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What is happening in NCTB?

NCTB chairmanship should not be considered just like other usual jobs as the prime responsibility of NCTB is to develop national curriculum to guide the future generation towards the right direction and build up the future leaders.
Masum Billah
What is happening in NCTB?

The educational arena of the country currently experiences the development and implementation process of new curriculum from pre-primary to higher secondary level with the introduction of handing over new books based on this new curriculum to the students of grade one and two and six and seven from the year 2023. With this end in view, its piloting will take place in 100 primary and 100 secondary schools respectively.

However, ignoring the previous plan and declaration it is heard that not in 200 primary and secondary schools from primary will go under piloting, this number may be 100 to 120. Developing a curriculum means a big task, a gigantic task indeed that we hardly realize. We seem to misunderstand its importance keeping it limited to transferring teachers from government institutions to NCTB, publishing books and distributing those among students. 

The ongoing curriculum was developed in 2012 and its revisions were supposed to start from 2017 but not done. Mostly government college teachers along with a very small number of government school teachers are posted in NCTB to develop and review curriculum along with other responsibilities. However, it cannot be said plainly that only the government teachers are able to develop curriculum though they hold the designation of ‘expert’ after getting transferred to NCTB. Many of them get transferred on recommendation or by maintaining powerful lobby or by other means. I was invited to a workshop at NCTB several years back where an additional secretary from the ministry commented, “You all have become expert after coming to the NCTB and occupied a chair individually. How you have come here is known to all concerned. If I ask you whether you have written even an essay absolutely by yourself in your teaching life, I am sure none of you have done it. I see NCTB has become a garbage.” I noticed that nobody protested it or gave any answer that means they accepted the fact which is really a fact. 

A plan was made that SESIP would review the curriculum in 2017. Delay to release the necessary fund to do it led to its further delay. It was followed by another decision that it would be reviewed by ‘SEDP’ and so SESIP left the work without touching it. In 2019 NCTB took another decision that it would get the curriculum reviewed by itself, neither SESIP nor SEDP would do it. This necessarily sparks questions such as –does NCTB have required amount of manpower? Does it have real experts to do that job? The existing NCTB officials have to remain always busy with inviting tenders, searching for publishers, printing books and distributing them. Do they have time or interest in reviewing the curriculum or developing curriculum? It is said that books are free but the people need to pay money to get books particularly the non-government schools which see the highest number of students and teachers who have to get books in exchange of money from the local officials concerned.

The organizations that can take the NCTB officials abroad get benefits from NCTB in various ways. This kind of proof has been published by some newspapers and these organizations or NGOs get the opportunity to work for NCTB for developing and revising curriculum even though they don’t have such type of experience. NCTB officials defend this point by saying that university teachers are involved in developing curriculum, not NGOs only. Whenever, we hear the name of university teachers, is there any logic to become so restless? It is not unknown to us how most university teachers are employed. After getting employment, how many of them actively get involved in politics and other games keeping away from studies and research. Many of them don’t have clear idea about the system of education in Bangladesh even. I want to cite here one example that I experienced just several months back. One teacher of DU, who is conducting a research or implementing a project on primary education, was asking me several questions that really astonished me. Questions were: i) Is there any government primary school in Bangladesh; (ii) Primary education in Bangladesh is up to grade 8, isn’t it? When I said ‘no’. I got the reply ‘are you sure of it? (iii) Do the primary teachers get MPO? When a university teacher does not have a transparent idea about the primary education or secondary education of Bangladesh, how they are given the responsibility to conduct research on it, how they will make recommendations? Of course, all teachers don’t belong to this group. However, those who know well about the education system of Bangladesh, their number is very few.

NCTB has employed several NGOs to review and develop curriculum that has been highlighted by media in such a way as NGOs don’t have any experience or are quite incompetent in understanding and developing curriculum. Actually, the NGOs working for education know a lot more than government officials as they have the potential, interest and habit of going to the remotest villages, neglected areas and slums and can reach out the hearts of poor and common people, know the context and reality which are necessary to learn to develop the curriculum of a state. Government officials of any department cannot have such kind of depth in this regard. However, all the NGOs don’t have that capacity; all the NGOs don’t work in the education sector either in that capacity. When these NGOs are employed to develop a national curriculum, that definitely talks about a different thing and we cannot accept it. NGOs like Plan Bangladesh and Tiktaalik don’t have any experience to write or review national curriculum. BRAC Education Model such as ‘cohort model’ ‘excelared model’ are known to home and abroad and the UNO has  requested BRAC to replicate these models in some Asian and African countries and BRAC has  successfully been implementing these models in those countries. Still I will say that national curriculum should not be made as per the prescription of NGOs. When NGOs like Tiktaalik gets such kind of opportunities that means curriculum will have to see a miserable consequences.

NCTB should be a fully autonomous institution so it need not depend on the ministry for every single decision as it happens today. However, the chairman of NCTB should be chosen from gigantic national figures in the field of education on whom the nation can trust. A ‘national search committee’ can find out such a figure for the position of NCTB Chairman. We must remember that the position of NCTB Chairman is quite different from the heads of other institutions who are posted on political consideration and posted for   three or four years.  It should be for minimum eight to 10 years to see the full circle of introducing  and implementing a curriculum. Examples can be given that Zafor Iqbal sir, Abdullah Abu Sayeed sir, Professor Manjurul Islam sir like personaliites and educationists should be the chairman of NCTB. We know producing such kind of personalities is not an easy task. Still, the society, institutions and the nation as a whole should take the initiative to produce such kind of educationists in the country. We can depend on the stature of such kind of personalities to develop national curriculum under their direct guidance. The current tradition to select the chairman of NCTB must be avoided as it cannot maintain the neutrality, nepotism, selfishness and to choose really suitable candidate for this prestigious and valuable national institution. We don’t want that NCTB to be dominated by the ministry. However, if there lies no control of the ministry over the NCTB, the anomalies happen that have been cited in the above paragraphs. More can be mentioned. We have come learn that one Biology teacher has been given responsibility to coordinate English curriculum development. We don’t want such type of autonomy as well. Infamous private university and English medium teachers have been included in the curriculum writing panel leaving the trained SESIP officials. We know English medium education is more creative and its teachers also but their selection has not been made on the basis of any sound policy and suitable teachers have not been invited to review and write curriculum that calls for decision makers’ judicious consideration and attention.

Finally, I want to say NCTB chairmanship should not be considered just like other usual jobs as the prime responsibility of NCTB is to develop national curriculum to guide the future generation towards the right direction and build up the future leaders. So, the position of chairman of NCTB and its other important positions must be held by the educationists of that stature.

The writer Works as an education expert in BRAC Education and is the President: English Teachers’ Association of Bangladesh (ETAB). Email: [email protected]

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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