Banned guidebooks and coaching centres have flooded the country affecting the quality of education amid a lack of proper classroom teaching and of monitoring by the authorities.
Guidebooks, currently marketed in the name of ‘study guidebooks’, are available for students from Class III to higher levels while teachers from educational institutions are actively involved in the coaching ‘business’, academics said.
They also said that the rote learning-based performance assessment system and the commercialisation of education were the major reasons behind this situation.
‘You don’t need to go to Nilkhet to find guidebooks as you can find these in classrooms now,’ deputy education minister Mohibul Hasan Chowdhury told New Age on Wednesday.
According to him, not only the existing flawed teaching-learning system and the lack of resources have resulted in guidebooks and the coaching business, a section of teachers get commission from the guidebook publishers if they use their publications in teaching students.
‘There will be no use “catching” these people as we need to hit the root of all problems — the [flawed] teaching-learning system,’ he added.
Earlier, in April 1980, the government banned the printing, import, sale and marketing of notebooks considering that they might be hindering the development of creativity of students.
The Note-Books (Prohibition) Act, 1980 prohibits the printing, publication, import, distribution and sale of notebooks on textbooks for primary schools and secondary schools up to Class VIII.
In December 2009, the Appellate Division also upheld a High Court verdict that banned guidebooks and notebooks and directed the government to take action against anyone found flouting the ban.
On Wednesday, in the capital’s Nilkhet book shops, study guidebooks, published by two companies Panjeree and Lecture, for students of Class III and upper levels were found on display for sale.
‘All students buy sets of these guidebooks to secure good results,’ said an employee of a bookshop.
A guardian, seeking anonymity, said that he had to buy guidebooks for his son reading in Class VI before his examinations as everyone else too bought these books.
Education Watch chairman Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad told New Age on Wednesday that the Education Policy 2010 furnished recommendations against guidebooks and coaching centres.
‘Students now memorise guidebooks to obtain GPA 5 while teachers run private coaching for students,’ he said, adding, ‘In true learning, students must ask questions instead of going for rote learning.’
The quality of education, he observed, is falling right from the primary level as students have become used to memorising their lessons up to the tertiary level.
‘There are many good policies and laws in Bangladesh but without implementation and there is no monitoring as to the use of these policies and laws,’ Qazi Kholiquzzaman observed.
Besides, hundreds of coaching centres exist across the country for all levels of students.
According to the latest draft Education Bill 2022, no teacher will be allowed to teach any student from their own educational institutions through coaching centres or private tuition in exchange for money in any format, including electronic or online, and if anyone flouts the rule it will be considered a punishable offence.
The draft bill, however, said that coaching would not be considered banned and a teacher would be allowed to teach students from other institutions in the form of private tuition or by operating coaching centres.
‘As guidebooks and coaching centres are big businesses and huge sums of money are invested in such businesses, they are running these businesses in front of all,’ said National Curriculum and Textbook Board member for curriculum Professor Md Moshiuzzaman.
Teachers don’t want to give students marks if they don’t write answers from guidebooks, he said, urging the ministry to check these irregularities.
In 2012, he went on to point out, some posts of ‘academic supervisors’ were created under the education ministry to monitor the academic situation but they do not carry out the intended monitoring at all.
Dhaka University Institute of Education and Research professor M Tariq Ahsan said that the culture of guidebooks and coaching centres resulted from the traditional assessment system.
According to Tariq, also a member of the National Curriculum Development and Revision Core Committee, under the traditional assessment system students only memorise their selected lessons so that they can obtain the highest possible marks in the three-hour examination.
‘When the new national curriculum, with its performance-based assessment system, will be fully implemented, guidebooks or coaching centres will become pointless,’ he added.
But Qazi Kholiquzzaman is not, however, very optimistic about the fruitfulness of the new curriculum as there is a possibility that there will be new guidebooks for this curriculum, too.
Deputy education minister Mohibul Hasan Chowdhury shared that he went to visit a school at Rayerbazar in the capital a few days ago, where he found that every student in an English class had a guidebook in front of them.
‘When I asked the students, and even the teachers, about where their textbooks were they said that these were the textbooks,’ he said.
‘Students can’t learn by themselves under the existing curriculum while teachers also discourage them to do so as sometimes teachers too lack knowledge of the content,’ he further said.
The deputy minister observed that there could be ‘reference’ or ‘supplementary’ or ‘practice’ books besides the textbooks to assist the students, but the quality of guidebooks in use in Bangladesh were very low while these were written in a question-answer form.
‘The culture of coaching centres will not go easily as all students, and even all teachers, don’t possess same capacity,’ he explained.
If the resources can be made available as per the the demand and the new curriculum is (fully) implemented, then there will be no scope for guidebooks and coaching centres in four to five years, Mohibul added.
The 2010 education policy aims to evolve an education process that is oriented to creativity, practicability and productivity to achieve advancement in the economic and social fields of the country.
It also aims to create a scientific mindset in the students and to develop in them the qualities of leadership.