Ideally, a teacher is supposed to impart lessons to a class of 30 students at primary and secondary levels. This is what the government had in mind when it formulated the national education policy in 2010.
But, after 10 years, the teacher-student ratio stands now at 1:37 at primary level and 1:45 at secondary level, leaving the education policy a mere paperwork.
The prime objectives of the National Education Policy 2010 included eight years of primary education, ensuring a teacher-student ratio in line with global standards, preparing a national education law, setting up a national education commission, and arranging public exams up to the secondary level.
Education for street children and ethnic minorities and delivering quality education to all were also objectives of the policy.
Professor Syed Manzoorul Islam, a noted educationist, told The Business Standard that doing away with public examinations for fifth-graders was one of the objectives of the national education policy but the tests are still being held.
A big, influential quarter does not want implementation of the policy. They will be the losers if the policy is implemented.
"A big, influential quarter does not want implementation of the policy. They will be the losers if the policy is implemented. Even the private coaching business is still on, and guidebooks are still sold in the market," he said.
It is very much unfortunate that the education ministry has failed to implement the policy in 10 years, Manzoorul said.
"I doubt whether the policy will be implemented in the next 10 years. How will it be implemented when the government allocates only 2% of GDP for the education sector?"
According to the policy, the government planned to start eight years of primary education by 2018 in phases. It said grades 6, 7, and 8 would be included in primary education from the 2011-12 academic year.
It is now 2020 but the government has failed to take adequate measures to ensure infrastructural developments and recruit a sufficient number of qualified teachers to inaugurate the eight-year primary education programme.
In line with the policy, the teacher-student ratio at both primary and secondary levels should be 1:30; and it should be 1:12 in technical education.
Currently, the teacher-student ratio is 1:37 at primary level and 1:45 at secondary level. It is 1:144 at government polytechnic institutes.
The policy said the government is determined to ensure quality education at all levels, but the goal has not been achieved yet. According to the latest data of the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, 46% of secondary teachers cannot prepare creative questions for students.
The education ministry could not achieve notable success in reducing the dropout rate at the school level. The dropout rate at the primary level is 18% while it is 37% at the secondary level.
The government has succeeded in slightly decreasing illiteracy and dropout rates. But it is not a remarkable achievement as both rates at all levels are still high.
At present, the illiteracy rate is 74%, and educationists said the dropout rate will increase due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The education ministry formed an accreditation council three years ago to ensure quality education at the higher levels. But the council's activities are yet to be visible.
Professor Sadeka Halim, a member of the National Education Policy 2010 formation committee, told The Business Standard it was a secular policy back then but not anymore.
"The government changed the curriculum but there is yet influence exercised by communal forces. We asked for non-communal, moral and creative education and that was implemented slightly," she explained.
"I heard that the education ministry was going to reform the policy. But despite the fact that I am a member of the policy formation committee, no one has discussed it with me yet," she said.
The academic said, "The ministry should call all the committee members and take suggestions from them. It will not be wise if the policy is changed and so deviates from its basic principles."
The government printed some books for ethnic minorities, but no teachers were appointed to teach students from the communities.
Sanjeeb Drong, general secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples' Forum, told The Business Standard there are at least 20 ethnic minority groups who deserve printing of new books in their own languages.
"But the government printed books for only five groups. Also, we got some printed books, but got no teachers. What will we do with the books?" he asked.
"The number of government primary schools where our children can study is not sufficient. Unfortunately, the government is not doing anything about it although the education policy asks the authorities to ensure education for us," added Sanjeeb.
After the liberation of Bangladesh, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman ordered the formation of a national commission in 1972 with the goal of formulating an effective and progressive education policy for the newborn nation.
The commission was constituted under the leadership of the renowned scholar Dr Qudrat-e-Khuda. The commission announced the first education policy of Bangladesh in 1974. Its provisions were in keeping with the country's secular constitution.
After the assassination of Bangabandhu, the education policy was shelved and the country's education system was administered along centuries-old ideals and infrastructure.
From 1988 to 2010, the country had five new education policies. However, very few of those policies managed to bring about any significant change and improvement in the education sector.
In 2009, the Awami League-led government formed an education commission headed by National Professor Kabir Chowdhury, tasked with formulating a fresh education policy. After several modifications, the commission published the national education policy in 2010, which is still in effect.
What the education minister says
We have been able to ensure education for the huge population of the country. Now, we need to achieve quality education
On August 26, Education Minister Dr Dipu Moni said the government had taken initiatives to reform the National Education Policy 2010 to ensure quality education at all levels under an integrated education law.
"Many changes have taken place during this period. It is high time to revise, refine, and reform it. Thus, responding to the needs of the times, the government has taken the initiative to amend the policy," she said.
"We have been able to ensure education for the huge population of the country. Now, we need to achieve quality education," added the minister.
However, Professor Syed Manzoorul Islam said, "The government failed to implement the existing policy in ten years. I do not believe it will be reformed and implemented within a short period."