Sex education to be introduced in school and madrasa curriculum of Bangladesh

Within the span of ten years, the education board has added and changed quite a few things in the curriculum here and there. However, recently the government has decided to take the initiative to launch “Sex-Reproductive Health Education” program which is quite a breakthrough for our schools and madrasas.

The brain behind the initiative

“Generation Break Through” will run the program accordingly in schools and other educational institutions around the country. The Secondary and Higher Education Department has been working on this project for about 20 to 25 years.

In an interview with Dhaka Tribune, Project Director and Director (Planning and Development) Dr Mohammad Jahangir Hossain mentioned in that the program took place in some schools and madrasas as “Phase One”. Since the program was running successfully, the government has decided to put it in under all schools and madrasas accordingly. With the end of a successful phase, the second phase of this program will start from this year. However, the official launch of this subject will occur around 2021-2022.

Better late than never

In the beginning, there were some concerns as most teachers and education institutions were doubtful of the program. However, with proper training funded by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the project broke through the stereotypes by taking small and steady steps. According to the sources, despite the “social constricting” ideologies, parents in most education institutions took an interest in the program.

Elementary and middle school students are studying under this program through sports at ‘Gender Equality for All Corner’ or ‘Teenage Corner’ established in the institutions. From the second phase onward, the program will have strict rules to accommodate trained teachers, fixed content and the consistent habit of creating a healthy environment for the students.

Small steps to a safer space

In a society where sexual abuse of both genders has increased at an alarming rate, sex education is a very crucial step for us. The idea of consent is much more diverse than we think of it to be.

“Be it a village or an urban society youths are sexually active, so they must know the dos and don’ts about safe sex and hygiene, in order to make the right decisions with situations like these”

Says Nusrat Zahid, a student of Bangladesh University of Professionals, when asked about her take on this new program.

The fundamental knowledge about sexual reproductive health and safe sex will bring awareness among youths and their surroundings.

Bangladesh moves to make technical education compulsory in every school

Photograph by: Saikat Mojumder

In the midst of all our hopelessness and complaints about our education system, there’s perhaps one silver lining at last. Our education system is finally about to include compulsory vocational education at the school level.

The Education Minister of Bangladesh, Dipu Moni, expressed the necessity of implementing technical and vocational education in the education system of the schools in Bangladesh. She stated that every school has to make technical and vocational training compulsory from 2021.

“Every school must have at least two trades from which each student will choose one. If any student fails to complete higher education, he or she must get employed under the chosen programme.”

She stated.

Read more: Bangladesh earns the highest rate of trust in vaccines, France the lowest

Dipu Moni also added that the government wishes to develop this particular sector of education. So in essence, the process of reforming the education system has already started. And we can hope that a bright future lies ahead of us!

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Socially accepted addictions: Addictions we love to pursue

People around us tell us to stay away from all kinds of addiction every day. ‘Don’t smoke. Don’t drink. Or take drugs. Stay away from other addicts.’ And so on and on and on. Here’s the thing though, all the while they are telling us these things, they are also telling us, teaching us to get addicted to other things. Things that apparently are not as dangerous. Things that we are supposed to be addicted to. These are some of the things I’ve listed below:

Tea or Coffee:

Sure, keep drinking tea every hour and you will soon find people staring at you with concerned eyes. But think about it. Why is it that something that can kill your liver a part of our everyday life? Every time you go visit your sweet aunt, tea almost always comes up as a part of the hospitality? Why is it everywhere in our workplaces? How is it that something so harmful can be so ubiquitous? For some odd reason, we always overlook our addiction to drinking tea or coffee. We don’t even see it as a problem.

Okay fine. Yes, I’m fear-mongering a bit at this point. I’m making a big deal out of nothing. I understand. Caffeine-related deaths are not as common as many other causes of deaths. Still, you have to wonder, why though?

By the way, I’ve been writing all this with a cup of coffee in my hand. My second one this evening. The irony is not lost on me. But hey, addictions are addictions because they are fun as heck.

Television:

Socially accepted addiction: addictions we accept 1

I remember when my father and mother used to scold me for watching TV too much. Then they would spend the next three hours watching TV and fall asleep while watching TV. Well, the joke is on them now. I don’t watch TV no more. I only watch quality Youtube videos. Who is laughing now?

Certainly not my grades.

Anyway, TV hasn’t been around for that long in this country. Color TV came to us only very recently in 1980. It may not seem that recent, but in the grand scheme things, it is quite so. In spite of being so new, it has already reached almost every household of the country. There are very few if any, places in Bangladesh right now that doesn’t have a TV and a dish line to provide the people with some sweet Bangla cinema.

Even though I have made conscious efforts to stop watching TV, all I have managed to do is replace one addiction with another. Well, at least I don’t have to get into arguments with my parents about the remote anymore. That’s my little cousin’s job now.|

Sports:

Socially accepted addictions: Addictions we love to pursue
I remember sneaking out of my house to play street cricket with my friends. Yes, it was addictive

Let me tell you a story.

I was hard at work. I was typing away furiously at my computer, trying to get this article done in time. My room was dark and silent. Only the sounds of my fan and my keystrokes were around. My whole concentration focused on the words and ideas I slowly forming into coherent paragraphs. Many things were written, then deleted, then rewritten, only to be deleted for good. Many jokes, many ideas, and thoughts swirling away… and…

Sounds of cheering, screaming, and horns shatter all that in a matter of seconds. What happened? Oh, Brazil won a match.

Okay.

This is some kind of fanaticism. The way we treat sports sometimes seems like borderline insanity. Did you know that a person committed suicide after Argentina losing in the first round? I bet you do. And I bet that if you are a fan of Argentina, you are heartbroken after they lost the chance to progress. But we don’t see sports rehabilitation centers opened up around the country, do we? Of course not. That would be ridiculous. Still, it’s a very prevalent addiction in our life.

I support Brazil, in case you are wondering.

Books:

12 things only a bookworm can relate to-HiFi Public

This may sound strange to some people. You don’t see that many readers nowadays. But I promise you, they are there, hidden under their comfy blankets, sipping coffee and reading away at a speed that you can’t even imagine, the bookworms are all around us. And I assure you, it is indeed an addiction.

Be wary of books. They hold wonders that can enrich you, but also consume you to your core.

It’s weird because all our life, books have been held up as something that you should indulge yourself in. Do it a bit too much though, and you will be lost in a world from which there is no escape. There was a time when all I had were books. I enjoyed them immensely. My parents were proud of me too. They probably used to brag to other parents about how much books I read.

Then came exam time. These books became their worst enemy then. I wouldn’t study. I would just keep reading the same books again and again because it was fun. That’s what I wanted to do. I was addicted.

Success:

Finally, we get here. The apex of socially endorsed addiction. A thing that we are trained from childhood to pursue. A thing that every one of us craves to some extent. That magical thing. Success.

There are a lot of ways I could go about describing how success is an addiction to you. The thing is though, I feel like this aspect of the world has been so talked about by this point that I can add very little to the discussion that hasn’t already been explored in one way or another. So instead, let me tell you another story.

During my HSC exams, I used to study a little bit the night before and then leave early the next morning because the exam center was quite far. At least one of my parents made sure to go with me every day. We would take a CNG. The CNG would drop us off a little bit away from the center and we would walk the rest.

Every morning, I would walk and watch as my fellow examiners would be absorbed into their mobiles, staring at and solving the leaked questions as fast as possible. The questions would leak every day around 30 minutes before the exam and everyone would solve it before going into the exam hall.

That’s fine.

Kids don’t know better, but the parents should

The thing is, they would have their parents around while doing all this. Not one of the parents I saw those days seemed to care about what they were doing. They encouraged and helped their children. They fanned their children while the said children went through the question and books to find the best answer.

The parents helped their children cheat in an exam in hopes of better results.

Success is a drug, and we are all addicts.

Look the bottom line is, these things, hobbies they are all good but when you take them to an obsessive level, it’s bad. Even gaming. I will not get to that point because I love life. But you get the point. Nothing should become an obsession. If you see symptoms of getting obsessed with something then it’s high time you stopped or changed to something different. If you don’t, then at some point in your life it cost you a great deal.

Perils of Graduation

Do you remember your first day at school? Do you remember all the unfamiliar faces, the wave of anxiety at every step, trying not to cry and crying anyway? If you do, you’ll know that all those “First day at school” paragraphs were nothing but blatant lies. Even if you don’t, you can imagine how scary that must be for a little child of 3 or 4 years of age, right?

If anything is scarier than that, it is the day you graduate. For the months leading up to your graduation, you will feel the same tension, same uncertainty, and of course, the same fear. And these are the reasons why.

1. You are suddenly an adult

It is easy to keep the real life at an arm’s length when you are a student. You are dependent on your parents, you do not feel the urgency to get a real job. You’re stressing over your grades, you’re hanging out with your friends- that is all your life consists of. But the second you graduate, you start to notice the little things. You start to notice that your father gets a little too tired. You see that your mother isn’t as lively as she used to be. As hard as it is to accept- you realize that your parents ARE getting old, and it’s time for you to take on the responsibilities. And you, who needed permission to stay out past 7 PM just a few days ago, are suddenly left to deal with this enormous truth all by yourself.

2. You have no idea what to do

Here’s the thing- getting a job is hard. It is a lot harder when you don’t exactly know what you want to do. For most of us, we get our degrees in a certain field, and then we realize that working in that field might just be impossible. So, all on a sudden, you don’t know where you want to see yourself in 5 years of time. This is the reason why a lot of fresh graduates grab onto the first job opportunity that they come across, and after 20 years you have an adult who is unhappy with what they have achieved so far.

3. You are expected to have it all figured out.

Perils of Graduation 2

When you graduate, everyone else seems to know what you should do with your life, except for you. So you’re done with studies? Get ready for BCS, get ready to get married, get ready to “settle down”. You will be constantly reminded that your life should fit into this socially acceptable mold of success- and being different is not an option. Even if you try to be different, you will be weighed down with the guilt of not fitting in. And at some point you will just turn into another brick in the wall.


The years went by preternatural speed. I had thought I had enough time to figure things out by the time I graduate. But truth is I haven’t figured anything out yet. I feel like I’m not any wiser than when I was a freshman.I still don’t know where I’m going with my life

Alisha Amin, An Economics Graduate from Dhaka University

4. You drift apart from your friends.

Perils of Graduation 1

Everybody gets busy with their own lives after graduation. It might sound crude, but your friends will not have as much time for you once you all get out of university. It is nobody’s fault- it is simply hard to maintain a social life when you’re working from 9 to 5 every day. So from meeting once a week, you will go to meeting once every two weeks, then a month- and before you realize you stop hanging out altogether. And the sheer weight of this realization is enough to throw you off guard, isn’t it?

5. The uncertainty is excruciating.

Up until this point, you have had a clear vision of where you are heading next. But when you graduate, you will realize that you no longer have that vision- and accepting that you are utterly lost will be excruciating. Not knowing if you are cut out for this dog-eat-dog world will take a toll on you. But you will get used to it.

The hardest part of being a graduate is not the uncertainty, nor the responsibilities. It’s the epiphany that you are a grown up now. And unlike when you were 4, you cannot just run from it and hide behind your mother. You have to take every hit, and breaking down under the pressure is not an option anymore. If that is not scary, what is?

But we have scared you enough. Don’t let us get to your head and thrive. We wish you all the best for this upcoming stage of your life. Cheers!

Parents and educators, STOP pushing our students over the edge!

This is not just to tell you why you need to think about what is killing the future of our nation, this is a plea. I, a 21-year-old university student, deal with personal humiliation every other week and survive. However, I have finally found a pill too hard to swallow.

The tragedies

Just recently, we heard about the 10th-grade students of one of the most prominent schools in the capital commit suicide inside the school premises. A few days later, another news report popped up on my Facebook feed about a fifteen-year-old committing suicide. I thought (I hoped) that someone was resharing an old article in the light of recent incidents. However, after spending another minute or two on social media, my worst suspicions were confirmed about the loss of another young life. Not even two weeks had passed since a student at BRAC University took his life. How many more student deaths and how often does it need to occur for our society and our guardians to take accountability. When will they realize that they are doing something wrong?

Parents and Educators, STOP.
Artwork by Mehedi Haque Cartoons

The lack of diligence in previous incidents

A couple of months ago, I happened to tutor one of the classmates of the deceased student from Rajuk Uttara Model School and College. I found out that students were not even allowed to leave the class at the time of the unfortunate event. Their classes weren’t halted for even a period and they were forced to continue activities as if nothing had happened. Later, the school authorities stated that the student had “accidentally” slipped from the staircases and died. This was a farcical attempt to invalidate the death of a child.

Who can be held accountable?

The child from Viqarunnisa Noon School and College was reportedly expelled from her school due to allegations of cheating in her final exam. This allegation has not been proved. Students have claimed that she was found to be in possession of the cell phone, which is against the rules of the school. Even if you go by the allegation that she was indeed carrying the phone to cheat on her test, would that justify her teachers’ and Principal’s course of action?

In this case, attempts were not made to wait for proof, the school arrived at the conclusion that she cheated. As a consequence, her parent was called to the school and insulted in front of her. Our education system encourages educators to take harsh actions. In this case, the actions were so harsh that a mere 15-year-old child felt compelled to end their life.

No one is condoning cheating by speaking up about this accident. Students are expressing outrage and concern over the fact that our system has placed the power of molding young and vulnerable minds in the hands of people who have displayed incompetence as educators and parents. They have acted without due diligence and treated young lives with callousness.

Parents and Educators, STOP.

Take responsibility

Corporal punishment might have decreased in schools. However, the crippling lack of absolution from the society and family members if anyone flies off the rails, can be worse. Many families make their children think that their lives are only of worth if they do well in school.

We are left to consider the extent of the pressure the 10th grader felt to think suicide was the solution. Are we part of a system that places so much pressure on children? Do we make childish transgressions warrant a life of shame and ridicule? Can this pressure, aggravated with the lack of awareness and services about mental health, create an environment that is unbearable for young ones?

I am disappointed at those displaying “holier than thou” morality and self-righteousness. We have been nothing but accomplices to a system that has been defended too often, for too long.

Things to consider while learning a new language

All of us at some point in our lives do consider learning a new language. Maybe it’s because you want to study abroad or to boost up your resume or simply because of your K-pop fandom. Whatever the reason may be, the idea of becoming bilingual or a multilingual speaker does have its perks. But nothing in life comes that easy. I came across many people who worked every day to be fluent in their target language. So, before you start learning do consider these things that can help you along the road.

Say goodbye to Google translator:

Things to consider while learning a new language

“It is a bad idea to use it, especially for us Bengali speaking people. Every language has its own complexities, be it for grammatical structure or word stock, and Google translator, as a system, cannot comprehend it all. I found bizarre Spanish translations, but in Bengali, it’s even worse” says Nusrat Maati a former student of Institute of modern languages (IML).

Try using a pocket dictionary or a dictionary app instead. It helps to get the proper translation along with a variety of examples. Apps like Duolingo, FluentU, Memrise are great for practice because of their interactive features. So, don’t be lazy and install away.

Try to accept the language barriers:

Things to consider while learning a new language

It’s crucial to bear in mind that each language has its own attributes. Things get super easy when we find similarities but can get twice as much hard when there aren’t any. So don’t get overwhelmed when you see new things that are absent in your native language.

French and Spanish languages are generally gender based. Every object is either masculine or feminine which makes it hard for a non-native speaker to differentiate between them. It can get quite frustrating at the beginning for some.

Watch Movies, TV shows, Talk shows, and YouTube Tutorials:

Things to consider while learning a new language

Developing your listening ability at the beginning is the right way to go. Many language learning methods focus on very strict listening activities. To make your listening activities fun try watching shows or movies with subtitles. Also, like always YouTube can offer you many basic language tutorials.

“Watching movies did help me a lot. It automatically helped me enrich my vocabulary, learned how native speakers communicate and helped to develop a better accent. Plus, it was a good source of entertainment too” says Marjuka Afzal currently doing her diploma at Alliance Franceas De Dhaka.

Be committed:

Things to consider while learning a new language

Commitment is very important. Never take your language classes for granted. If you want to learn properly make sure you don’t miss out on classes on a regular basis. And if you are leaning at home don’t take long gaps in between. Dedicate 2/4 hours weekly for practice.

“Continuity should be the primary concern. I remember missing out on quite a few classes back to back on sentence making and grammatical structure. Later when I went back after a gap I was not able to catch up.” Says another student of IML Noor Uddin Saikat.

Don’t just memorize without context:

bookworms HiFi Public

Even if you get long verb lists from class or the Internet. Don’t just memorize random words at once because language is a matter of processing. Start with the very basic daily used words and try making sentences with them.

“When we learned new German words, we primarily were given pictures. Started with naming the things in the classroom, or grocery shopping list, or a trip to the airport. We hardly ever needed to memorize” says Trishna Mutsuddy a former student of Gothe institute.

Communication is a must:

Things to consider while learning a new language

No matter how many lessons you take or how many audiobooks you practice. None of this will do you any good unless you converse with people. If you are already taking classes in your target language, talk among your classmates. If you are learning on your own, find someone who is a better speaker than you. One hour of conversational practice with a person helps you more than doing five classes.

It will take hours and hours of awkward and embarrassing conversations before you learn to speak without errors. “I remember once our Spanish instructor asked my age. And I accidentally said that I was 109 years old” says a Yoga teacher Shahnaz Sultana.

According to Jaime Cossa, a language Instructor at IML, the ability to master a language differs from person to person. For an average person, it can take 6 months to a year to do very basic communication. But it wholly depends on your motivation and the effort you put to it. If you are willing to make this commitment there are many places in the city from where you can get a degree. For each level, it may cost you around 8-10 thousand Taka minimum depending on the place and course you take. However, if you don’t have the time for that, consider learning at home. Purchase audiobooks, dictionaries and use all the online sources you find that can help you along the way. It may seem like a lengthy process now but the benefits you get afterwards are countless.

The home-schooled experience – all that different from going to school?

About a decade back, back when English medium schools were reaching peak demand, one fine morning my parents decided not to bear with the commercial nature of English medium schools anymore, and for me to be, fortunately or unfortunately, homeschooled. Was it necessary?

Homeschooling, in easy language, is learning at home, and under the context of Bangladesh, is being partially or fully dependent on coaching classes for taking the SATs or the O and A-level exams. In colloquial language, we address these students who drop out and are “homeschooled” as “private students.”

One fine morning my parents decided not to bear with the commercial nature of English medium schools anymore, and for me to be, fortunately or unfortunately, home-schooled.

Students generally drop out in grade 9 or 10, and while some hire tutors to come to their homes, others pay top-notch teachers to get them their parent-coveted As and A-stars. Some, though very few in number, take exams through rigorous self-study only. Homeschooling is, more or less, the same as learning in school except, instead of the ringing of bells, you get to hear the occasional hissing of pressure-cookers and instead of your teachers inquiring, you find your parents prying.

Image: Caleb Woods

To understand the roots of homeschooling in Bangladesh, one has to understand irony. One of the major reasons why homeschooling has been on athe rise is because of the portentous failure English medium schools have brought on themselves with their (delusional) success in the first place.

Once rare, English medium schools have now sprawled left right and centre. While some parents believe they’re handing over their children to a more competitive curriculum (in comparison to the more rigid but less rigorous Bengali curriculum), others admit their children into English medium schools for an erroneously conceived but widely-believed idea of the children (or of the parents themselves) having an elevated social status, or at least an entry into an elite club by admission into these schools.

It all looks picture-perfect seeing kindergarten children cutting out colourful flowers out of chart papers and second graders learning how to make boats out of them. Until the day children enter middle school, which makes parents look beyond the colour of the confined walls of the classroom, take a look at the rickety foundations of English medium schools and realize that in the process of trying to teach children how to cut paper, English medium schools themselves had long forgotten how to cut their coat according to their cloth. Too many students but too few teachers. A lot of ambition, but no set goal. A quintessential example of mismanagement.

While not all schools are downtrodden, aiming for admission into schools like ISD, AISD, CISD – schools which actually (read apparently) care about the growth and progress of students- are like for aiming for the sky anyway. An exclusive edition sky.

Most “other” English medium schools fail to recruit efficient teachers for the higher grades. Students — then option-less — sardine together in coaching classes; thus, creating a loop: because schools can’t hire better teachers, students swathe coaching classes. Because students would eventually swathe coaching classes, schools don’t hire better teachers, which is also the reason the teachers do not bother improving, adapting or adjusting to the needs of the students in the higher level of classes.

Now that going to coaching classes has been established less as a mandatory task but more as a culture, English medium schools have since long grabbed the opportunity to capitalize on it, in two ways. They don’t spend (thus saving) to hire or retain (more) efficient teachers, not now not before, while still keeping thousands of students tethered to paying monthly fees, because this is where the plot twist comes: numerous students choose to stay registered till high school, only so that they can take exams being a registered student and obtain a certificate which, according to a widely-held notion, aids in college admissions abroad. Otherwise, going to high-school for students is like what going to Burger King is for you.

This leads us to our next and the million dollar question: do students become home-schooled because they want to? Or is it because of the dearth of better options?

Mehzabeen Alam Naomi, an ex-student from Sir John Wilson, is at first waspish about her experience at school and takes no time to open up about why she personally prefers being a private (homeschooled) student.

“I get to choose the tutors,” she says, “Teachers whose teaching methods suit my learning process.”

It is, in fact, an open secret that regardless of students complaining about inept teachers being inapt for their inability to teach and communicate, high-school teachers in profit-oriented schools don’t share their students’ headaches to complete the syllabus as soon as possible, let alone providing students with in-depth knowledge.

Sharaf Anan Megha from Maple Leaf International School also recounts how she never found a point going to school once she was in the ninth grade. “Students are not present and teachers not available to take the classes,” she says.

Do students become home-schooled because they want to? Or is it because of the dearth of better options?

High-schoolers, therefore, are now just like homeschoolers: fully or partially dependent on coaching teachers, but fully independent of school teachers.

This makes one wonder whether it is because teachers believe they, too, have a passive role in letting students eventually become coaching-dependant? Or is it just because they are, as incriminated, just plain and simple bad teachers?

Image: Patrick Fore

Reasons such as these as well as coping up with the constant hike in school fees while having concurrent fees of coaching classes to pay for – stand as a great hurdle to middle-class families in supporting their children’s school education. This leaves no better option than making their children leave school for good and become home-schooled (various students shift to the Bengali national curriculum).

Students, even though rumoured to become lethargic and homebound once homeschooled, actually have more time to invest themselves in community work or to partake in activities that may add to their extra-curricular activities. They have a say in selecting teachers and can ace and pace their studies according to their personal speed of learning and processing.

Many may argue that homeschooled children are low on EQ and suffer from periodic mood disorders due to lack of socialization. Naomi, on the other hand, agrees to disagree and says, “I actually get to make more friends, and have a wider network from coaching classes.”

While homeschooling is the most feasible path to tread on for many students, it should not be established as a solution to a more convoluted problem that results from the poor infrastructure of English medium schools. Because if homeschooling is the final resort, then maybe one day there would be no need for high schools (read: school) at all.  If there’s no high school, there would be no high-schoolers anymore. If no high-schoolers, there would only be homeschoolers left in the future. But when was there a difference between a high-schooler and a homeschooler anyway? Is the future already in the present?