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,

Share Button
Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.