Expectation and challenges of Education Act-2020
The Education Act-2020 has been drafted aiming at banning private tuition, coaching, guidebooks and notebooks, corporal punishment on students and running of private academic institutions without the government's approval. We welcome the government's effort to bring so many anomalies to address pragmatically. The top educationists, parents, and experts of our country have long been campaigning for this measure to be introduced and implemented in our academic field.
The Draft Act has focused that the violation of the act is a punishable offence with an imprisonment up to three years or fine at least Tk 5 (five) lakh or both in some cases. However, subject specific books, supportive for students for understanding difficult concepts can be published with prior permission of the government. Dependence on guidebooks takes learners away from textbooks reading; they get used to rote learning which reduces their creativity and analytical opportunities.
We are afraid of misusing the provision for allowing the supplementary or supportive books for students for understanding difficult concepts. It is not a denying fact that our textbooks are written very complexly; the NCTB textbooks at every level of education are difficult to understand for the students. So, every textbook may need supplementary or supportive books for students for understanding difficult concepts. We think it will appear a big shortcoming or weak point of the Education Act 2020 which may open the windows of publishing and marketing of all types of notebooks and guidebooks in the name of supplementary or supportive book or like.
There questions may arise why the proposed Education Act 2020 is needed while Notebook Prohibition Act-1980 is prevailing. It may be mentioned that Notebook Prohibition Act-1980 is not a complete act to apprehend all academic malpractices, which the new Education Act 2020 plans to address. It is important to note the Education Act- 2020 needs to be finalized based on authentic research and open discussions of stakeholders. Without research we may neither grab out the causes nor clean out the deep rooted problems.
The guidebooks are being published in different names and titles. But, no solid actions have been taken against the publishers, sellers or the writers so far. Different authorities always shift the responsibility to others for monitoring and curbing sale of illegal guidebooks and notebooks to the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education authorities.
Guidebooks or notebooks follow short-cut method of presentation based on the questions of the examination. A good number of teachers are involved in writing guidebooks as a business and most of the teachers suggest the parents and students to procure specific types of guidebooks.
Our textbooks contents are very tricky or hard according to the level, age and class; the syllabus is also quite large to be completed in a stipulated time or in an academic session; the contents of the textbooks are not presented in straightforward ways so, students need help from the notebooks and need to go to private tutors for private coaching. Educationists always blame that the students at the primary and higher secondary levels are compelled to use guidebooks as they cannot depend on 'low-quality' textbooks for achieving good results in the examinations.
Parents and teachers have result-oriented mind-set; they want their children attain high score in examination. If they do not shift their attitude, the necessity of notebooks and coaching culture will prevail in the society. But, it is difficult to change the mind-set because without higher scores in the examination at the secondary and higher secondary levels students cannot sit for the admission test for undergraduate program. So, the dimensions of the problems are multifarious and deep-rooted.
It cannot be ignored that most of the teachers cannot understand creative education method. In this situation, they depend on the guidebooks for teaching their students across the country. The students cannot solve the creative question alone; and most of the parents are unfamiliar with so-called creative questions; so, students become compelled to join coaching classes. Textbooks should be understandable for the students. "If we can do it, students won't read notebooks or guidebooks and will not run after private tutors.
Our students are becoming very reliant on private tutors because many students are genuinely struggling in different subjects and need support and guidance to improve results. But, there are huge numbers of teachers who compel their students for private coaching or tutoring just to earning limitless money. There is a common belief that the quality of our education has deteriorated because teachers nowadays less sincere in classrooms.
It is often criticized that the current creative system of education at secondary level adopted by the government has increased students' dependence on guidebooks and notebooks. Publishers and books sellers often say that printing and selling guidebooks are illegal; but, they publish those books as there is high demand among the students and teachers. Sometimes students find the guidebooks easier than the prescribed text-books. The guidebooks publishers claim that textbooks published by NCTB contain lots of errors; and the quality of guidebooks is far better. So, the guidebooks are so popular among the students and teachers.
We talked students and teachers at secondary levels, and found that, although textbook reading is frequently assigned, many students don't actually do it and, if they do, many don't understand the most important contents. They said guidebooks or suggestions in any form are much easier, understandable, and more well-organized for them than NCTB textbooks. The challenge of reading typical textbooks assignment is so overwhelming that they give up before they even begin. Several things seem to contribute to this situation.
Students who struggle with studying textbooks cannot often recognize that they do not understand. Recently, we interviewed some students; they could not adequately explain or synthesize what they read. These students often skim or skip over challenging sections, and they do not monitor their understanding along the way of reading. The content-area textbooks pose unique challenges for many students: density, structure, specialized vocabulary, background knowledge, or lack of coherence. So, the textbooks need to be re-written with less complex contents to draw student interest.
We are thankful to the government as they have planned to undertake stern actions to address some bad practices in the academic field. It is expected that the new Education Act-2020 will come up as a remedial measure to address long but deep-rooted challenges for our academic wellbeing.
Dr Md Enamul Hoque is educational researcher and teacher educator