English proficiency  

Published: December 02, 2018 21:06:56 | Updated: December 04, 2018 22:14:09

Bangladesh's miserable English proficiency ranking may have caused many to raise an eyebrow but considered objectively there is nothing to be surprised. What may look somewhat disturbing is the fact of its sharpest decline in its score from last year's 50.96 to 48.72 in the English Proficiency Index. The decline by more than 2.0 points in English proficiency may just be the beginning of a further slide. This is a cause for serious concern. For this none other than the policymakers in the education sector are to blame. Guided by the bureaucracy, they even ignore suggestions put forward by eminent educationists. Indeed, the bureaucratic bigwigs are a queer lot who love to experiment with unsuspecting and innocent young learners. Only they know better why they shuffle and change academic curricula so often. They are needlessly subjecting students of the secondary and higher secondary education to sit for 1,200 and 1,300 marks. When educationists have suggested for abolition of Junior School Certificate exam, they thought it better to slash marks of English by half. Now students will appear for 50 marks only in each paper of English.

This is ridiculous. The importance of English as a second language cannot be overemphasised for historical reason. Under colonial British Empire, this part of the world had to learn English better than those of other colonial powers. There is no harm learning as many languages as one can master. But one has to be selective in the interest of career-building. From that point of view and the legacy of British rule, proficiency in English should have been a plus point here. Unfortunately, it has not happened although in India English is widely practised as a medium of conversation and communication. No wonder, English as an Indian variety has got recognition. The Philippines has done even better by maintaining an enviable standard of English in its education system and administrative function.

Admittedly, English is the most dominant language the world over. The reasons are not far to seek. Yet the Bangalees on both sides of the border took some suicidal steps in order to banish English from syllabus at the early stage of education. However, this is not consistent and its backlash did not take long to strike back. Today, Bangla-medium schools in Kolkata are cutting a sorry figure. The situation is not as bad as this here. The various streams of education at the primary, secondary and higher secondary levels have surely complicated the situation. Now the latest decision of recognising the certificate of Dawra-e-Hadith (Taqmil) from Qawmi madrasas as equivalent to certificate of master's degree (Islamic Studies and Arabic) is likely to make the situation even worse.

The problem with learning English starts at the primary stage of learning. Reportedly, one in three teachers is not certified to teach. Even those who are certified to do so are not proficient enough. Quality of teachers is reflected in the learning of any subject. When the lacking is evident in a subject like Bangla, the situation of English teaching can best be imagined. This explains why Banladesh ranks above Afghanistan only in the English Proficiency Index. The situation can be improved if only primary and secondary teachers are trained under a nationwide crash programme.

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