On the first day of May, while virtually attending a programme organised by Meherpur district administration on the occasion of the celebration of the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Education Minister Dr. Dipu Moni called for grooming up the students as good human beings by not forcing them to study only textbooks for good results. She urged the parents to give their children the opportunity to read various books including literature, science and history.
In her speech, Dr. Dipu Moni has said that the students have to be the golden human beings to realise Bangabandhu’s dream of golden Bengal. She emphasised that they have to read books to become golden human beings. Saying that reading books does not mean just reading textbooks, she urged the students of all levels to read as many books as possible in addition to their textbooks.The most important part of her speech, at least to me, is her humble request to the parents that they should not force the students to read only textbooks all the time to occupy the first, second or third place or for ensuring a GPA-5. In this context, she said, “Let your child read as many books as he/she can in addition to his/her textbooks. Be it literature or science, travelogue, biography or ICT books. By reading those books, they will become human beings with knowledge on various subjects. It is not true that all the people who have succeeded in the world have degrees. But they have read a lot of books.” She has rightly said that we have to read a lot of books, not just textbooks, books on various subjects, to be really educated. In fact, this is the philosophy of education which has clearly been echoed in her talks.
The main objective of education is to acquire knowledge by dint of which a child could be established in society as a person with human qualities. Education is a process of learning that helps the development of a child’s inner thoughts that ultimately transforms him as a person who can contribute to the greater benefits of society. Textbook is a measurement of a student’s level of education, not his level of knowledge. But a student can earn knowledge beyond that level, if he reads other books. The pursuit of knowledge knows no limits or national boundaries. One cannot measure how vast the field of knowledge is. The more they read, the more they will be able to learn. Anyway, their knowledge should not be limited within the boundary of their textbooks only. They should run on the path of knowledge that never ends.
If a child starts his learning with that aim or his parents inspire and encourage him to read books other than textbooks, one day the child will be immensely benefitted because of these efforts. Even it could be a habit, if the parents take the initiative to buy their children various types of books, in addition to textbooks. Sometimes, a child can enjoy reading books with his parents. A child is like clay and it is the responsibility of the parents to shape his future. It’s especially important for children to read as much as possible, because the effects of reading are cumulative.
I understand now how much contribution my habit of reading of books had in building my life and enrichment of my thoughts. When I was a student of a high school in the 1960s, I had in my own collection about 500 books on various subjects, mostly literature including the books of Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Sharat Chandra, Bankim Chandra, Jashim Uddin, Dr. Lutfor Rahman, Yakub Ali, Tara Shankar, Bimol Mitra, Abu Ishaq, Jibanananda, Michael Madhusudan Dutta, Chanakya Sen, Ramendra Sundar Trivedi and Nihar Ranjan. As far I can recall, I was a subscriber of Biggyan Bichitra, a publication of the then Science Laboratory, Dhaka, which reached to me by post. However, I never compromised to take care of my normal studies as a student.
My high school, situated in a remote village of the then East Pakistan, had a library with a few thousand books. It was obligatory that a student had to take at least one book per week from the library to read at home. Normally, we did that on Thursday, as the next day was Friday (weekly holiday). At the end of the year, each student had to submit the list of the books he borrowed from the library to the teacher who was in-charge of the library. I do not know whether the same practices are still there. In our annual sports and cultural competition day, books were the prizes for all cultural events, like easy competition, songs, recitation of both Bengali and English poems, securing first, second and third places at the annual examination, etc.
We know that the habit of reading books does no more exist like before due to the development of technology. There are so many things, including various games, available on a small mobile phone at the advent of internet and majority of the present-day students from pre-primary to university levels prefer to pass their times with those facilities. However, there are opportunities to read books using cellphones also. But reading print books is something different for many reasons. Studies have shown that people who read print books score higher on comprehension tests and remember more what they read than people who read the same material in a digital form.We know values and self-reliance are two important factors for anybody’s life that define his position in society. Reading books on various subjects, whether it is a biography, literature, travelogue, history, science or philosophy, helps to grow values and self-reliance in the characters of that reader. Reading books does not only expand his knowledge, but it stimulates his inert creative thoughts. Thus, the minds and thoughts of a child grow with bigger capacity based on proper values and self-reliance.
Honestly speaking, the habit of reading books not only enriches our knowledge, but also (a) stimulates a complex network of circuits and signals in the brain and the network becomes stronger with the improvement of our reading ability; (b) develops our ability of concentration; (c) improves the capability of our memory; (d) provides us some of the most engaging entertainment on the planet; (e) empowers us to empathise with other people; (f) builds good communication skills by increasing vocabulary, developing writing skill and expression; (g) reduces stress; (h) strengthens mental ability; etc.
On 5 February 1930, the world’s most renowned scientist Albert Einstein wrote in a letter to his son Eduard, 'Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.' Let the children ride the bicycle of life with textbooks, but give them other books to keep their knowledge moving with greater speed. And it is the responsibility of the parents and teachers to do that. They should motivate the students the importance of earning knowledge through reading books on various subjects for their best performance as human beings. Their knowledge should not be confined within a limited space. They need to understand that reading is not only to earn certificates using the knowledge they perceive from the textbooks, it is more than that.
Finally, I would like to share my feelings with our Education Minister that having a first, second or third position, or GPA-5 in the examinations is not something great in life, but to be a person of value counts a lot. There might be millions of successful persons in various fields in the world, but there are very few ‘persons of value’. Understanding this reality, our students should be guided towards the path of light of knowledge. The more knowledge they will earn, the more they will be enlightened. Textbooks bind the students within a limited area. If they can go beyond that area by reading books on various issues, they would be able to find the vast area of knowledge. Once they are enlightened with that knowledge, they gain the ability to build themselves as persons of value. Ultimately, they would be able to disseminate the virtue and good-values in whatever profession and wherever they will be for the welfare of our society. Therefore, the impact of reading books is enormous on our lives to make us human beings and that is most important for the survival of humanity in the present-day Bangladesh.
The writer is a former Ambassador and Secretary