Sunday, 5 December, 2021

Education, Curriculum and Modernisation

Dr. Kazi S. M. Khasrul Alam Quddusi

Education, Curriculum and Modernisation
Dr. Kazi S. M. Khasrul Alam Quddusi

Nelson Mandela said: ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the word’. Bangladesh is slowly, yet steadily moving towards being a developed country. Philosophers as well as experts are at one on the point that there is no alternative to taking one’s education system to an ideal level for being equipped with the wherewithal to be developed in its true sense.

In fact, success will look really different now than it did in the past. High-achieving people are already leaving traditional job market and creating their own jobs. Successful people increasingly expect to be able to live and work anywhere in the world, that is, they are no more willing to be restricted to their home town or country. They are in a mood to travel as often as they like, and for as long as they like.

They seem committed to becoming global citizens instead of being citizens of specific countries. They are ready to change what they are working on to keep pace with their interests and abilities as well since being receptive rather than resistant is the key to being successfully adaptive. The successful ones also enjoy earning potential that is not bound by a salary figure.

Such a mindset awakes entrepreneurship among them, thus opening up avenues for others’ employments. They are adept in working with peers around the globe. Consequently, they come in touch with people of the same taste and genre across the borders. Moreover, they out source things they do not prefer doing and opt for their own hours and office.

By outsourcing and fixing personal and flexible hours, they remain immune from boredom as well as rigidity. In fact, education system for tomorrow will have to reinforce the instincts of high-achieving people discussed above so that people of all walks of life get springboards for enriching themselves and can thus contribute to diversification of the job market.

A 21st century education focuses on providing students with the skills they need to succeed in this new world, and helping them have the confidence to practise those skills with ease and success. Thanks to digital technology, plethora of information is readily available to them. The 21st century skills stress more on making sense of that information, sharing and using it in smart ways.

The coalition P21 (Partnership for 21st Century Learning) has identified four skills. They are creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration. These four themes should not be considered just as units or even subjects, but as themes that need to be overlaid across all curriculum mapping and strategic planning. They must be components of every lesson in the same manner as literacy and numeracy.

Creativity is about thinking through information in innovative ways, making new connectivities and coming up with novel solutions to problems. Critical thinking is about analysing information, challenging and critiquing claims. Communication is comprehending things completely for being able to share them clearly with other people. Collaboration is about team work and collectively a group produces extra output, that is, synergy.

Bangladesh has recently come up with a new plan for modernising its curriculum at the primary, secondary level and higher secondary level. As per the high-ups in the government, the country will institute a new curriculum from 2025 that will do away with examinations up to Class III. The new curriculum will not have distinctions between science, arts and business studies streams in classes IX and X.

Secondary School Certificate or SSC tests will be held in line with the curriculum of class X. The Higher Secondary Certificate or HSC assessment will be based on two examinations held in classes XI and XII. Other classes will have completion examinations, in which the students will be assessed continuously and then evaluated comprehensively. The timing for lessons will also be fixed.

Education Minister Dr. Dipu Moni has come up with the philosophy and strategy behind the new curriculum that has been outlined for pre-primary to higher secondary to ensure a smooth transition which would be ‘totally focused on students’. In this new system, as narrated by the Minister, learning would be fun and the burden of textbooks will be eased. Complete comprehension of the subject will be stressed upon and learning based on experience and activities will be given priority to get rid of the dependency on hackneyed mode of cramming.

In fact, there was a long-drawn plea for lessening the burden of textbooks and the dependency on memorisation. The new curriculum aims at curtailing both and thus rekindles new hopes and aspirations across the board. Very much in line with a key component of world class curriculum, sports and other activities will also be emphasised for balanced physical and mental growth of the students.

The new curriculum is expected to make room for most of the learning to be done in classrooms so that students can have more free time after classes to spend how they want. In line with the outline of the new national curriculum, students will be assessed in class and have a comprehensive evaluation. Assessment of students of pre-primary level and up to Class III at the primary level will be done fully in class, without examinations.

Sixty percent of the assessment of students from Classes IV and V will be based on their class work in the Bangla, English, Mathematics, Science and Social Science subjects. The remaining forty percent will be based on the collective assessment of term examinations. Assessment of Physical and Mental Health and Safety, Religious Studies, and Arts subjects will be based on class work alone.

From Class VI to VIII, sixty percent of the evaluation will be done through class work in Bangla, English, Mathematics, Science and Social Science subjects, while the rest will be based on term-examination assessment. Life and Livelihood, Digital Technology, Physical and Mental Health and Safety, Religious Studies, and Arts and Culture subjects will be assessed only on class work.

Half of the evaluation for Bangla, English, Mathematics, Science and Social Science subjects will be done through class work, and the rest will be the collective assessment of term examinations for Classes IX and X. Life and Livelihood, Digital Technology, Physical and Mental Health and Safety, Religious Studies, and Arts and Culture subjects will be evaluated on class work. Public examinations will be held on the Class X syllabus after the academic year ends.

In Classes XI and XII, thirty percent of the assessment will be done through class work, while term examinations will account for the rest of it. Projects, practical learning and other systems will be included in class work. Evaluation of applied subjects will be fully based on class work. Examinations will be held after the completion of Class XI and XII. The results will be combined for a final evaluation.

The new plan to have no distinctions between arts, science and business streams before class XI is a cardinal one. Students’ intellectual formation and maturity level usually takes a shape from the start of class IX. Thus, the time-tested system of offering science, arts and business streams at the start of class IX was, I think, a better option. Experimentation has become an order of the day in our education system, especially at the secondary and higher secondary level. We have to keep in mind that some experimentations have failed to have intended consequences. Introduction of MCQ system was such an abortive mechanism.

As implied earlier, the idea of student-focused learning and ensuring an ambience of reading for pleasure was long overdue. Thus, the philosophy and planning seems brilliant. Plan to increase classroom activities of students rather than memorisation sounds pretty wholesome. However, mindset and motivation of the class teachers will have profound impact upon proper execution of such plans. A section of teachers’ unwillingness to be serous in classes is becoming prominent in public schools.

That is why students have a tendency to reach up to the teachers through private tuitions. With the current salary package for the teachers, it might be difficult to retain teachers in class rooms for long hours. The ubiquity of private tuitions has become endemic in the country. Following new impetus for class-based evaluation, containment of proliferation of teachers’ private tuition will be a tough task unless the teachers embrace and uphold the new system.

Thus, inculcation of ownership as well as commitment in the teachers has to be on foot long before the start of the new curriculum in full swing. The bliss of technology has opened up myriads of opportunities for learning even from home. Technology has unfolded unlimited options for entertainment as well. It will thus be imperative to prioritise ‘technology for pedagogical and psychological enrichment’ over ‘technology for mere entertainment’ at all levels.

Modernisation of education system and curriculum is essential for reaching the milieu of a truly developed country. Making learning pleasant, diversified and accessible for all is a concomitant of the modernization agenda. The government is working relentlessly for achieving the concerned goals and objectives. To be candid, our education system is still divided on various lines with discriminatory access for people of various financial abilities.

However, quality education (fourth goal of SDGs) needs to be ensured for all and reduced inequalities (tenth goal of SDGS) should be the guiding principle here. Desmond Tutu rightly opined: ‘Inclusive, good-quality education is a foundation for dynamic and equitable societies‘. In our context, ‘accessible and affordable quality education for all’ policy based on social equity must be put in place without much delay and it can pave the way for reaching the goal of attaining the attributes of a developed country within or before 2041.


The writer is a Professor, Department of Public Administration and Chancellor’s Nominee Syndicate Member, University of Chittagong. Email: [email protected]