National Education Policy and Quality Primary Education: Progress in a decade

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Daily Present Times

Md. Mohiuddin Al Helal

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Eati Akter

Sub editor

The importance of education in advancement of a nation and society cannot be overstated, and primary education plays an unparalleled role in this regard. It serves as the foundation for all subsequent levels of education. Despite the government’s commitment to providing “universal, compulsory, free, and equitable” primary education, disparities in this field are still starkly visible even more than a decade after the declaration of the National Education Policy 2010.

While there have been notable improvements in infrastructure, enrollment, and attendance in primary education, the quality of education remains a significant concern. To ensure holistic and inclusive education alongside economic growth, it is essential to focus on ensuring quality education for citizens.

In pursuit of strengthening the foundation of primary education, the government took several initiatives. In 1973, the government initiated the nationalization of 36,165 primary schools, followed by the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s decision in 2013 to take over 26,193 non-government primary schools. Additionally, around 1,500 government primary schools have been established in areas without schools.

The objectives of the education policy were aimed at ensuring equity, inclusive, and compulsory primary education for all, with various key goals and objectives, such as implementing a uniform curriculum and syllabus for all primary schools, fostering patriotism and nation-building among students, imparting essential knowledge, subject-based skills, life skills, values, and social consciousness, and preparing students for higher education.

Despite these efforts, the recent Primary Education Completion Examination (PECE) results in Bangladesh show that more than 50% of students cannot read Bengali properly at the end of primary education. Weaknesses in English and mathematics are also evident. In light of these statistics, the progress in primary education after a decade of implementing the education policy is a subject of significant concern.

Even though the education policy emphasizes making primary education “universal, compulsory, free, and equitable,” the reality is that there are still disparities, both economic and geographical, between government, non-government, and English-medium primary schools. The cost and quality of education in government and non-government primary schools, even in urban areas, continue to differ. In rural areas, parents of underprivileged children are still primarily dependent on government primary schools.

Although the National Education Policy 2010 aims to create an education system in Bangladesh that is accessible, equitable, inclusive, innovative, science-oriented, and intellectually enriching, the current state of education in the country falls far short of these objectives. While it is stated that teachers should provide students with education filled with love, respect, affection, and sincerity to keep students attentive in class, in reality, not all teachers receive subject-specific training for this purpose. However, efforts should be made to encourage teachers to provide engaging teaching through proper training and motivation.

In many cases, the student-teacher ratio in primary schools is much higher than the recommended 1:20 ratio, which is actually 1:54 in Bangladesh. In some instances, there are so many students in one class that a single teacher cannot pay individual attention to all students. Therefore, weaker students often receive little extra care. The use of proxy teachers instead of regular teachers has also become prevalent in coastal and remote areas. To address this issue, flexible recruitment and incentives should be introduced after teacher recruitment. Discouraging private tutoring and coaching, especially at the primary level, is also necessary.

The National Education Policy 2010 emphasizes creating an environment for the physical and mental development of students, including the provision of playgrounds, sports, and physical exercises in all educational institutions. However, the reality is that many schools lack adequate playgrounds, and even if they are mentioned on paper, they often do not exist in practice. In many cases, the grounds are unsuitable for physical activities throughout the monsoon season. Malnutrition and poverty can hinder a child’s mental and physical development, making it difficult for them to pay attention in class and achieve their potential. To achieve the desired learning outcomes, it is crucial to address these challenges.The use of mid-day meals in selected schools in Bangladesh has been shown to improve attendance and reduce dropout rates, as documented in various research studies. The government has now decided to implement mid-day meals in all schools. However, more efforts are needed to make this initiative successful.

To achieve meaningful progress in primary education, the government’s initiatives alone may not be sufficient. The quantity of students assigned to primary schools should be determined based on sociology-economic factors and geographical locations. Particularly, planning for digital education and co-education programs, ensuring competent personnel, upgrading classrooms, providing electricity, and supplying teaching materials should be considered within the context of the average number of students per class. Local administration, school management committees, local representatives, and community involvement should play a role in comprehensive quality improvement, considering the physical infrastructure-related issues in schools. Although many schools have management committees, they are often not actively involved in educational programs and curriculum assessment. In such cases, training them within their scope could be beneficial. Involving local NGOs, media, and educational researchers in educational innovations and creativity can help address local challenges and improve overall quality.

The foundation for a child’s cognitive development is laid at the primary level. If we want to empower education effectively, primary education must be given the utmost priority. This requires well-trained teachers, conscientious parents, a healthy societal role, and comprehensive government support.

Author serves as an Upazilla Election Officer of Galachipa, Patuakhali.

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Daily Present Times

Md. Mohiuddin Al Helal

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