Program reform: how to implement it?

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In a major reform of the academic curricula for primary, secondary and upper secondary classes, education in the country appears poised to be transformed beyond recognition. The outline of the programs, as approved by the Prime Minister on Monday, gives the impression that the education system will undergo an in-depth review as part of the National Education Policy framed in 2010. Some of the changes made earlier assessment system like the Questions (commonly known as the Creative System) failed to materialize as expected for a number of reasons, the main one being the inability of most teachers to appreciate it.

However, what’s on the cards looks a lot harder for the current teacher setup. Before analyzing why its implementation will be particularly daunting, it is necessary to examine the form that education at these levels seeks to take. There will be no exam until class III and no public exam before class X unless the modules undergo further modifications. The evaluation of the students will be completed at the time of the apprenticeship on the basis of a continuous assessment. For Classes IV and V, there will be five compulsory subjects – Bangla, English, Mathematics, Science and Social Sciences – as well as Physical, Mental Health and Safety, Religion and Culture subjects. Students’ performance in the five compulsory subjects will be assessed through continuous assessment of class work and examinations in the proportions of 60 percent and 40 percent, respectively. But only the class work assessment will do for the other five.

Likewise, there will be all of these five compulsory subjects for students in class VI to class X and five other subjects — ICT, health studies, religion, life and livelihood education, and life studies. art and culture. The assessment up to class VIII will follow the model of the previous two classes, but for classes IX and X, the assessment will be based on 50-50 continuous assessment and examinations. The other five subjects will be assessed on the basis of continuous assessment. But there will be the first public examination for class X on five compulsory subjects. Up to this level, there will be no division of fields such as sciences, letters and commerce, it will be from class XI. However, students will need to acquire professional skills to work in agriculture, service or industry by the time they graduate from high school.

As to the merit of the proposed system, there is no doubt. It is a noble vision and if justice can be done to it, good dividends can be reaped. Here is an attempt to give teachers confidence by giving them enough freedom to exercise their judgment on student merit and achievement. Unfortunately, the current setup of teachers in general is ill-equipped to handle the difficult task. This generation of teachers is inclined to skip classroom instruction for private coaching. Assessment comes second, what matters most is how well the students will be prepared and motivated to learn in a very inspiring environment. Unless the teachers themselves, however competent, are fully dedicated and motivated, getting the job done is impossible.

Their motivation cannot be expected to reach the desired level without financial rewards and other facilities. It is a fact that the infrastructure of most schools is inadequate and that the teaching staff in village schools in particular are ill-equipped to teach even moderately to students. Teachers who could not prepare structured questions on their own are likely to be at a greater disadvantage in delivering the demanding type of lessons in order to apparently prepare their students for the technology-based work environment of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). They will be poor performers on an assessment by assessment where public exams were removed before Class X. Their proficiency in classroom instruction will certainly matter.

The third element to play a role in assessment based on assessment may not be as crucial as the previous two, but neither is it negligible. Such an assessment regime demands one hundred percent sincerity and integrity on the part of teachers and members of the school management committee. But in a country where at least part of the tutors and teachers are found guilty of helping candidates with copies in examination rooms or of being involved in leaking or obtaining questionnaires in exchange for money, is it not an exaggeration to demand the neutrality of these teachers and guards. Partisan or biased evaluation cannot be ruled out when it comes to the sons and daughters of teachers or members of the board of directors. Many of the older generation have similar bitter experiences in school life.

However, it is clear that there is no alternative to such a solid evaluation basis at the level of grassroots education. To do this, a whole new generation of teachers will need to be trained. Along with the development of the required infrastructure, they will receive financial rewards commensurate with the tasks expected of them. In fact, given the reality, new batches of teachers should have been recruited and trained over the past decade. From next year, 100 primary schools and 100 secondary schools will be piloted. 2023 is the year when the program will start in some classes to be gradually introduced in other classes until 2027. It is doubtful that teachers will be prepared for this date. In addition, textbooks — in completely new cases — have to be prepared. The time can be short to get quality books on different subjects.

Obviously, many times more investment in education was needed and skilled people had to be attracted to the teaching profession with high salaries. After all, they are the ones who, as friend, philosopher and guide, will be in charge of implementing the radical system of education.

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