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There is more to education than grades

  • Published at 07:11 am April 4th, 2018
There is more to education than grades

Scrolling through my social network newsfeed, the barrage of news relating to the US-Bangla plane crash left me at a loss.

You’d think that a tragedy of this magnitude would bring out the best in people in their unity, but recently a post appeared in my Facebook newsfeed with some rather less-than-kind words regarding the deceased female co-pilot.

This kind of unfortunate behaviour isn’t new for our society. Maybe it’s because of a fundamental flaw in our very education? Not just our schools, but in the way that parents impart values in their children -- which is, perhaps, the primary education we receive as growing minds.

Currently, I am living in Japan. Something that really surprised me, pleasantly, is when a child -- probably around the age of seven -- held the elevator for me this one time. I travel a lot with my baby girl, but have never experienced any kind of teasing or harassment in this country. I have seldom seen any sort of ugly public confrontation out here on the streets, the kind that I observed back home almost regularly.

At the end of the day, we’re all human -- but what exactly creates this difference in our collective behaviour?

It is a well-known fact that behaviour can be influenced by proper nurturing, giving rise to the concept of “values education” as a topic of discourse among many societies, and Japan is one such society. The Japanese government introduced values education in their curriculum in 1958 after the scars that two World Wars left in their country.

Japanese school culture nurtures values and a sense of responsibility in students. During lunch hours, students are expected to serve themselves lunch, and share the space with their teachers. This practice develops their sense of community and gives them the opportunity to show respect to each other.

Japanese teachers are, in fact, much more than teachers who specialize in specific subjects. After school, teachers often visit students’ homes for a better understanding of their pupils. They teach their students basic life skills such as cooking, sewing, knitting, and traditional Japanese skills such as calligraphy.

In the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the Japanese team defeated Ivory Coast in a group stage match, and, noticeably, there was no garbage left behind in the Japanese supporters’ area. This kind of social responsibility is developed over time in the Japanese education system. From their teachers, Japanese students learn how to respect people and their surroundings.

The main purpose of education is to enlighten our mind. But, looking at our country now, education has become nothing more than a commodity, and getting a GPA-5 has become something close to a right than something to be earned.

Every system has its strengths and weaknesses. It’s high time for the government to sort out our education system’s myriad flaws

Setting aside the rampant corruption that goes in our education system, most schools in Dhaka don’t even have a playground -- an essential tool for children to get some exercise.

It’s not about knowledge anymore

I am afraid that the next generation will never read Rabindranath Tagore and they will never know who Syed Mujtaba Ali was. The scenario in our rural areas is even more pathetic. Most of the school building aren’t permanent, and in the rainy season, students can’t even sit in their classrooms.

Rural schools do have playgrounds, but the quality of the education is highly questionable. If this situation goes on, even the highest of growth rates can’t make Bangladesh any more developed -- at least if we don’t do something substantial to overhaul our education system.

Human beings are born amoral. Infants know no rules. They gradually start to learn from their family and then go to school, and learn everything else about their world. As such, school is an important factor that can greatly impact a child’s life, which is why we should introduce values education in our educational curriculum.

Every system has its strengths and weaknesses. It’s high time for the Bangladesh government to sort out our education system’s myriad flaws and take necessary steps to make it more transparent and effective. To that end, all of us have an individual responsibility to co-operate with our government.

Parents can play a vital role in developing a disciplined life for their children.

When I was eight, my mother once quoted Hazrat Ali (RA) to me, trying to prove a point: “Speak only when your words are more beautiful than your silence.”

I am now 27 and still try to follow these words.

The recently deceased Stephen Hawking was not only a genius physicist, but a true symbol of the triumph of the mind over any obstacle.

He enlightened us with his wisdom and courage. If we wish to foster minds as great, a leaky education system is surely not the way to achieve it.

Rahnuma Sultana writes from Japan, and is a former employee of the International Labour Organization.

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