Friday, 3 December, 2021

Reforming Primary and Secondary Education

M. Zahidul Islam

Reforming Primary and Secondary Education

Recently the government of Bangladesh has outlined a much needed plan for overhauling and improving the existing education system of primary to higher secondary level. According to the Education Minister Dipu Moni, the aim of this reform is to develop the mental and physical health of the students through fanfare, play, performing creative programmes, watching, community engagements, and replacing the memorisation-based learning with experiment-and-activity-based education. It would allow the most of the learning done at classrooms and make students enable to qualify with a combination of knowledge, skills, values and attitudes. She said: “we want to ensure competence, not education for certificates.” The salient features of the reform include:

1.            No exams up to class III and every class will have completion exams at the year-end, and no public exams before class 10.

2.            Primary Education Completion (PEC) is still a class completion exam while Junior School Certificate (JSC) is public exam.  The PEC and JSC examinations will be scrapped from 2023.

3.            All students will study the same 10 subjects from class 6-10, before being able to choose from science, humanities, business studies, and other streams of education from class 11. There will be no subject-based group division of science, arts and business studies at class nine and ten.

4.            Students of grades 9 and 10 will study 10 subjects, namely:Bangla, English, mathematics, science, social science, ICT, religion, health studies, life and livelihood education, and art and culture studies.

5.            The grading system of SSC will be based only on the syllabus of class 10, instead of classes 9 and 10. 

6.            There will be public exams in classes X, XI and XII only.  The HSC results will be based on grades of classes XI and XII, by averaging the results of the final exams in class 11 and 12.

7.            Students of classes 1, 2, 6 and 7 will get new books based on the new curriculum in January 2023, while students of classes 3, 4, 8 and 9 will get new books in 2024, and students of grade 5 and 10 will get new books in January 2025.

8.            The major changes in the education system from pre-primary to higher secondary level will be started experimentally from January 2022, to implement the curriculum completely by 2025, including piloting of the new curriculum at 100 primary schools and at 100 secondary schools.

9.            The new system will formally begin in phases from 2023. The new curriculum will initially be taught at class 1 and 2 in primary schools, and class 6 and 7 in secondary schools. "This curriculum will start for classes 3, 4, 8, and 9 in 2024. It will start for classes 5 and 10 from 2025.”

10.          The changes in evaluation include “overall evaluation” means exams and “continuous assessment” means evaluation of regular school work. Before class 4, students will be graded based only on continuous assessment of their classroom performance. From Class 4-8, students will get 60% of their marks from continuous assessment and the rest from year-end exams.

11.          From class 9-10, some subjects will be evaluated based on continuous assessment while others will require exams. Half of the evaluation of Bangla, English, mathematics, social science and science will be done through continuous assessment, and the rest will be done through exams.

12.          From class 11-12, students will receive 30% of their marks from continuous assessment and 70% from public exams.

13.          Students of classes 11 and 12 will study the compulsory Bangla, English and ICT. And they will be able to choose three other subjects from any of three disciplines of science, humanities and business. They will pick another subject from vocational courses.

Whenever I come across the above statement it takes me to the initial days of my university life in 1968 when I got admitted into the course of BSc.Ag.Engineering at BAU after passing the SSC exam. It requires completing the Higher Secondary Certificate equivalent course having two special subjects Agronomy and Animal Science in addition to Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Math, Bengali and English, before commencing the mainstream engineering course. It relives my painstaking hard struggle to learn the science subjects after passing SSC exams in the first division with letter in Math from humanities group. Out of 56 students in our class the majority have passed SSC from science group who enjoyed the course as happy-go-lucky unlike me. One of my roommates was among them who felt free and easy going with this course while I had been struggling very hard to understand and perceive the scientific words, terms, sentences and things encountering every day. Whenever I asked him about any of the scientific terms his reluctant response was critical and I can remember his common response: “I have not come here as your teacher.” Luckily I got a number of good friends who helped me in many ways and in the laboratory experiments. With my extremely hard work and merit I had been able to overcome all the hurdles and eventually gained my degree with fifth position.

The fast moving modern world demands specialisation in all areas and our future generations must have to be able to keep pace with the universal advancement. We should look around the world in line with our real-life experience.

In the UK students are offered General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) at the end of their year 11 schooling. In GCSE, students can do generally nine subjects, of which five are core (compulsory) subjects: English language, English literature, Math, Science (Physics/Chemistry/Biology – any two of them), and four optional subjects. Some schools may offer 12 or more GCSE subjects depending on its availability. The optional subjects include: history, geography, modern foreign languages, design and technology, art and design, music, physical education, citizenship, computing and religious studies.

The pupils of Bangladesh should be given an opportunity to choose their optional subjects at class nine and ten that will have bearings on their future. Students should be encouraged to pick subjects needed for any chosen career as well as ones that interest them, and ones they are good at. Considering the importance and impacts of the courses on students, six compulsory subjects may be selected such as Bengali, English, Math, ICT, Science, Religious studies and Moral education. The optional subjects may include: Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Higher math, Civics, Economics, Social science, History, Bangladesh and global studies, Accounting, Finance, Banking, Business Ent., Agricultural studies,  home science, health studies, life and livelihood education, art and culture studies etc.

Bangladesh has been enjoying the fruits of specialist education at secondary level with the chronological development of infra-structures, logistic supports and manpower across the country since long. It is possible to bring appropriate changes and improvements utilizing our affordable resources where not only the educational bureaucrats, but many of our highly regarded intellectuals, educationists, researchers, academics and writers can play a paramount role in shaping the thriving future of our students.

The writer is former editor, Journal of the Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh