The recommendation in the National Education Policy 2010 to extend primary education up to class VIII has not been implemented even after 10 years of the framing of the policy.
Experts said the recommendation could not be implemented in such a long time due to a lack of coordination between the education ministry and the primary and mass education ministry.
Professor Dr Siddiqur Rahman, who was a member of the National Education Policy 2010 Formulation Committee, told The Business Standard: "We had recommended that the implementation of the policy begin in 2012 and be completed fully by 2018. But, unfortunately, the policy is yet to be implemented."
"The two education ministries have made the issue complex. They thought that implementing the recommendation would need a huge amount of money,which is wrong," he said.
"It is nothing but a lack of commitment," he observed.
The National Education Policy recommended introducing the new form of primary education from the 2011-12 financial year, besides formulating a curriculum, selecting textbooks for students and preparing teachers' guidelines. It also asked that training be imparted to all teachers effectively. It recommended completing the reform process by 2018 in order to ensure uniform primary education for all.
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics, the country at present has altogether 66,000 government and 65,000 private primary schools.
In 2013, the Primary and Mass Education Ministry under a pilot project extended the academic activities of 729 government primary schools across the country.
Experts have observed that although the experimental initiative brought forth good results, unfortunately it was not carried on further due to a lack of commitment to the nation.
Under the pilot project, Jafrabad Adarsha Government Primary School extended its academic activities up to class VIII in 2013.Since then all students between Class VI and Class VIII of the school have been getting stipends. The school achieved a 90 percent pass rate last year with an almost zero percent dropout rate.
The school administration said that the school has good infrastructure together with a highly capable group of teachers. "That is why our success rate is better than that of other junior schools," they said.
Mohammadpur Government Primary School, which also expanded academic activities to Class VIII seven years ago,is also doing well with a zero percent dropout rate.
According to sources from the primary education ministry, the situation in most of the 729 schools that expanded their academic activities up to class VIII is almost the same.
Teachers of these schools stated that they have had two achievements following the extension of academic activities. Firstly, they succeeded narrowing down the dropout rate, and secondly, students' mental growth has been ensured.
Education experts said the National Education Policy had stressed an extension of primary education up to Class VIII in all primary schools across the country by 2018, arguing that children's mental growth is being severely hampered under the five-year long primary education curriculum.
A policy formulation committee member, Professor Dr Siddiqur Rahman, said, "We observed that children's mental growth is not possible under the existing education system. Dropout students cannot do anything after completing five years of primary education. Besides, the dropout rate is also high. That is why we recommended an extension of primary education up to Class VIII."
Observing that the ministries concerned are reluctant to carry out their recommendation as they wrongly assume that it would cost a huge amount of money, he said, "We have enough teachers already. We just need to transfer the teachers of junior schools to the primary education ministry from the education ministry."
Commenting on the issue, Professor Emeritus of Brac University Manzoor Ahmed observed that everything is going on without following a proper plan.
He said, "The government must take the initiative to build classrooms and appoint teachers if it really wants to improve the quality of education."
He also found a lack of commitment, on part of both the education ministries, behind the delay in the implementation of the policy. "This is very unfortunate," he said.
Sources said the education ministry and primary and mass education ministry held several meetings to implement the policy recommendations, but in vain.
In 2016, they said, the primary education ministry pressured the education ministry to hand over liability of class V to class VIII. In response, the education ministry asked the primary ministry to take the JSC and JDC exams instead of giving the latter full academic responsibilities. The primary education ministry did not accept the proposal.
"After that, there has been no progress over the issue," said sources.
Asked about the matter, the then Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid declined to make any comment.
Nahid, however, claimed to the media in October 2018 that he could not hand over responsibilities as the primary ministry was not prepared.
Contacted, former Primary and Mass Education Minister Mostafizur Rahman Fizar, who is at present Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Primary and Mass Education Ministry, told TBS that the authorities did some work targeting 2018, but could not complete it in the absence of a national level decision.
"We discussed it in the cabinet but eventually did not get the nod to introduce the new system all over the country," he said.
"We did not allocate any fund in this regard," he said, adding, "after my tenure there has been no progress regarding an implementation of the policy."
The immediate past secretary of the Primary and Mass Education Ministry, Md Akram Al Hossain, thinks it is a very easy matter to extend primary education up to Class VIII. But it needs political commitment.
"We have introduced a pilot project and the schools are doing better," he said.
Md Kamal Uddin, Head Teacher of Jafrabad Adarsha Government Primary School said that his school provides TK200 stipend per month to all students from Class VI to Class VIII, "whereas in junior schools and high schools, only 30% of female students and 20% of male students get Tk100 stipend per month. As a result, the quality and pass rate are high and dropout rate is almost zero in my school."
Md Mizanur Rahman, Head Teacher of Mohammadpur Government Primary School said, "Most of the teachers of our school hold masters' degrees and they are highly capable of teaching the students. I think they are even better than the high school teachers."
"Our school will do better in future if everything is conducted by the primary and mass education ministry," he said.
Meanwhile, after delaying the implementation of the policy for 10 years, the government is now considering bringing about an amendment to the National Education Policy 2010.
Education Minister Dipu Moni recently said the government has taken an initiative to reform the National Education Policy 2010 to ensure quality education at all levels under an integrated education law. ***