HISTORY OF PRIMARY EDUCTION IN BANGLADESH
During the British Rule
In the ancient times and the middle ages the indigenous education system which evolved in the Indian subcontinent was predominantly theological and philosophical in approach. The system alienated itself from the common people. It was the British who introduced and implemented what is now known as the modern education system.
William Adam, in his education report, stressed the following points:
The Wood's Education Despatch of 1854 was a significant example of the efforts to the modernization of education by the British rulers in Bengal. Following its recommendation a Department of Public Instruction was created in 1855-56. The department was placed posts of Inspectors were created. The Despatch also advocated for encouraging initiatives to establish private education institutions.
Lord Curzon took some steps for expanding primary education. In 1910, Gopal Krishna Gokhale placed a bill in the Law Council for making primary education compulsory. The bill was, however, rejected in 1912, a bill making primary education compulsory in the Municipal areas was passed.
With the provision of limited autonomy in the Indian Book Act of 1921, Bengal (Rural) Primary Education Act was enacted in 1930. For over a decade after this, there was hardly any follow up action. Under this act, District School Boards were set up to control, direct and manage the dissemination of education, to reach ultimately the goal of universal, compulsory and free education. Although primary education was controlled, directed and managed by the Director of Public Instruction, and the schools were inspected by the District, Subdivision or Circle Offices (comprising one or more Thanas/Upazillas) the direct administrative responsibility laid solely with the Zilla (District) School Boards.
After the Second World War, the Sergeant Commission Report (1944), for the development of education was published. It was the first report to recognize pre-primary education. As the British rule ended in 1947, the Sergeant Commission Report remained unimplemented.
The Pakistan Period (1947-1971)
Soon after partition of India, a resolution to make education universal, compulsory and free was put forward at the National Education Conference (1947). In 1957, the government announced the dissolution of the District School Boards and handed over the management, control and administration of primary education to the District Primary Education Office. the former District Inspector of Schools were appointed as Chief Executives of the office under the aegis of the Deputy Commissioners.
The Bengal (Rural) Primary Education Act was amended in 1951. In order to made primary education compulsory, the Government undertook an experiment. In the selected Unions, 5,000 primary schools were selected to be run, as “Compulsory primary Schools” and the rest were to operate as “Non-compulsory Primary Schools”. Till 1951, primary education was a 4-year course. In 1952, it was made a 5 year course.
As a result of bifurcation of the primary schools into “compulsory primary schools” and “non-compulsory primary schools”, discontent spread amongst the teachers. The Government, therefore, in 1957 renamed the 5,000 Compulsory Primary Schools in the Unions as “Model Primary Schools” and the rest as “Non-Model Primary School”. The Headmaster of the Model Schools could inspect and supervise the Non-Model Schools.
Universal access to Primary education was given emphasis in the First Five-Year Plan. The first Education Commission was set up in 1959. This Commission recommended that within the next fifteen years, primary education should be an 8-year course, and liberal promotion on the basis of age should be introduced. In the Second and Third Five Year plans, there were increased allocations for the development of primary education sub-sector to enhance facilities in the schools and to provide for increased student enrolment.
A section of parents, students, teachers, and educational authorities did not approve the nomenclature of “Non-Model School Headmasters by the Model School Headmasters. The Government, in 1965, collectively termed Model and Non-Model Schools as “Managed Free primary Schools”. Under that scheme, all the primary schools were brought under one administration and the teachers received pay and allowances according to their qualifications.
The Bangladesh Period
This period has started since 1971 when the people fought a glorious war to win Independence. The Constitution of the independent of the independent Bangladesh states that Primary Education shall be the responsibility of the State. The provisions are:
“The State shall adopt effective measures for the purpose of (a) establishing a uniform, mass-oriented and universal system of education and extending free and compulsory education to all children to such stage as may be determined by law; (b) relating education to the needs of the society and producing properly trained and motivated citizens to serve those needs; and (c) removing illiteracy within such time as may be determined by law”.
Acknowledging primary education as a national responsibility of the Government, and recognizing the fundamental rights of the people to education ushered in a new era in Bangladesh. The dawn of independence also saw a reawakening in the realm of primary education. In the light of this, steps to upgrade the education system were taken right after independence. In 1972, the Kudrate-e-khuda Education Commission was formed to recommend objectives, strategies and action plans for creating a modern education system suited to the needs of an independent nation and compatible with the systems of the neighbouring countries.
Bangladesh Education Commission
The report of this Commission in 1974 outlined the following objectives for primary education:
Education is vital for the purpose of satisfying the aspirations of a new nation. In view of the objectives, the Commission placed before the Government the following recommendations for the development of primary education.
It may be mentioned here that not all of the commission's recommendations were implemented. But the Government nationalized 36,165 primary schools in 1973 under an Act named Primary Education Taking Over Act and declared 1,57,724 teachers of those schools as government employees. From then on, strengthening and improving primary education management became a part of the state's responsibilities, and planned steps were gradually taken for the development of primary education