The formulation of the National Education Policy 2010 is one of the successes of the present government, but its implementation process is moving at a very slow pace.
Two years have already passed since the education policy was adopted. After coming to power in January 2009, the present government formed a committee to draft the education policy in April of the same year. The committee was headed by National Professor Kabir Choudhury. Kazi Kholiquzzaman and Muhammed Zafar Iqbal were among the other 18 members of the committee.
The committee submitted the draft of the policy in September 2009. It was then made public on the education ministry website for open discussion, soliciting opinions on the draft.
At that time, the government said that the education policy would be finalised within December of that year and the implementation process would start from January 2010. But that deadline was not met; rather it was approved in the cabinet on May 31 2010, and it was adopted in the form of a bill by parliament on December 7 of the same year.
Later, to finalise the implementation process of the education policy, 24 sub-committees were formed on January 26, 2011. The sub-committees were told to submit their reports within two or three months.
Recent media reports indicate that not a single sub-committee had submitted their reports, even after eight months. On September 29, the education minister urged the members of the sub-committees to complete their recommendations within the next 20 days. When the sub-committees could not complete it within eight months, how could they do it in another 20 days? Sure enough, more than two months have passed since and recommendations are yet to be completed.
Clearly, one of the main reasons behind this delay is 'bureaucratic complexity', as all the sub-committees are headed by a bureaucrat, like secretary, additional secretary and joint secretary. They are busy with their regular official duties and are apparently unable to provide enough time for the purpose.
The inordinate delay is raising many questions about the implementation process of the education policy. Although the government took up the issue of formulation of the education policy within four months of coming to power, as a priority initiative, its implementation process is now moving at a snail's pace. The government did not even allocate any additional funds for the implementation of the education policy in the budget for 2011-2012. The education and IT sector got only 12.4 per cent allocation of the whole budget, similar to that of other years.
The most important characteristic of this education policy is that only two stages have been defined, instead of the earlier three stages, before the higher education stage. Primary (Class 1 to 8) and secondary education (Class 9 to 12) would replace the existing three stages of primary (Class 1-5), secondary (Class 6 to 10) and higher secondary education (Class 11 to 12).
It was expected that the extension of the primary education will start from 2012. But that is unlikely to happen. The sub-committee which is working on this extension is headed by the secretary of the ministry of primary and mass education. The sub-committee could only sit once during this entire period.
What is the necessity to form such sub-committees for implementation of the education policy primarily with bureaucrats? It could have been formed with the specialists or educationists, who would have been better equipped to do the job. In this sense, the experience of experts from the Institute of Education Research (IER) of Dhaka University could have been utilised.
The slow pace of implementation of the National Education Policy 2010 is a cause for serious concern. Although some limited progress has been made like instituting the Junior School Certificate system and starting primary-level terminal exams and the setting of structured questions for examinations. But the inordinate delay in the overall implementation of the education policy is not acceptable.