A report, prepared by a 16-member government committee, headed by University Grants Commission member Prof. Atful Hye Shibly, has observed that English is usually being taught through Bengali in classrooms and this practice hinders proficiency in English. The committee was assigned the task of identifying the obstacles to learning English and put forth recommendations to the government.
The report, submitted to the education ministry, has been gathering dust there for the past few months. It said, “Presently, only reading and writing skills are exercised in our teaching and testing system. But it is of paramount importance to design an English education scheme, giving equal importance to reading, writing, listening and speaking,” it stated.
The committee’s report, submitted last year, stated: “The present textbooks were developed 10 to 11 years back. These books are not attractive and the contents therein are not suitable for inclusive education. It is a common phenomenon that makeshift English teachers are teaching English in schools and madrasas and those teachers do not have sufficient professional skills to conduct a successful English class.”
The committee recommended establishment of a National English Language Institute for improving communicative competence of teachers and students, including an appropriate English language teaching methodology for Bangladesh through a programme of in-service training of English teachers. It also recommended class-wise mono-lingual (English) dictionary in the curriculum as a supplementary study, modernisation of English textbooks, reform of examination systems and development of an audio-visual English classroom in all institutions.
Expressing their surprise for not having a list of English teachers, the committee recommended that a database of genuine English teachers should be maintained and sent to all English training centres. “It is seen that in the name of English teachers, institution heads usually send non-English teachers to English training programmes,” it stated.
Professor Fahima Khatun, chairman of the Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education in Dhaka, said: “According to the results of the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) exams, 2011, published in May, my board’s pass percentage was 84.63. It was 77.99 per cent last year. This year, the pass percentage in the English first paper and second paper was 97 and 95, respectively while the marks were 89 and 83 in 2010.”
Professor Abul Khaleq, chairman of the Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education in Sylhet, said: “Like the HSC and SSC, English has become the determinant of the percentage of pass for the newly-introduced Junior Secondary Certificate exams for Class VIII students. In the first-ever exam results published in December 2010, the pass percentage of my board was 61.97 and the percentage of unsuccessful candidates was 19 in English.”
The Independent found that the only English Language Teaching Improvement Project (ELTIP) of the education ministry has remained suspended since June last year owing to a severe funds crunch. From 2002 to early 2010, nearly 33,000 English teachers were given 21-day training under the project.
“Paying little heed to the education ministry’s request, chairpersons of the education boards have refused to fund the project. The ministry had asked the boards to provide Tk. 40 crore for the three-year ELTIP phase IV,” said M Mujibur Rahman, ELTIP project director.
“I have told the education secretary to transfer me from the project. Me and my 74 colleagues are not getting salaries since June, 2010,” said Mujib, who is also a joint secretary of the government.
Replying to a query, Professor Fahima Khatun, said: “The ministry runs a number of projects with the revenue budget. If it really considers the particular project to be important, it should provide funds from the revenue budget. Education boards cannot fund such projects because of legal barriers.”
Financed jointly by the World Bank and the Bangladesh government, SEQAEP in 2009 had introduced extra classes for English and Mathematics in 1,621 selected schools and madrasas located in remote rural areas. However, the initiative came to an end in March this year.
A circular, signed by SEQAEP director Md. Sirajul Islam, had been sent to all 121 upazila secondary education officers, directing them to stop the programme as teachers allegedly took money without arranging for extra classes. “They pocketed a considerable sum without taking extra classes.
This project has cost us Tk. 20 crore since June 2009,” said Islam.
Education minister Nurul Islam Nahid told The Independent that the ministry will bring some major changes in accordance with recommendations made by the 16-member committee.
There are more than 1.60 crore students in 82,218 primary and equivalent institutions, and over 87 lakh students in 28,140 secondary schools and madrasas.
-With The Independent input