Former advisor to the caretaker government and executive director of CAMPE (Campaign for Popular Education) Rasheda K Choudhury recently spoke to Prothom Alo’s Rokeya Rahman about the education sector in the national budget.
Prothom Alo: How much importance has education been given in the budget this time? The education minister claims allocation to the education sector has been increased by Tk 1422 crore (Tk 14.22 billion).
Rasheda K Choudhury: Yes, we too initially thought allocations to the education sector had been increased. But a deeper analysis revealed that the allocations to the primary and mass education ministry and the education ministry were less than the previous year. This decrease in allocation will put our achievements in the education sector at risk. This is not acceptable. This time allocation to the education sector has been given along with the science and technology ministries. This does not give the real picture.
Prothom Alo: There was a demand for 6 per cent of the GDP to be allocated to the education sector, but only 2.7 per cent was allocated. Yet the allocation for the education sector in Malaysia is 6.2 per cent of the GDP and in Sri Lanka 6.2 percent too. How do you view this?
Rasheda K Choudhury: Bangladesh is committed to the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs where it is said that allocation to the education sector should be at least 4 per cent of the GDP. Yet here not even 3 per cent has been allocated to the sector. This is very unfortunate. It is not congruent with the education policy where it is being said that by 2018 allocation to the education sector must be increased to 4 per cent of the GDP.
Prothom Alo: Most of the allocation in the sector goes to the salaries and allowance of the teachers for infrastructure development. Isn’t this an anti-education policy?
Rasheda K Choudhury: No, I wouldn’t call it an anti-education policy. Teachers must get adequate remuneration and respect. Quality education requires quality teachers and infrastructure. The existing weakness is inadequate teachers’ training. Creative method has been introduced in our education system, but the teachers haven’t been given the required training. Or even if they have been given the training, they are unable to apply it. There are often insufficient funds for training. The competence of the teachers must be increased. The standard of the textbooks must be improved. Our textbooks must be regularly updated in keeping with the times, with the constitution, with the spirit of our liberation war. But those responsible for revising the textbooks are often not paid adequately. The authorities must look into this.
Prothom Alo: There have along been allegations of irregularities and corruption in the education sector. The situation hasn’t improved, rather deteriorated. What would you say about this?
Rasheda K Choudhury: There is a complexity in our education system. It can be divided into three categories. The first is mainstream, the second English medium, and the third madrassa education. The mainstream has two parts, government and private. The government educational institutions have to follow certain rules and regulations, particularly at the primary level. Rules are more or less followed in the appointment of teachers, infrastructure development, and so on. But it is quite the opposite in the secondary sector. At this level 97 per cent of the educational institutions are run by private management. The government hardly has control on these institutions, other than the MPO-registered ones. The public is irate over the appointment ‘business’, admission ‘business’ and tender ‘business’ at these institutions. Lack of adequate legal structure allows corruption to continue unabated. We had wanted an integrated education act. The government has proceeded somewhat in this regard. We hope an education act in keeping with the times is soon enacted.
Prothom Alo: The education policy was announced in 2010. Where do we stand seven years on?
Rasheda K Choudhury: We got a very good education policy in 2010. The policy was to be implemented by 2018 and all preparations were to have been carried out. Seven years on, I can’t say where we stand precisely. The national education policy warranted 4 per cent of the GDP to be allocated for the education sector. As I said, that hasn’t been done. A minimum number of textbooks on Bangladesh Studies and other subjects were to be included for all educational institutions. That hasn’t been done. Bangladesh Studies recently was introduced in English medium schools by court order. There has to be some degree of regulation.
Prothom Alo: Recently many things were dropped from textbooks at the behest of Hefazat. Isn’t the government surrendering to fundamentalist forces by giving in to this?
Rasheda K Choudhury: The changes made to the textbooks following Hefazat’s demands were totally unexpected. Suddenly we saw a move away from the spirit of the liberation war and non-communal values, and extensive changes were made to the textbooks. The demands made openly on 6 April 2016 by Hefazat in Hathazari, have been fully reflected in the changes made to the textbooks. It is most unfortunate that these changes were brought about by the government of the political party which led the liberation war. We cannot understand the government’s softness towards those who opposed the liberation and did not want the trial of the war criminals.
Prothom Alo: Thank you
Rasheda K Choudhury: Thank you