The national curriculum and its textbooks do little to cater to the needs and interests of the students
I am of the opinion that one of the most neglected subjects in the education system of this country is the Bangla language and its literature. When it comes to Bangla, students have less scope to enrich their knowledge and understanding and finding related content and resources is often difficult for them.
I have a lot of questions about the method of teaching the Bangla language and other subjects through the language.
The purpose of learning is not only to get acquainted with the works of old and modern authors; it is also necessary to understand the subject and its context. It seems that the sole aim of Bengali textbooks is to make students familiar with writers from various eras in history but there is no focus on their actual work.
That is why they have compiled Bengali textbooks with the works of writers such as Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Bibhuti Bhushan, Manik Bandyopadhyay, Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Kamini Roy, Sukant Bhattacharya, Jasimuddin, Kaikobad, Kalidas Roy, Buddhadev Bose, Begum Sufia Kamal, and others. It seems that there is no need to check whether the text is suitable for the students and their age.
But if you take a look at the books in the British curriculum on English language and literature, you will understand how much research has been done. They have determined the reading according to age of the student.
They are introducing students to writers of all ages and from all eras, including William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, George Orwell, William Wordsworth, John Donne, Somerset Maugham, PB Shelley, Lord Byron, George Elliott, John Keats -- whoever was needed.
In addition to texts in their original form, in some cases, the books have been simplified and shortened according to the student’s capability while also maintaining the essence of the original. The purpose is to first introduce students to the author and their work -- there is always the opportunity to study these texts as they had been written for those who decide to pursue literature in their higher education.
In Bangladesh, some publishers, including Seba Prakashani, are translating the classics in the same way. But I have doubts about the scholars who have been included in the textbook compilation and editing council of the Board of Education.
There is no continuity between what has been taught in the previous class, what is being taught in the current class, and what will be taught in the next class. If so, why would the same authors be taught at every level, beginning from Class I and continuing until the end?
Apart from the writings of Rabindranath Tagore, how is classic Bangla literature suitable for students in every class? In the name of language education, they have turned Bangla into something to be feared amongst students -- with unnecessary, unsuitable, and unreadable books.
There are media reports that the government has decided to change the curriculum from pre-primary to higher secondary. Changes are being brought in the books by reducing the number of topics and exams.
Pre-primary education will consist of two years instead of one. There will be no public examination before the Class X.
Whether a student studies science, humanities, or business, it will be better to go to higher secondary, which is now in the ninth grade. Students will have to take two public examinations in Class XI and XII.
The new curriculum pre-primary education will begin with four-year-olds. There will be no separate books for pre-primary children -- teachers will teach as they always have.
Eight subjects have been selected for primary: Bangla, English, mathematics, science, social sciences, religious education, living well, and art and culture. There will be no separate books for “being good” and “art and culture.” These will be taught based on instructional books provided to the teachers.
All the students from the Class VI to X will be taught 10 identical books. These are Bangla, English, mathematics, life and livelihood, science, social science, digital technology, religious education, living well, and art and culture.
At present, 12 to 14 books are taught in secondary education. Now, everyone has to read similar books till the Class VIII. Work on the new book will be completed by next June. Then, from 2022, new books will be handed out in phases. This encapsulates the government’s desire for a new curriculum in short.
The new curriculum is almost entirely an adoption of the British curriculum. Adoption is not always wrong if it is appropriate for the time. The new curriculum seems to have been made to be age-suitable, but the curriculum must also be appropriate for class before implementing it.
The books available now must be thrown out and rearranged by qualified people with new ideas. In this case, keeping in mind our own social values, we can create an excellent curriculum by taking inspiration from that of the US or the UK. This will help to reduce the gap between the English and Bangla medium students in the country.
However, the group divisions that now exist at the secondary level are the most obstructive for education. A student does not have the capability to judge which subject to study in higher education after Class VIII. It is not possible to acquire basic knowledge in all subjects by that time at that age.
Many from my generation were victims of this wrong decision. We had to suffer while studying our favourite subjects.
I don’t know how many of the textbooks that will be provided will actually be suitable and updated for the current context and fitting for the new generation.
However, I am waiting to see the results once the new curriculum is implemented. I wish our Education Ministe,r Dipu Moni, and Deputy Minister for Education, Mahibul Hasan Chowdhury, all the best in this regard.
Anis Alamgir is a journalist and columnist, famed for live reports from the Iraq and Afghan wars. He can be reached at [email protected]