In what ways do our investments in education reveal our beliefs about the next generation’s role in the world?
If you talk about the philosophy of education, in Bangladesh, we’re still like 17th century Europe – an industrial country focused on economic equities : jobs, food, survival. We’re not talking about which common social values the world should have. After I earn the money in my skilled job, do I understand the value of human life in this world ? Unfortunately, what happens when there is not enough employment or job security, people turn to unethical means to survive. There must be some global values system that we start talking about in education. Will that not be the number one problem when we’re trying to kill each other not from lack of money but due to lack of accepting diversity ? Who will solve this ? The medical system will not. The political system will not. Only education can do this.
Bangladesh is a young country. Since the independence, I broadly categorize the generations into three: the first generation questioned the injustice and owned the country’s independence, the second generation questioned autocracy and has started the journey of democracy 24 years back , and now the third generation is questioning our journey without a vision and we are heading to a bright and shiny future. This journey would only be successful when our children are equally ready through education to make the journey. This generation and generations after this need to understand the values that the previous generations had started building this country on i.e. justice and democracy, which must continue to improve in creating a society based on equity.
We need a different education investment framework and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals give us a reasonable starting point. There are some missing focuses though. For example, in the next 15 years, when we talk about basic literacy, it has to take into account how differently we have started communicating by using technology than what it had been so far in the form of in person communication and written scripts. The long discussed issue of digital divide is becoming a much more complex issue in the coming days. For example, a person with post-graduation education from Bangladesh today might have less exposure to new technologies than a typical elementary school child in the US. There has to be more investment in education, especially in the methods of communication, to decrease such the global achievement gap. The developed countries still have a lot to improve, but they are still focused on their immediate crisis of economic survival than equally having social value creation and even equally important aspect of transforming our children into thought leaders. Least developed countries need a radical restructuring of education. We’ll stay stuck in factories and providing good clothes to wear, but developing countries will continue to rise in thought economy. We have to change the education system to allow people to think freely and creatively.
In Bangladesh, you’ve been instrumental in growing global education programming. How effective are western innovations/models in improving education gains in Bangladesh? Are there other US education initiatives that would advance education access?
My visits to public, community schools in US were bittersweet. Children there have an assurance that they can go to school in their area. Common Core State Standards had just been rolled out and it was wonderful to see that federal and state system have agreed to core common standards and still had the freedom to apply them in their own way. The most beautiful moments I had were observing student-teacher interactions. I visited Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy and, at first, I couldn’t understand the role of the teacher and the student. Sometimes the student was leading the class and the teacher was in the back of the room. The roles seemed interchangeable and that made me happy.
Here, going to school is like winning a lottery ticket. Even if you get access to a school, you cannot assure that the quality is maintained. In the classroom, many teachers are not trying to make learning interesting, they are trying to ‘teach’ children instead of making children interested to ‘learn’. Education can be important to empower students to take control of the class. The classroom environment that I saw in the US is something that would be beautiful. No one wants to feel inferieor, not even your 3 year old child. I don’t know how it happened in the US and how it could happen in Bangladesh. If the US reached consensus on CCSS in 2012, maybe we can do it here by 2022. If we can shift to more inclusive pedagogy, especially children-focused learning, the next generation will believe that more is possible in all schools.
Zaki’s One Good Question : Bangladesh has made lots of progress to educate more people in our society, but we see that the system is not yet producing a respectful society. Education is about creating global peace. Are we matching what we really want to accomplish through education ? Are we missing the way that education should be defined ?
Zaki Hasan is currently serving as the Executive Director (ED) of Underprivileged Children’s Educational Programs Bangladesh (UCEP). He has worked in various sub-sectors of education including Technical Education, Early Childhood Development, Primary Education, Secondary Education, Adult Education, Girls Education and ICT-aided Education. He has been member in various boards and committees on issues/organizations involved in education. He has numerous publications including editor of more than 20 children books. He was also the founding Country Director of Room to Read Bangladesh. He has worked for several other non-profit international organizations such as Save The Children, ActionAid, and Helen Keller Intl. Zaki Hasan is an Eisenhower Fellow.