Strengthening education systems: Navigating the future of learning in Bangladesh

Published : 13 Nov 2023 09:31 PM

The introduction of "Experiential Learning Method" from the starting of this year in our education system has sparked both anticipation and concern. This opinion editorial delves into the challenges and opportunities presented by the new curriculum, drawing attention to recent parental demands for its modification and reformed examination practices. 

While the new curriculum holds promise, its success hinges on overcoming practical challenges and ensuring that educators and students can fully embrace its benefits. 

Though the Education Minister has touted the curriculum's emphasis on active learning and skills development, its nationwide implementation poses significant challenges. 

Teacher preparedness and stakeholder concerns must be addressed to ensure its success. Additionally, the absence of traditional subject branches raises questions about students' educational choices. In this evolving landscape, the article explores the path forward for Bangladesh's education system.

On October 19, parents took to the streets, forming a human chain in front of Viqarunnisa Noon School & College in Dhaka, demanding significant reforms in the Bangladeshi education system. Their demands ranged from the abolition of the new curriculum to revising the examination system and were a reflection of the growing concerns over the recently introduced "Experiential Learning Method."

The parents' demands included the abolition of the new curriculum, the introduction of two temporary written exams worth 50-60 marks each, the cancellation of mark-based result systems, and ensuring that project work and learning are integrated into the school experience. They also raised concerns about the use of mobile devices during group work and the annual issuance of registration and certificates for all classes.

Education Minister Dr. Dipu Moni, in response, tried to dispel what she termed as "15 misinformation" about the new curriculum. She argued that the new system encourages active learning, collaboration, and skills development. However, the concerns raised by parents and other stakeholders should not be dismissed lightly, and there is an urgent need to address these issues.

The new curriculum, which was introduced in January 2023, holds significant promise. It focuses on experiential learning and active participation rather than traditional rote memorization. Students are expected to engage in group work, presentations, and a continuous evaluation process. 

The emphasis on skills development and proficiency levels on a 7-point scale is a step in the right direction.

The new curriculum, which

 was introduced in January 

2023, holds significant promise

However, the implementation of the new curriculum is no small feat. With over 129,000 government primary and NGO-run primary schools in the country, accommodating the new approach across all levels is a complex task. The teacher-student ratio is high, and many teachers feel ill-prepared to transition to the new system. Adequate training and support for educators are crucial to the success of the curriculum.

In many developed countries, work-oriented and research-based education systems have been in operation for years, and the new Bangladeshi curriculum aims to align with these global best practices. 

It seeks to create a joyful learning environment that fosters a genuine desire to learn. The assessment is continuous, with students' progress being monitored throughout the year. This approach aims to eliminate the need for traditional guidebooks, coaching centers, and batch readings.

One significant change in the new curriculum is the assessment during learning. Students are evaluated based on their understanding of the material and their ability to apply their knowledge. Weaknesses are identified, and support is provided as necessary. This holistic approach involves teachers, students, parents, and other concerned parties in the learning process.

However, the teachers' understanding and adaptation to the new curriculum remain a challenge. Complaints about inadequate teacher training and delayed teaching assistant support are common. Some teachers find it challenging to navigate the terminological complexities and the new teaching process, leading to confusion.

One notable aspect of the new curriculum is the absence of traditional subject branches like science, commerce, and humanities. While some may argue that this limits students' choices, it also challenges the often rigid categorization of students based on their interests at an early age. This may encourage a more flexible approach to learning and open up opportunities for interdisciplinary studies.

So therefore, the introduction of the new curriculum in the Bangladeshi education system is a commendable step toward modernizing education and aligning it with global best practices. 

However, the challenges of implementation, teacher preparedness, and addressing the concerns of parents and other stakeholders cannot be underestimated. It is essential to prioritize teacher training, provide the necessary support, and ensure that the benefits of the new curriculum are realized at all levels of the education system. 

The new curriculum holds great potential to create a more engaging and relevant learning experience for Bangladeshi students, but it must be accompanied by a comprehensive plan to overcome the hurdles it faces in practice.

Anwar H. A. Haque Sr. Research Associate, The Scholar, a small publishing house and research center affiliated with CeDOLPC, a registered development and training organization in Dhaka.