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

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