In a major reform of the academic curricula for primary, secondary and higher secondary classes, education in the country looks set to be transformed beyond recognition. The outline of the curricula, as approved by the prime minister on Monday, gives the impression that the education system will undergo a thorough revision under the National Education Policy framed in 2010. Some of the changes brought earlier to the evaluation system such as the structured questions (popularly known as creative system) could not materialise as expected for a number of reasons, the chief of them being the inability of most teachers to appreciate it.
However, what is on the cards looks far more challenging for the existing set-up of teachers. Before analysing why implementation of this will particularly be daunting, it is necessary to have a look at the shape education at these levels seeks to take. There will be no examination up to class III and no public examination before class X unless the modules undergo further changes. Students' evaluation will be completed at the time of learning on the basis of continuous assessment. For class IV and V there will be five compulsory subjects -- Bangla, English, Mathematics, Science and Social Science -- along with physical, mental health and security, religion and cultural subjects. Students' performance in the five compulsory subjects will be evaluated through continuous assessment of class work and examinations in proportions of 60 per cent 40 per cent respectively. But only assessment of class work will do for the rest five.
Similarly, there will be all these five compulsory subjects for students from class VI to class X and another five subjects ---ICT, health studies, religion, life and livelihood education and art and culture studies. The evaluation up to class VIII will follow the previous two classes' pattern but for class IX and X the evaluation will be on the 50-50 basis of continuous assessment and exams. Other five subjects will be evaluated on the continuous assessment basis. But there will be the first public examination for Class X on five compulsory subjects. Up to this level there will be no division of streams such as science, humanities and commerce, it will be from class XI. However, students will have to achieve professional skills for working in either of agricultural, service or industrial sectors by the time they complete secondary studies.
About the proposed system's merit, there is no doubt. It is a lofty vision and if justice can be done to it, good dividends may be reaped. Here is an attempt to take teachers into confidence by delegating enough power of liberty to exercise their judgment on students' merit and achievement. Unfortunately, the current set-up of teachers in general is ill-equipped to handle the challenging task. This generation of teachers is prone to skip class teaching for private coaching. Evaluation comes second, what matters most is how students will be prepared and motivated to learn in a highly inspirational environment. Unless teachers themselves, no matter how competent they are, are fully dedicated and motivated, accomplishment of the task is impossible.
Their motivation cannot be expected up to the desired level without financial rewards and other facilities. It is a fact that the infrastructure of most schools is inadequate and the teaching staff in village schools in particular is ill-equipped to teach students even moderately well. Teachers who could not prepare structured questions on their own, are likely to be more at a disadvantage to impart the kind of demanding lessons in order to prepare their students apparently for the technology-based working environment of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). They will be poor implementers of an assessment-based evaluation where public examinations have been done away with before class X. Their competence in teaching in classes will definitely count.
The third element to play a role in assessment-based evaluation may not be as crucial as the above two but it is not negligible either. Such an assessment regime calls for hundred per cent sincerity and integrity on the part of teachers and the members of the school management committee. But in a country where at least a section of guardians and teachers are found guilty of helping examinees with copies in examination halls or get involved in leaking or procuring question papers in exchange for money, is it not too much to demand neutrality from such teachers and guardians. Partisan or biased evaluation cannot be ruled out where teaching staff's or management committee members' sons and daughters are involved. Many of the older generation have similar bitter experiences in school life.
However, it has to be admitted that there is no alternative to such a strong base of assessment at the grassroots level of education. To make this happen, a whole new generation of teachers will have to be produced. Alongside required infrastructural development, they will be given commensurate financial rewards to the tasks expected of them. In fact, considering the reality, new batches of teachers should have been recruited and trained over the past decade. From next year, 100 primary and 100 secondary schools will be brought under a pilot scheme. 2023 is the year when the curriculum will start in some classes to be gradually introduced to other classes until 2027. It is doubtful if the teachers will be prepared by that time. Also, text books ---in cases completely new kinds ---have to be readied. Time may prove short for getting the quality books on different subjects.
Evidently, several times more investment in education was necessary and competent people had to be drawn to the teaching profession with high salaries. After all, it is them who as friend, philosopher and guide will be responsible for implementing the radical system of education.