On March 10, 2009, the 44th president of the United States of America (USA) Barack Obama said that his country needed to increase the working days for schools as they have comparatively fewer days than schools in other countries. President Obama compared working days of US schools with South Korea and told, “Our children spend over a month less in school than children in South Korea. That is no way to prepare them for a 21st century economy.”
I do not know if any country has fewer working days than USA, but it should be mentioned that Bangladesh has more working days in schools than any other countries in the world. In Bangladesh, schools have 280 working days for students out of 365 days in a year, according to authorised holiday list for the junior-secondary and secondary schools 2019. Initially, we may be happy with this, but these 280 days does not mean 280 days of learning as all are aware.Currently, there are two internal examinations in the secondary level which reduce 24 days. Test examinations (for SSC examination) reduce 12 more days. These three-examinations take 36 days out of 280 days. In reality, these examinations take not only 36 days, but more as during the exam period students and teachers do not attend classes.
Currently students in our country face four public examinations before higher education. At the end of grade five, eight, ten and twelve respectively, students face Primary Shomapani, Junior-Secondary, Secondary and Higher Secondary examinations. Secondary School Certificate exam starts in early February and lasts until the end of the month or early March. In April Higher Secondary Certificate Examination takes place and lasts until mid-May.
These two public examinations cut more than 80 days as regular classes cannot be held in many schools as they are used as examination centers or venues. Though others are free from this and there is some chance to take classes. But the reality does not match as most of the benches are taken to the examination centers and venues to make sufficient sitting arrangement for examinees. Number of teachers from all institutes performs responsibility as invigilator everyday and this is why it is almost impossible to run regular class activities during public examinations. Persons who work in the sector of education and guardians of learners will not disagree; they all are also very concerned.
Weather and climate is a major issue in formulating academic year and working days for institutions in a country. Every country or geographical area has different weather and climate diversity, this is why countries from all over the world count their academic year from different suitable times while preparing working days for schools. Academic calendar is counted from September to July in European and North American countries. It starts from February 1 and continues to December 15 in the southwestern Pacific countries of Australia and New Zealand. In Bangladesh, academic year starts on the first day and it ends on the last day of Gregorian calendar since British period; but it is not clear to us what kind of explanation is behind it.
There are six seasons in Bangladesh, everyone knows this. Months of January, February, March, April, November and December are comparatively more suitable to keep students in classrooms. Weather conditions of other months are not favourable due to natural disasters like storms, rains, floods and tidal waves. Maybe students in cities and towns do not feel the trouble, but rural students suffer a lot in inclement weather conditions. In the monsoon, working days of schools in rural area are just like vacation or holidays.
I know some primary and secondary schools where students do not get enough space and number of benches to sit in classes normally. I studied at two secondary schools at Bauphal Upazila of Patuakhali District, sometimes classes were held in shabby rooms with no bench in both schools, and one of the two schools is a six-room tin shade. Similarly, there are many schools without proper space and structures. Can you imagine how students take part in their regular classes? In shabby schools in the rainy season, students get wet in the rain; in the summer, they have to endure the heat. Is it possible to run classes properly for the countryside schools in these times?Teachers and students co-curricular activities or examinations should also be noted in the schedule for teaching-learning in classrooms, to enable better management of working days. If hostile weather is not taken into consideration while making the schedule, the academic calendar will fill with unfulfilled working days.
Academic year or session in primary and secondary sectors starts in the first day of January, when co-curricular activities keep most of the learners busy.
We cannot get more than 365 days in a year, but if the authority count session for primary and secondary level from the mid of Gregorian calendar in lieu of ‘first day to last day’ in a year, comparatively better times will not be lost. Educationists or education experts and teachers have recommendation on this issue. A seminar was held on the said amendment at Government Teachers’ Training College, Dhaka. I ask the policy makers whether the length of public examination will be shortened. Researchers of education agree if the questionnaire method is truly creative, then 3 hours test is not needed. If SSC and HSC are taken in the same day by maintaining morning-evening shift, it will increase working days in schools.
Md Mizanur Rahaman Mizan, the writer is a student at Government Teachers’ Training College, Dhaka