‘Culture of peace’ in educational curriculum

Pamelia Khaled

Children learn in their early days how to express themselves, read clearly, speak articulately and using pitch and tone in their class presentation and speech in any event. Children at elementary stage also express themselves through writing skills such as creative writing practice, listening to and counting numbers. In Bangladesh, in educational institutions, ‘a culture of peace’ component has not yet been included in the child-centered curriculum.
Promoting education on peace in the classroom has become important in these strife-ridden times in the  globe.

Hundreds of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps were killed in 1982. Till date, 700 Palestinians died in Gaza, majority of them being children. It is assumed that Netanyahu and his military officials targeted killing of children. The idea is not only barbaric, but also largely unethical. Holocaust took lives of six million Jews; they had to die in gas chambers in implementation of Adolf Hitler’s Aryan blood theory. Similarly Saddam Hossain killed innocent Kurds in Iraq using chemical weapons. It was not a long ago how two atomic bombs were dropped on the innocent Japanese by America. We, Bangladeshis, did not forget how in 1971 General Yahya Khan and his military killed three million innocent people in the country.

Looking at the history, our new generation feel puzzled how they will respond to their enemies who raped and killed their sisters, mothers, brothers, fathers and close family members and relatives brutally. Because they are not well prepared as there is no compassionate curricula that could teach learners how to deal with conflict issues and maintain peace and democracy even in periods of distress.

Education is the means to build a multicultural nation and bring heterogeneous population closely together. A number of war-afflicted countries across the world are now stuck up in violence and conflicts. It is important to identify what educational curriculum  should do to develop a culture of peace, tolerance and solidarity in a multicultural classroom as well as enhancing democracy in a war-ravaged country.
There were a few incidents of rampage on Hindus, Christians, Biharis and members of ethnic community in Chittagong Hill Tracts this year. This is very alarming for social peace in Bangladesh.

The Education International noted in an article  titled ‘Peace Education’: “A culture of peace and non-violence goes to the substance of fundamental human rights: social justice, democracy, literacy, respect and dignity for all, international solidarity, respect for workers’ rights and core labour standards, children rights, equality between men and women, cultural identity and diversity, Indigenous peoples and minorities rights, the preservation of the natural environment to name some of the more obvious thematic.”

In terms of race, religion and culture, divisions among populations of the Indian subcontinent are not a new phenomenon. The splitting-up process was started by the British and implemented through a ‘divide and rule Bengal’ policy and giving birth to two countries based on religious majority such as Pakistan and India. Language, culture, religion and ethnicity have crucial impact on the people of the countries of this region including Bangladesh.

Peace education should be an important component of a curriculum for a multicultural society like Bangladesh as we all want to see a nation which can understand well and appreciate the heterogeneous nature of Bangladeshi culture. Children need to learn new techniques how to avoid religious, cultural and sociology-political conflicts.
The society is now ridden with social and political pressures, divisions and conflicts. Conflict issues have impact on the population as those stand against the non-conformists and increase negative social environment and different concepts to achieve each group’s objectives.

Conflict resolution is only possible when individual, family, society and states join together and involve themselves in finding a particular approach through their positive attitudes.  Thus, it is important to educate a child/youth about the notion of ‘a culture of peace’ through the school curriculum. There is no other alternative to reduce disequilibrium and conflict in the current social system and its culture, religion and politics without nurturing peace education.

Sympathy, kindness, social justice and peace-building steps must be included in the whole curriculum. A culture of peace can be brought into being through educational institutions. Social values and norms must be taught both at home and in schools so that a child can move without any worry.

In a larger sense, a culture of peace could be an important part of holistic education which is nothing but an active curriculum under which students can learn how to foster peace, values and rights from home, family, classroom, community and their social world experiences. Thus, inclusion of a culture of peace in educational curriculum for a multicultural country like Bangladesh is necessary.

The writer is a Doctoral candidate of the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education,
University of Toronto,

Secondary curricula: Quandary of GPA golden 5

Pamelia Khaled

46 Regarding the outstanding result in secondary education and student’s achievement through obtaining GPA golden 5 in the last four academic sessions and recent result, an interview was taken of a professor of Sociology department, Dhaka University in a television program recently. The concern was Bangladesh education system is not promoting a sustainable curriculum.

During the interview the professor mentioned that “Even in my classroom 15 percent of   GPA 5 students (200 students) cannot write a piece of critical writing”. But these students had to face challenges to compete with their peers to get into Dhaka University.  She also mentioned that students’ performance in the admission tests for universities has dropped alarmingly. The admission committee depicts a grim picture of GPA golden 5 students, Bangladesh’s quality of education and it impact on the tertiary education.

Reasons such as rote learning, teacher centered textbook focus teaching, multiple choice examination process and lack of evaluation are responsible for producing unqualified children. As we know, in the Higher Secondary Certificate exams, a GPA-5 scorer needs to obtain  minimum 80 percent marks in all subjects on average and getting admission in Dhaka university and other institutions (such as Medical and Engineering school)  is highly competitive. Then, a question arises how they are obtaining such a high grade score.

Is that a consequence of current politics in education? Why do country’s education systems allow mass scale of pass rates? What is the goal and objectives of promoting high pass rates providing through less quality education? Why does it focus on quantity rather than quality? What type of exams and evaluation procedure are students facing? Out of these mass golden 5 students what is the degree of proficiency in language, maths and other skills? The final question is, what is the impact of GPA golden 5 student’s admission on the tertiary education?

The Daily Star on August 15, 2014 reports  approximately  70 percent GPA-5 holders in 2013-14 failed to secure pass marks (48 out of 120) in the admission test for Dhaka University, according to data of the admission committee. The previous three sessions saw around 55 percent, 52 percent and 51 percent students failing in the entry exams to the Dhaka University. Most of the admission seekers failed in Bangla and English.

45The report also says, students from every discipline can appear in the admission test under the D unit. Last year, out of the 28,454 GPA-5, 23,750 failed to secure pass marks, with 19,510 failing in English and Bangla unfortunately.

Looking at the secondary results and its outcomes (consequences of teaching system and standard of current curricula), 70pc of GPA-5 holders failed in Dhaka University admission test last year, we must re-think of Bangladesh primary and secondary education system, its teaching procedure, its current curricula and the quality of students they are producing.  Are they supporting to division in the society or is it secular? What is the ecology of classroom, what is the teacher and student relationship? Is it gender sensitive, child centered, multicultural? Or ideological based curricula?

We must take lesson from Pakistan curricula. After 1947, more than 6 governments ruled and they could not establish Jinnah’s “right policy for Pakistan children”.The religion of Islam has been-and continues to be-used, perhaps abused, by the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in endeavoring to achieve strategic objectives. A primary and secondary school curriculum has been deliberately designed to facilitate the usurpation of genuine educational space by forces of hate, violence and that of extremism. A primary and secondary school environment consciously manufactured to nurture terror, promote prejudice and breed extremism. Irrational fear, perceived external threats, India-centric paranoia and vested economic interests–all teaming up to produce a government prescribed curriculum that preaches hatred and teaches next to nothing”(Curriculum of Hate).

We must be careful of Bangladesh’s past and current government’s motive, are they following Pakistan and trying to implement political party favoured prescribed curricula? Are the curriculum theorists designing hidden curricula (in social science/history curriculum/such as father of the nation, or indigenous /adivasi issue)?

The above education report (Curriculum of Hate) is a lesson for us, Bangladeshis and chance to learn and compare Pakistan’s current curricula. In 1974, the Qudrat-e-Khuda Commission report was formulated and is based on the socio-economic and political state and cultural heritage of the country. The perspectives and this scenario of the education system of the contemporary world were also taken into consideration. In fact, Qudrat-e-Khuda Commission report reflected the fundamentals of the newly framed constitution of Bangladesh. However, Bangladesh has also failed to establish his modernization curriculum plan successfully, it has been more than 40 years. This way Bangladesh lacks in quality of primary, secondary and tertiary education.

We also noticed that so called East’s Oxford’s (Dhaka University) ranking has gone down too, to the bottom of 1000 for student and teacher politics, lack of administration and weak governance. There are several obstacles to implement curriculum reform effectively, the reasons are: lack of expertise, lack of quality in textbooks, and those textbooks do not often contain suitable curriculum. Classroom teacher focuses on the textbooks only and do not asses the main objectives of education.

47What has been done to bridge the curriculum gap? Curriculum scholars and theorists must not only explore the nature of the curriculum design and practice gap but must pay attention to how it may be bridged. Thus, I call for greater cooperation among curriculum theorists, policy makers, school administrators, and teachers. Crafting an ideal, holistic curriculum for all learners is indeed a crucial piece of the quality-education puzzle, as we know that one size does not fit all. Curricular reform in Bangladesh is essential to ensure sensitivity to learners’ cultural and religious backgrounds and needs, place value on teachers’ skills and knowledge, and enable learners to successfully develop and interact within today’s complex and globalized world. To address this gap in knowledge we need a curricular reform in the country. We need to examine, compare and contrast the different curricula currently in place in government and madrasa (religious) secondary schools in Bangladesh and then to use the findings to recommend a unified, inclusive and comprehensive curriculum for all secondary schools in the country.

I suggest examining (the religious and secular both ) primary and secondary curricula from a learner’s perspective to analyses learners’ experiences in the classroom and to determine whether these experiences are supporting their cognitive development and if the knowledge they acquire is sustainable for their future use.

The provision of secondary education has expanded significantly in Bangladesh over time. Current Ministry of Education initiatives to improve the system include teacher training and school monitoring. However, the secondary system has challenges that transcend such initiatives, including a “fragmented curriculum”, high drop-out rates (UNICEF, 2009), low promotion of equity and limited access (Equity and Access – World Bank, 2013), the decentralization of administration and a lack of political will to encourage a dialectic relationship between education providers. The delivery of quality education and the implementation of a highly relevant curriculum are urgent tasks requiring both further analysis and a great deal of political and economic commitment.


The writer is a Doctoral Candidate of Ontario Institute of Studies in Education,
University of Toronto,
email: saifoddowla@gmail.com

School science books incomprehensible

Educationists tell book launch


From left, Dr Zeba Islam Seraj, Prof Jamilur Reza Choudhury, Prof Muhammad Zafar Iqbal, educationist Rasheda K Chowdhury and Prof Syed Manzoorul Islam at the publication ceremony of “Bigyaner Mojar Pathshala”, an illustrated science book designed mainly for the students of class VI, at the capital’s Sheltech tower yesterday. Photo: Courtesy

School level science books are written in a way that makes them incomprehensible to the students, said noted educationists yesterday.
While the percentage of science students is declining, making the books suitable for young students could popularise science again, they hoped.
They were addressing the launch of “Bigyaner Mojar Pathshala”, an illustrated science book designed mainly for the students of class VI, at the capital’s Sheltech tower.
The book, edited by Dr Zeba Islam Seraj, was published by Seraj Foundation.
“Science books are badly written. Even I don’t understand them. How would the children understand these books?” said Prof Muhammad Zafar Iqbal.
He added, “If the authorities tried, good books could be handed to all students in only a year. But nobody seems to bother.”
Eminent educationist Rasheda K Chowdhury opined the National Curriculum and Textbook Board had failed to grasp the level of children’s thoughts.
She added that well-written books would benefit the students of rural areas whose level of knowledge tend to be lower than the urban students.
Eminent litterateur Syed Manzoorul Islam commended the book for its readability.
Noted civil engineer Prof Jamilur Reza Choudhury also spoke at the event.