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61 years of EDUCATION DAY: national and global context of education

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To trace the background of our Education Day, on this day in 1962, school student Babul, bus conductor Golam Mostafa and domestic worker Waziullah sacrificed their lives in support of the movement of students in the then East Pakistan. The movement initiated by students for the cause of education in erstwhile East Pakistan in the early sixties culminated on September 1963. Known as the 1962 Education Movement, this was also a struggle against discrimination and deprivation in education and a series of onslaughts on Bangla language, songs (particularly Tagore song), art and culture. The immediate cause of the students' agitation was the Sharif Commission Report on education imposed by the then government of Ayub Khan in Pakistan. This writer participated in the movement as an activist in the capacity of General Secretary of Dhaka College Students' Union. The movement was initiated by students without any outside help. The central student leaders could not foresee that such a massive movement based on academic issues and problems faced by the students was possible. The momentum of the movement subsided when the then opposition leader H.S. Suhrawardy met East Pakistan Governor Golam Faruk and persuaded him to defer implementation of the Sharif Commission Report.

WHAT PROVOKED THE 62 EDUCATION MOVEMENT: Some of the features of Sharif Commission report which were published in 1962 provoked students' agitation in East Pakistan. To mention a few among them: (1) the concept of free primary compulsory education is an utopia; (2) to introduce a Lingua Franca for Pakistan, Roman Script should be introduced and for that Arabic should be given priority; (3) Urdu should be made the language of the people of Pakistan"; (4) education should not be available at minimum cost and at a 'cheap price' ; (5) there is reason to see it at par with investment both in industry and education;  (6) two years' degree course should be upgraded to 3 years for improvement of quality at the higher education level.

Students reacted sharply to the above stated proposals. They clearly pointed out that the door of education has been closed to the poor and low-income people. The very connotation of "investment in education" triggered sharp reaction from the students. Action committees and sub-committees were formed in many institutions, continuously to protest against the extension of the tenure of degree course from 2 to 3 years. The agitation programme was started by Dhaka College students. One handicapped student of degree class, M.I. Chowdhury initiated it. Higher Secondary School certificate examinees who considered the new functional English courses at the H.S.C. level as extra burden also participated in it. Sporadic strikes and abstention from classes by students continued throughout this period. Students of medical school also joined the movement, which included hunger strike. However, students' movement took a new turn on August 10, 1962 when students assembled in a meeting in the college canteen of Dhaka College. This writer, who was then General Secretary of Dhaka College Students Union, convened and presided over the meeting which was the first of its kind. There was no link with the central leadership of student's organisations prior to this meeting. Now this meeting bridged the link. The Dhaka College students meeting announced general strike of students throughout the province on August 15. Students responded favourably, and a sit-down action programme before the Secretariat was also announced. Series of meetings were held in between August 16 and September 10 at the historic Amtola of Dhaka University. Huge number of students both from the schools and colleges in Dhaka attended. The previously formed "Degree Students' Forum was renamed as "East Pakistan Students' Forum" with two joint conveners Quazi Faruque Ahmed from East Pakistan Students' Union (EPSU) and Abdullah Wares Imam from East Pakistant Students' League (EPSL). On September 10, a meeting was held at the Dhaka University Cafeteria where representatives from almost all the colleges of the city were present. The meeting withdrew the previously announced sit-down strike but announced a fresh action programme of hartal or total strike on September 17.

WHAT HAPPENED ON SEPT 17, 1962: Students started picketing from early morning on the day. The black coloured Mercedes Bencz car of the Provincial Minister Hasan Askari was set on fire by the students. Some jeeps were also put ablaze. In the morning, a contingent of police led by Surgent Hafiz chased prospective demonstrators from Sadarghat to Nawabpur Railway crossing. By 9 a.m. Dhaka University Campus was packed up with students from schools and colleges of the city. At that time, news spread out that police opened fire at Nawabpur road. Hearing the news, a huge procession was brought out with Sirajul Alam Khan, Mohiuddin Ahmed, Rashed Khan Menon, Haider Akbar Khan Rono, Ayub Reza Chowdhury and Reza Ali. The procession entered Abdul Gani Road crossing the High Court when police fired from behind. Babul a student of Nobo Kumar High School was killed along with bus conductor Golam Mostofa, domestic worker Waziullah and many others were seriously injured. Waziullah later died in the hospital. The firing at Abdul Gani Road infuriated the protesters which not only included students but also workers and employees of different mills and factories, rickshaw pullers and boatmen from across the Buriganga river.

Two chief characteristics of the 1962 education movement deserve special mention: firstly, the movement was initiated by the students alone without any outside influence and, secondly, the central student leaders could not foresee that such a huge movement was possible based on academic issues and problems faced by the students. The movement subsided eventually when opposition leader H. S. Suhrawardy came over to Dhaka from Karachi during the last leg of the movement. He met East Pakistan Governor GolamFaruk and was able to persuade him to defer implementation of the Sharif Commission report.

GLOBAL CONTEXT OF EDUCATION: In 'Our Common Agenda Policy Brief 10: Transforming Education', UN Secretary General António Guterres said in July, 2023: 'Although education has a crucial role to play in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, confronting broader societal challenges and preparing society for uncertain futures, contemporary education systems are no longer fit for purpose, severely underfunded and beset by twin crises of equity and relevance.' He offered two key recommendations: 1. Deliver on the commitments made in the 2030 Agenda and at the 2022 Transforming Education Summit and commit, in A Pact for the Future, to a new vision for the creation of learning societies centred on the following six principles: i) Building a comprehensive and integrated system of education and lifelong learning in a world of uncertainty; ii) Ensuring equity, access and inclusion in and through education; iii) Making curricula and pedagogies relevant for today and for tomorrow; iv) Repositioning the teaching profession to ensure that teachers increasingly serve as creative guides and facilitators in the learning process; v) Harnessing digital tools and resources to expand access, improve learning and increase capacities to navigate the future and avoid the digital divide; vi) Investing more, more equitably and more efficiently in education; and 2. Recognise education and lifelong learning as a global public good and galvanize international cooperation to invest in and transform education while achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4.'

SOME VIEWS: Recently this scribe participated in a programme organised by Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) on 'What Triggers to Ensuring Quality Primary Education', wherein I submitted few points for consideration, which in the main are as follows: 1. Fixation of Basic Education up to 12 Grade in the light of Incheon Declaration in 2015, closely linked to SDG 4 implementation, in the face of the controversy over non-execution of extension of primary education up to class eight. 2. To specifically define quality education with actual competence of school going learners in the subjects they read; leading towards attainment of  efficiency  / skill for standard livelihood /job market in future. 3. To prepare the primary level students for the next tier of education, no matter whether they seek admission for it or not. 4. Decentralisation of the existing over centralised education system and pattern  as well as the financing mechanism of education. 5.To introduce area-wise exchange of teachers competent in different subjects who teach in different schools, to address the shortage of such educators. The services of retired teachers who fulfill such condition and are physically fit, may also be used. 6. The decision of shortening the time frame of training programme of primary school teachers should be reconsidered. 7.Establishment of educational institution management committee (SMC) headed  by the head teacher and participated by teachers and parents  in line with TEACHER POLICY by UNESCO, keeping the outsiders like officials and people's representative as advisors. 8. To allocate fund for education on the basis of population and student ratio to remove existing disparity between male and female,  general and  technical / vocational education. 9. To reorganise resources of financing in education taking into account the long existing system of financing education by local self government institutions like the union council,  district council,  municipalities and city corporation. 10. To evaluate the present gender based educational institution management and update the utility of co-education. 11. To end commercial coaching in educational establishments. Specific  action programs are required to end coaching as a business in education.  Independent educational institutions with the permission of the government can serve the purpose. 12. Coordination is essential to ensure quality education. This is applicable not only between Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education but in several aspects of primary education itself. 13. Proper assessment of education in different countries during and before COVID-19. Their experiences are no less valuable.

STUDY OF HISTORY AND ADDITION OF NEW CHAPTERS: The study of history and tracing historic events are important. It is also no less important to create precedents for the future. Needless to say that relating the past with the present and linking with future is not an easy task. Our experiences at national levels when linked and integrated with world forum like the United Nations and international bodies can really usher in new pathways to progress and development world over. 


Prof. Quazi Faruque Ahmed was an organizer of 1962 education movement and a member of National Education Policy-2010 Formulation Committee. [email protected]

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