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It takes a village

  • Published at 06:44 pm June 8th, 2016
  • Last updated at 04:05 pm June 13th, 2016
It takes a village
There’s a famous saying: “It takes village to raise a child.” Indeed, it takes every entity in a community to raise healthy, capable children who are ready to face the challenges of life. In today’s society, the need for doing something about the education system has reached its peak. A video has recently emerged where innocent students were asked simple general knowledge questions; many were country-specific to our motherland, and the answers they produced were not just inaccurate, but out-of-this-world. This raises the question: What are the parents, teachers, and policy-makers doing? How does a student not know when Bangladesh’s Independence Day is, but attains a GPA-5? If we scrutinise the system of how education is delivered to kids in Bangladesh, we will find a very rigid and non-integrated approach to learning. We will see unqualified teachers who teach at primary level schools. I personally know a school in Chittagong that hires teachers without Bachelor’s degrees. Now, how can an uneducated person be responsible to teach young minds? This happens far more than we see. We lack facilities, we lack the human resources to educate children, and then we wonder why the kids don’t learn. This also brings us to the point of the parental roles played in the cultivation of young, learning minds. When a child is asked, “What is Operation Searchlight?” and they are unaware, and when the child is a 16-year-old SSC graduate, I am forced to question the role of parents in enlightening them to the country’s history. Why are the parents not playing a bigger role in educating their children? Parents seem to be satisfied with the ill-graded results of their children, up until someone questions their children about basic knowledge and it all just falls flat on its face. If my child doesn’t know when our country’s Victory Day is, I am to blame. Education starts at home. Public education is not the same as it was for my parents, the members of the baby-boomer generation. If my father or mother hurt themselves in class, they brought home a note from their teacher and handed it to their parents. They did not dispute the note, but reprimanded their child. Nowadays, it seems like parents are more inclined to defend their children, even if they are in the wrong. What, then, does that teach children about authority? What kind of educational ethos do teachers have with their pupils if parents are degrading their recommendations and concerns? This fuels the negative aspects of a flawed education system, where the good teachers, who at least try, are being pushed back. Now, covering all of these follies of an imperfect education system are the education policy-makers. Someone go and tell them that their policies have failed, because they think students who don’t know what the capital of Nepal is are apparently worthy for a GPA-5. They have boxed education in to achieving grades, and it doesn’t matter how those grades are achieved. They will be given a GPA-5 as long as they tick the box with the right answer. There are no analytical skills involved, nor any integrated method of learning and application. When I made the transition from Bengali-medium to GCSE, I was learning to memorise Pythagoras’ theorem in the former program of study, where we just had to write down the theorem itself and we secured the necessary marks. In English-medium, the questions involved solving the theorem with different variables. It is not rocket science to figure out which approach is a stronger example of integrated learning. Having said so, I am not making a comparison by any means; it is just a small example to highlight that Bangladesh’s public education board, syllabuses, ways of teaching, and grading systems are light years behind the present-day world’s approach to education. Therefore, in order to be successful and for Bangladesh to reduce the gap between global education standards and its own, reform needs to happen locally and in communities across the whole country. Parents, teachers, administrators, and community leaders in the government need to take an even more active role in mentoring, as well as educating the youth. I do not think it is an accident that many of the faltering schools in this country exist in communities where the civil society is weak. While these communities largely exist in poor areas -- which illustrates another issue for public education reform, that is, funding -- they also do not have strong civic leaders and well-supplied and well-equipped educators. Parents need to be more active in the learning process of their children. Mothers, kindly take a break from your busy schedules and talk to your children about things that matter like, history, art, mathematics, peace, and love. Fathers, also cultivate the ideas of learning and application, and not just grade security. Your children will learn far more from you than anyone else. If Bangladesh has the slightest interest in being part of the global community, then parts of the community need to come together to educate children. There’s a Chinese proverb: “Learning is like rowing upstream, not to advance is to drop back.” Bangladesh must learn how it can better row upstream, or forever be faced with falling further behind.
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