New curriculum and experiential learning: A rectification of education system
Md. Razu Ahmed || risingbd.com
The post-pandemic period in education sector had a drastic change. The downfall in education quality and increased number of dropouts among the school children was significantly noticeable. According to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics report (2020), in Bangladesh, nearly seven out of ten are out-of-school children e.g., 4.6 million children between the age of lower secondary and upper secondary—are not enrolled in school. Only 29% of children finish higher secondary school, while 65% of children finish lower secondary education. In addition, a huge learning loss was also faced from the pandemic-induced school closure. To mitigate these gaps, Bangladesh government has taken commendable measures including shifting to a new curriculum.
The new curriculum in school-level education in Bangladesh is a laudable initiative that aims to transform the education system and prepare students for the challenges of the future. The curriculum has been crafted with meticulous attention to detail, incorporating a plethora of pedagogical techniques that are designed to facilitate the learning. Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, Ministry of Primary and Mass Education, and the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) have been working together on the revision of the new curriculum, that is on the piloting/tryout phase in 62 educational institutions from the year 2022 in class six. Currently, this curriculum has been implementing in class six and seven across the country. In the next academic year, class eight and nine will be brought under this new curriculum.
One of the most salient features of the new curriculum is its emphasis on interdisciplinary learning. The curriculum is designed to integrate a variety of academic disciplines, including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), to provide students with a comprehensive and holistic education. The curriculum’s multifaceted approach enables students to develop a nuanced and sophisticated understanding of complex concepts. In this regard, one research organization, named South Asian Institute for Social Transformation (SAIST), has been working since 2021 with the support of IDRC and KIX, to scale up the government’s intervention to reduce absenteeism in 08 govt. and MPO listed primary and secondary schools in Dhaka city, through applying experiential and experimental teaching in classroom for STEM subjects, which totally aligns with the new curriculum. SAIST has been assisting teachers in the classroom to implement the experiential learning through demonstrating science or math experiments using relevant materials. The organization has also celebrated Science and Math Fairs in the schools to reduce the fear of science and math among the students.
Experiential learning of science and math is an essential aspect of school-level education that can help students to develop a deeper understanding of these subjects. It is also an effective way to foster critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and creativity. Whereas the new curriculum is also notable for its incorporation of critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The emphasis on critical thinking is essential to equip students with the skills they need to navigate an increasingly complex and interconnected world and experiential learning can provide that through hands-on, real-world experiences that allow students to apply theoretical knowledge to practical situations. In science and math, this can take many forms, such as conducting experiments, building models, and analyzing data. These activities help students see the practical relevance of what they are learning, which can enhance their motivation to learn and their ability to retain information.
However, implementing experiential learning in Bangladesh can be challenging due to a lack of resources and teacher training. According to a report by UNESCO (2021), Bangladesh has a shortage of trained science and math teachers, and many schools lack the necessary equipment and materials to deliver practical learning experiences. Addressing these challenges will require investment in teacher training, as well as in resources and infrastructure.
The curriculum also places great importance on developing students’ communication skills. Effective communication is crucial in today's globalized world, and the new curriculum is designed to ensure that students can articulate their thoughts clearly and persuasively. The curriculum's emphasis on communication reflects the growing recognition of the importance of soft skills in the modern workplace.
In conclusion, the new curriculum in school-level education in Bangladesh is a commendable initiative that reflects a growing recognition of the importance of interdisciplinary learning, critical thinking, and communication skills. While implementation challenges exist, with the right support and resources, the curriculum has the potential to equip students with the knowledge and skills they need to thrive in the twenty-first century. In addition, experiential learning is an educational approach that emphasizes the importance of hands-on experiences in the learning process. This approach has been shown to be effective in improving student engagement and understanding of subject matter. By incorporating experiential learning into their teaching practices, educators can provide students with a more meaningful and engaging learning experience.
The writer is a Thana Secondary Education Officer, Mohammadpur, Dhaka-1207, Bangladesh.