The Financial Express

Education: A tale of two cities

| Updated: October 19, 2017 14:36:26

Education: A tale of two cities

While most people may struggle to decipher an acronym if they are put on the spot but students who have just scored a GPA 5 in SSC are surely expected to know what GPA stands for.  In a well-publicised recent TV report a journalist asked a group of GPA 5 achievers some basic questions such as what GPA stands for, what SSC stands for, which theory of Newton is taught in SSC, who Pythagoras was, what Nepal's capital is etc. The students failed to answer the questions correctly and as a result many educationists are rightly asking if the education system in Bangladesh is fit for the purpose.
It seems that in over thirty years since the time I was part of the education system in Bangladesh the debate about standard of education in the country has hardly moved. Over the years many changes have been made but the same claims of deficiencies in the education system are prevalent now which were common then. Chief among them is that students are taught to strict curriculum boundaries and students simply memorise course contents and questions asked in the public exams simply require them to regurgitate various parts of the syllabus. Students are acutely over-reliant on study guides which are recommended by teachers without hesitation so that they can absolve themselves of teaching the course material resulting in students simply learning the theory by rote without actually understanding what they are learning. Further complexity in the education system is that many teachers fail to deliver effective teaching in the classroom while the same teachers are engaged in lucrative private-tuition business offered to students whose parents can afford them.
Having been in the education system in Bangladesh up to SSC I moved to London straight after my exams. Arriving in London armed with a glowing reference from my school I found that I was unable to enrol into A-level. As a result I had to join a fast track course in General Certificate of Education (GCE) O-Level. While a lot of the course contents were similar I faced some clear differences in learning methods. Back in Dhaka I attended a well renowned school where the teachers worked hard to give me a well-rounded education but at the same time they were confined by the system so the teaching and learning was designed to fit the system. For example in Physics I learned about Newton's laws of gravitation, I memorised it and I even knew, in theory, how he proved and established it in science. In exam, as far as I can remember, I faced questions such as what was Newton's law of gravitation and how did he prove it. Studying in a college in London I learned the same but the contrast was that in exam I was tested on the application of Newton's theory rather than simply reproducing the theory word for word.
Clearly in this situation the learning process was totally different which involved active diffusion of knowledge by way of applying the theory to solve a given problem. Studying English I found that while my learning in Dhaka was more descriptive in nature, in London my learning required me to be more analytical and creative. By no means is the education system in the UK a beacon of world standard, there are strands of excellence while there are pockets of weakness but a system that is continuously being improved and fine-tuned for the benefit of students and the nation. Similarly in Bangladesh the education system needs to be overhauled so that it meets the needs of students and the nation and ensure that the students actually learn what GPA stands for rather than just achieving a GPA.
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