The secondary and higher secondary examination results, now-a-days are published with record-breaking GPA 5s and passes. These umpteen numbers of the highest grades at these examinations are not as easy as falling off a log. Those who get this highest possible grade are the real gems. Three cheers for them. However, I shall not say anything special about them except for whishing them sustained success. I am, however, more interested to talk about the comparatively less per cent of students who have failed in the same examinations. If they all had passed, we could have felt way much happier, because it is not preposterous to expect the success of them who were officially found suitable for taking the examinations. Many of them were sure the borderline candidates, but the effect was the same-failure. They have failed for reasons, maybe, of their own or of somebody else. We should try to dig out the causes for their failure and treat them with proper care.
We should not feel exalted by the performances of the so-called top ten schools or colleges of the capital or of the boards. Their success is just an optical illusion. They help the ones make outstanding results who are already capable of doing that. This is as if the proverbial coals carried to Newcastle. Let alone the students of low calibre, if the schools and colleges had been able to improve the quality of the mediocre students, we could have rated them highly. They do not as such deserve it whereas their main concern should have been to continue to increase the number passes or to decrease that of fails.
Now, we get to the bottom of the problem. The concerned quarters have discovered that failure in English is the root cause of the problem. Of the total fails, more than 60 per cent fail in English. In other words, English is the biggest hurdle the students are to jump over in the exam-race. Most of the students almost invariably suffer from English Fear Syndrome (EFS). The rate is alarmingly high in the rural areas.
That the EFS reaches the intermediate level in one jump is not true. It rather originates from the primary level of education and passes through secondary to higher secondary level. In some cases, it continues unabated throughout their entire academic life. That is, however, a different story. The school and college students, particularly of the rural areas, are afraid of learning English when they embark on their early education. Our fathers' and grand-fathers' generations had had adequate English learning because of the 'spare the rod and spoil the child' policy being fully implemented upon them.
However, that regimentation has nowadays been an object of huge discouragement. It is no loss. Proper motivation in lieu of corporal punishment may exert a tremendous influence on the young and impressionable learners. But where is that motivation? There are hardly any expert teachers for English at both primary and secondary levels. The inexpert ones teach the students a little English, which later, in most cases, becomes dangerous, at least to the point of causing failure in the English exams, which contributes to the ultimate fail.
These students with little knowledge of English acquired at the schools are being admitted into the poor village colleges or the substandard suburban or district colleges. Admission to the top ten is impossible for them. In those village colleges, especially in the non-government ones, English teaching is in a very sorry state. One cannot expect quality teaching from these English teachers. Because of the private tuition business, the knowledge of English gained at their hands does not rise even an inch from what had been obtained earlier. This is what precisely has been instrumental in increasing the failure rate and decreasing the pass rate in the schools and colleges.
What has to be done first and foremost to resolve this knotty problem is to get to its heart, ie to identify the germ that infects the students with English Fear Syndrome. The haunting spectre of English has to be driven out of the minds of the students. Inculcating young students with the indomitable will power of fictional Adu Bhai is not enough to make them pass the exam.
It calls for a coordinated national policy. The Government should take effective measures to strengthen the foundation of English learning at the primary and secondary levels. They should appoint only the expert teachers for English. Already appointed English teachers should be given proper training. The English teachers of the non-government colleges should also undergo compulsory training for English teaching.
Because of the different sets of questions for different education boards, the overall quality controlling process is being jeopardized. There should be uniform questions for all the boards, at both secondary and higher secondary levels, to standardize education system and to control the quality of the students. This may help to find out the real causes of the crisis, and work out a concrete solution.
Above all, there should be a unified, definite, and workable education policy, ranging from primary to high school level and, most importantly, the implementation of the policy should be mandatory. English is a window on the world. Our boys and girls need to learn English, not only to get a pass in it, but also to reach a wider kingdom of knowledge. If we want to see the kingdom sitting at home, we need the window of English. The spectre of English has kept the window shut over the years. We must drive it back by all means.r
Dr Rashid Askari writes fiction and columns and teaches English literature at Kushtia Islamic University.
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