Exorcising the ghost of question leaks

Pamelia Khaled

Curriculum theorist Aoki’s planned curriculum reminds us of Leonard Cohen’s (1992) song, The Anthem: There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light comes in. The meaning of pedagogy is stranded in the relational and intentional responsibility of teachers to students. Pedagogical love cannot be received or perceived through any prescribed curricula or in an empty classroom environment, in which the sense of love and emotion for the students is totally absent and relegated.

The curricula teachers teach are linked with the understanding of self: who actually they are and their realisation of ecology in the classroom. The first thought is: teachers need to realise why they need to deliver a transactional pedagogy. And do they acknowledge that transactional pedagogy can develop peace and cordial relations similar to love. The second thought is how a pedagogy can make the difference that involves a teacher’s self and students’ transformation. The self-actualisation process aims to help teachers identify where they stand in terms of these three pedagogies (transition, transaction and transformation) and how they can move towards the transformation finally.

At the field level, I’m having frustrating information from various areas regarding Bangladesh’s education system. Three education specialists of Bangladesh Professor Sirajul Islam Chowdhury, Professor Siddikur Rahman and Syed Manjurul Islam have revealed that “there is a crack in everything”. The three specialists have said that Bangladesh’s education sector is in trouble for leaked questions before exam, the pressure of exam and the approach of the ministry of education. This year a local daily ran stories on question leaks that occurred in different exams throughout the year. It said that the questions for the Junior School Certificate (JSC) and Junior Dakhil Certificate (JDC) examinations, which began countrywide on November 1, were available on several social media sites such as Facebook and Whatsapp before the examination. Primary education completion exam, Secondary School Certificate (SSC), Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) and even university admission questions are leaked. Students are engaged in obtaining questions at a cheaper price. They are less interested in studying textbooks. Even good students also argue that it is important to obtain questions before any exam, as they are afraid that weaker students will secure good marks and they will fall behind.

Teachers are also concerned that the education system is more focused on texts and exams, so students are in a competition about how everyone can get GPA 5. The teachers and intellectuals of Bangladesh also think that the entire education system focuses on exam, not learning. They assert that there is no need of board exam at the primary level, at least up to the grade five. I also think a trained primary class teacher is enough to prepare two report cards for students yearly. From report cards the board will know where students need more support to improve. Primary education completion exam for the grade 5 can be taken only to keep the record for the ministry of education to know where the primary students face challenges and which school needs teachers’ skill development and where contents need to be reviewed and how primary curriculum can be improved.

The biggest stress on students is parental pressure: children are bewildered by the meritocratic system and exam pressure. And parents are in a race to hire five to eight teachers for coaching their children after school. Teachers, counselors and psychiatrists are unable to make some parents understand that students are coming under mental pressure because of this attitude. Parents must be engaged in friendly discussion with their children and solve the problems during the parents’ meeting with teachers.

Bangladesh’s competitive society prompts parents to choose careers for their children that are in higher demand in the job market. Parents encourage their children to nurture a high ambition. Happiness, love and pleasure of learning in classrooms are largely absent. There are not enough opportunities for science and math learning as in many schools there is no science teacher. Science teaching requires more transactional modes of teaching and learning such as labs and science trips. On the other hand, there is less importance on the humane side development through extracurricular activities such as dance, drama, music, craft and arts.

The education commission acknowledges that subjects like art, literature, dance and music allow learners to be creative while the education ministry is more concerned about the sectarian issues and less interested in extra curricula skills. It seems the education ministry is more careful about implementation of prescribed and political curriculum to seize further political benefit.

The Dr. Kudrat-e-Khuda Commission report 1972 suggested teaching moral education till the grade eight but it could not see the light in the last four decades.

Students also think that depending on objective types of exam system was a great mistake as it destroyed students’ curious mind and their reading habit. To continue with the new creative education system (srijonshilshiksha) learners need to adapt themselves. We also need to encourage them to grow the reading habit and also there is a need to train teachers on how to check lengthy exam papers.

Curriculum theorists Aoki describes the other curriculum as a multiplicity of lived curriculum: how a teacher and his/her pupils experience.  There can be many lived curriculums that can vary and be different in every classroom. So it is difficult for a teacher to plan and teach a planned curriculum, the text without knowing the dynamics of the classroom. Therefore, parents must listen to students’ opinions and they need to allow students to express their own views on any issue. Both parents and teachers must try to learn students’ views on socio-cultural issues, what they think, expect and how they view the society they are living in.

In evaluating merits of a student the education system in Bangladesh solely depends on the textbooks and exam system. A rigid exam system is forcing students to memorise notes. There is also not enough support for the students who are falling behind or who have different merit levels and need assistance. All categories of students are studying the same curriculum in the same classroom. This is problematic.

There is a difference between planned and lived curriculum in Bangladesh’s education system, “that’s how the light gets in.” From the current education system, lessons can be learned. The people in the administration, curriculum planners and the civil society should put all heads together to outline how Bangladesh’s education system should be. As there is a lack of political will, it should be taken care of at first. Designing a transactional curriculum, which is practical and interactive, may help make communication between students and teachers more effective. Pedagogical love helps teachers and their students participate equally in understanding each other and gathering wisdom.


The writer is an anthropologist and environmentalist. She is pursuing her PhD research on Curriculum Studies and Teacher Development at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), University of Toronto, Canada. Pamelia07@hotmail.com

Celebration of Excellence in Performance by the Rural Schools

VAB celebrated the Excellence in performance of the rural high schools in Bangladesh in an Award Ceremony on November 25 at 7.00 PM at the auditorium of Bangladesh Bank Training Academy in Mirpur, Dhaka. The Chief Guest was the Governor of Bangladesh Bank, Mr. Fazle Kabir and the ceremony was presided over by Professor Jamilur Reza Chowdhury. Mr. Chowdhury Mufad Ahmed, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Education, Government of Bangladesh was present. Mr. Choudhury holds the responsibility of secondary education in the ministry. The foyer and the lounge were tastefully and comprehensively decorated with festoons and placard of VAB and its work. While taking a walk in the lounge, the Country Director explained the VAB Model going through a large poster. The poster contained photographs of VAB programs in all the four categories and highlighted the English and computer literacy program.

The Country Director explained how VAB brings in and empowers and engages the primary stakeholders in the quality education program. The Governor was visibly impressed with the VAB approach and methodology and considered this to be the right way to get results. The Country Director stated that the three capstone projects for VAB in the immediate future will be: English skill, Computer skill and Citizenship skill. The citizenship program will be spearheaded by the Student Club program of VAB. He mentioned that already three remote schools in the villages attained 100% computer literacy. In one school, even the Ayah participated in the test with students and secured 94% marks in the qualifying test for skill in word, excel and power point.

The Award event started with recitation from the Quran, the recitation being done by Mr. S. M. Hafizur Rahman, Headmaster of Bhurulia Nagbati High School of Shyamnagar. It was followed by presentation of a video on VAB and its work and then by welcome addresses by the Country Director, Professor Jasimuz Zaman, VAB Trust Chairman, Dr. Haroonur Rashid and Ms. Pamelia Khaled, Founder and President of VAB Canada.

Professor Jasimuz Zaman brought into focus the hidden potential for quality education in the rural schools and called for joining the quality drive with VAB. He enumerated the different ways one can come forward.

Dr. Haroonur Rashid pointed out the need for funds for the annual program and also for endowment to provide sustainability of the program. Ms. Pamelia Khaled made a splash with the announcement of contribution herself and from her friends.
The meeting then heard the message from the Founder and President of VAB.
The awards were given away by the Governor of Bangladesh Bank along with the VAB Chairman, Professor Jamilur Reza Choudhury, VAB Trust Chairman, Dr. Haroonur Rashid, Mr. Neaz Ahmed, VAB Board member and Professor Jasimuz Zaman, VAB Country Director.
Awards were given for schools and individuals in eight different categories based on performance with documentary evidence and experience of VAB in the field.

 Excellence in Public Examination Results
 Attainment of 100% Computer Literacy
 Enterprising School
 Outstanding Student

Ramranjan Biswas, Headmaster of Tapobon Secondary Girls’ School, Shyamnagar, Satkhira receiving 100% computer literate School Award.
Mr. Babul Hussain, Headmaster of Panchopukur Girls’ High School, Nilphamary, receiving successful school Award


 Accomplished Teacher
 Enterprising Teacher
 Enterprising Headmaster
 Successful Headmaster

Award of appreciation was given to Mr. Abul Kalam Azad for his passion and commitment to steer the Computer Literacy Program and to Shagrika Rani, Aya of Sunderban Girls High School for her brilliant performance in computer literacy test.
The Table below gives the breakdown of awards received. On the whole, Ponchopukur High School stood out on the top. Among the students, Lubna Akter Moon was the most outstanding student. Md. Nasim Ali from Kanthalbari touched the heart of the audience while narrating his life of struggle against odds.

  Four schools, Palashbari and Ponchopukur in Nilphamari Sadar Upazila in Nilphamari district, Barandali in Keshobpur Upazila in Jessore and Dayamoyee in Nageswari Upazila of Kurigram obtained awards in different categories. These schools had been supported by Bangladesh Bank for the last two years.

Shapahar Dangapara High School did an excellent job in the Employable Skills program under the vocational stream and was supported by Nabarun Welfare Trust.
Islami Academy High School was recognized as a high performing school and had been supported by American and Efird for the last three years.
VAB offered its appreciation and gratitude to the sponsors – Bangladesh Bank, Nabarun Welfare Trust and American & Efird for their support.
VAB expressed its gratitude for the active support of Mr. Amin Rahman of Rotary Club of Wheelers Hill in Australia and to his Club for helping us spearhead the English pronunciation and English drive.

At the end of the award, VAB announced the distribution of a lap top and a projector to nine schools. One set was handed over to the Bhurulia High School by the Chief Guest. The facility has been provided for the use of the student clubs. The schools will make the facility available to the Club executive committee members beyond school hours, on weekends, holidays and vacation.
Mr. Abul Kalam Rafiquzzaman, Upazila Education Official of Shyanagar, Satkhira commended VAB for the program VAB has been conducting in his area of operation. Mr. Chowdhury Mufad Ahmed, Additional Secretary, Government of Bangladesh, in his address, said that no other NGO in Bangladesh work with a model as the guiding instrument. He expressed great appreciation of the Model approach used by VAB. He expressed a desire to visit some of the schools to assess firsthand how the model impacted the schools. He even said he could come to VAB office when I made a suggestion to give us an opportunity to see him for an hour at his office. He mentioned about upcoming programs in secondary education. And some of those appeared to be not far from what VAB is trying to do. There was great appreciation for Dr. Rahman and others who set up VAB and for Pamelia Khaled and her group in Toronto for setting up VAB-C. The Governor of Bangladesh Bank was very appreciative of the VAB Model.

He thought it was exceptional that VAB brought into focus the empowerment of all the stakeholders and he thanked VAB for such an inclusive approach. He enumerated some of the elements of VAB Model in the four categories and drew the attention of the audience of their importance. While giving scholarship is very important and desirable, everyone must come forward to undertake the measures needed to improve the quality of education imparted by the schools. He said that he would be advising the MDs to donate for quality education and entrusted Mr. Neaz Ahmed with the task of follow up. The banks provide fund for scholarship and no doubt that is important. But part of the CSR fund for education should be directed to quality improvement. He also stated that he would like see that the banks spend 30% of their CSR expenditure to education. He announced that Bangladesh Bank would substantially increase its contribution to the implementation of VAB Model in a larger number of schools.
Mr. Chowdhury Mufad Ahmed, Additional Secretary, Government of Bangladesh, delivering his speech in the event.

Mr. Fazle Kabir, Governor of Bangladesh Bank, the Chief Guest, addressing in the event.
Professor Jamilur Reza Choudhury, Chairman of VAB Board, in his closing address pointed to the need for human resources development for business and industry. He mentioned that there will be large groups of teenagers seeking secondary education during the next decade. A good quality secondary education is a prerequisite for the supply of semi-skilled, skilled and professional manpower that the business needs for efficient and competitive growth in the twenty first century. The rural schools that cater the educational needs of nearly 70% of our kids should be supported actively through programs like developed by VAB implemented with well-defined outcomes in quality education.

Mr. Neaz Ahmed, Member of VAB Board, offered vote of thanks to the Chief Guest and recipients of the awards. On behalf of VAB, he thanked the officials and staff of Bangladesh Bank Training Academy for their diligence in running the event smoothly and for providing high quality catering services for the event. He expressed admiration and thanks to the VAB staff and volunteers for their dedication to make this award event a success. The program ended with a photo session followed by dinner.