people should be encouraged to donate in education. There also should be an obligation from the government for financial institutions like banks to donate in the education system. Government can also introduce ‘education tax’ for funding education.
In the goal and objective section of the policy, the word ‘secularism’ is used which is why, some religious groups and a section of educationists have raised questions. What is your take on it?
Secularism is the basic tenet of this country. Our liberation war was itself a secular war. This country would not have been formed without the idea of secularism.
Pakistan was a country based on the two nation theory, in which, religion was the main element. Discarding this concept, we brought secular nationalism which is language-based. If you take away the ‘secularism’ idea from our national ideology, a fundamental basic of the state will be demolished. Secularism must be in the concept of the state. This is a historical fact.
Theoretically education is always secular. Religion is a private matter. On the other hand, education is a worldly matter. Being a capitalist society, our society promotes selfishness, egocentricity and alienation. On the other hand, education encourages going beyond one’s self interest, social interest and collectiveness. A secular system can ensure these.
There is very little word on the Qoumi madrassah education system in the new policy. How important is it to have a policy for this religious education system?
Education is the state’s responsibility and it cannot be ignored. State cannot be indifferent towards the Qoumi madrassah education system as they are also serving citizens who have a right to proper education in this country.
Qoumi madrassah is an education system which has no social and economic utility. Mainly, students from poor families are enrolled in this system. This system makes poor people poorer. The state has the responsibility to look after this education system.
Their syllabus should be organised so that they are not deprived and are ensured employment. The ideal policy for education in any country is one system- the integrated system. But we have created three levels. Qoumi madrassah and English medium education systems provide big challenges to the existing system.
In the new policy, the primary education system has been proposed up to class VIII and the secondary level has been proposed up to XII whereas in the existing system, the primary education is up to class V and the secondary is up to class X. For that, primary and secondary schools requires more infrastructure and teaching facilities. Will this not pose a big challenge toward implementation?
I support this idea. Everyone should get primary education. After primary level, many drop outs take place. If it is up to class VIII, we can expect that every one will get a certain standard of education.
However, infrastructure and teaching facilities are very big challenges for this system. I think the government should see whether NGOs can be integrated to build the infrastructure but it must ensure that they don’t have any influence on the education curriculum on offer.
Since the scope of primary education now extends to class VIII, a number of teachers who would previously fall under the secondary education category could also now be integrated into the primary education system along with infrastructure.
The new policy has proposed for a permanent education commission which will monitor the overall education system. However, as is the trend, education committees formed by a particular government disappears with the government’s tenure. How can a permanent education commission bring qualitative change in the education system?
Personally, I think that a permanent education commission will create a bureaucratic problem. In such a case, there would be a conflict in selecting the commission’s members. One government recruits some commission members and the other will sack them and recruit new ones. That will take us backwards. There can be some monitoring and inspection bodies in place to ensure that this does not happen.
However, it is true that no government tolerates the former government’s policies and has always ended up making a new one. Our education would have gone forward if we adhered to one policy strictly, post-independence. Also, the government has asked for public opinion this time around. I appreciate this idea. My suggestion to the government is to create a national enthusiasm for education.
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