Primary Education It is rather difficult to say when and where the institutional form of primary education was introduced in the geographical region of Bangladesh as a part of the Greater India. The origin of institutionalised education can be traced back to the time of the composition of 'Rg Veda', almost 3000 years ago in this subcontinent. The Dravids, Huns, Aryans and Mongols. Later the Arabs, Turks, Afghans, Portuguese also established their habitats here. There was no clear distinction between the primary and secondary level of education in the initial stages of formal/institutional education. So, it is very difficult to describe the primary education of that time separately.
Ancient time In this period the primary objective of education was based on spiritual development. Devotion, contemplation and self-control were required for this. According to the historians, a special type of primary education was common in the Vedic era. According to this concept there was practice of education in the Vedic era, but it was only temple-centered. Only monks had the rights to acquire knowledge and only they learned about worships. Besides, there were scope for learning agriculture, business and crafts etc for having a better life on earth. But probably in this subcontinent, the Aryan education began with the conversation of Vedas and this education of Vedic era is called 'Vedic education'. In the pre- Vedic era education was mostly based on religion and school was meant to be the house of the mentor or the 'Guru'. At that time, 'Brahmmachariya' or student life was divided in five stages and the timeline of education was continuously twelve years. At the first stage, children (age level-five) were made familiar with the alphabets. This was the foundation stage for primary education. After completion of this primary education, only one student was welcomed home with the love and affection as his own son. Considering the age and ability, the Mentor educated the apprentices about the spiritual theory gained by understanding. Knowledge acquired by this method was passed on in the same manner to the next appropriate ones by the apprentices. In the beginning, the educational theories were conserved as the individual family's possessions. Afterwards, eventually the apprentices from outsides also started to acquire this theoretical knowledge. As a result, the establishment of different branches in the Vedic education allowed its expansion. The theories of education in the preliminary stage were in the form of 'trastas' and were individual family's possession, but in course of time as the 'trastas' were of different kinds and multifarious, so to train the monks for enlightening others, different schools or training institutes started established in various places (around 1000-800 BC). Although the education system of Vedic era was not very-well ordered, the exercise of activities, culture, distinctive words in the language, phrases, thoughts etc. proves that the education system of that time was developed to a great extent. But only the 'Brahmanas' had the right to study religion, philosophy, art and culture, science and social institutions etc. and they received the most priority in the society. It is in this Vedic era when the great 'Mahabharata' and the 'Ramayana' originated.
The Brahmana era came after the Vedic era. The era began at 800 BC. Not only creating the Monks but also Inquiring for Truth was the aim of education of this era. Like Vedic education, Brahmana education system was also dependent on Vedic thought and philosophy ground. But this system was more developed than earlier. Education was dedicated to know about the spirit of ancient people and the rule of the birth and death of the universe. This education was called as 'Brahmana Education'. At that time, Rishi acquired knowledge by devoting himself in deep meditation and that knowledge used to be passed on to others by the adding of tunes. It is quite apparent that, the foundation of Brahmana education was based on the theories of the 'Rishi families system of Education. This may be considered as the primary level of education of that time. Besides, in Brahmana education, students were taken to the teachers for Upananyn to be devoted to student life. Children used to live in the house of the teachers from the age of five to twelve. The oral form of teaching method was more familiar. There existed debate between different Shashtryakar about exactly when the upanayan or student life should have begun. Because, at that time there existed different rules of upanayan for the children of Brahmans, Ksatriyas and Vaishyas. The Brahmana children used to enjoy more facilities in education sector than the Ksatriyas and Baishyas. But in course of time this discrimination was abolished. At that time, society did not permit any education for the Shudra children. In the Brahmana era education was divided into two types, called Aporaviddya and Poraviddya. Aporaviddya only emphasised memorising the Veda. There was no attempt to understand its meaning. On the other hand, poraviddya' emphasised understanding the meaning of Veda and to act according to it. Education was guru (teacher) centric and guru was solely responsible to decide the syllabus. Beside the forest dwelling Rishi's Ashram, a number of grihi-shikkhak (house tutor) also were devoted in teaching in the society or community. Incase the number of the 'grihi-shikkhak' increased in any community, that area became a large education center. So, beside the gurugrihas additional educational centres were established in this subcontinent. There are evidences of such Hindu educational institutions in Taxila of Pakistan, Navadbipa, and Vikramshila in West Bengal.
Buddhist era according to the Buddhist education, illiteracy is sin and acquiring knowledge is the only way of salvation. The prime object of Buddhist education was to acquire knowledge on physical development, religious philosophy, medical science etc. In the 6th century BC, the Buddhist education in this subcontinent, introduced by Goutam Buddha was quite liberal and universal. The major portion of Buddhist education was matha or temple centric. These matha or temples had the major role in primary education. In this education system, a Buddhist child received education at home up to eight years. This was called the preparatory process to enter the formal primary education. In the eighth year of life, children were sent formally to the Buddhist temple. For this purpose the child had to wear gerua (deep yellow) cloth and had to become baldhead in front of a master. This primary occasion of entering in to the Buddhist union was called Prabrojjya (primary learning). After receiving Prabrojjya, Buddhist children received the title Shromon. In Buddhist education system no one could receive prabojjya before eight years but it was open for all. Here, all the children from all castes, rich or poor could participate. So it can be said that democracy and universalism were the main characteristics of Buddhist education. As many students were brought together, they also developed their social abilities. Equal emphasis was been given both on reading and writing. The historical background of Buddhist primary education can be traced from the description of the Chinese traveller Hiuen-Tsang (started his journey from China in 629 and return to China in 645 AD) and I-tsing (635-713 AD). Hiuen-Tsang came in Bengal in the reign of emperor Harsavardhana, (606-648 AD). He stated in his description that the students to read a book called Shindham or Shidhdhiratna (meaning May you be blessed with wisdom) containing introduction of Sanskrit alphabet and 12 lessons of words constructed from both vowel and consonants. After finishing this book, students were introduced to five sections of science at the age of seven. These were (1) Grammar (2) Architectural education (3) medical science (4) Logic and (5) Spiritual education. So, there was compulsory syllabus to strengthen the base of higher education. I-tsing visited India just after Hiuen-Tsang in seven century. He also portrayed a nice picture of the education system of that time. According to his description, students started learning at the age of six. The first book was named Shidhdhirasttya containing 49 alphabets those were arranged from 300 to 10000 syllables. At the age of eight they used to read 1000 verses of Panini. More comprehensive grammatical education was introduced at the age of ten. This grammar contained 18000 verses. At the age of fifteen, students had to conceptualise great verses of Patanjali, logic, Abhidharmakosh, astrology etc. Buddhism declined with the rise of Hindu political power. Sena dynasty (c 1097-1225) took over power after Pala dynasty. So the influence of Buddhist education started to declined gradually and Hindus became dominant in the ground of education and religion.
Middle age Hazrat Muhammad (Pbuh.) brought' a renaissance among the Arabs in eighth century. The Muslims came to Indian subcontinent in the eighth century when Mohammad Bin Kashim conquered Sind by defeating King Dahir. Although Islamic empire was established in the north-western India by Mohammad Bin Kashim. Muslim rule started in Bengal when Bakhtiyar Khalji conquered Nadia in thirteen century. He established mosques, maktabs and madrasas in different places of the country. The Muslim rulers after Bakhtiyar Khalji followed this method of establishing mosques, maktabs and madrasas to spread education.
Afterwards Mohammad Ghori (1174-1206), Sultan Iltutmish (1211-36), her daughter Sultana Razia (1236-40), Sultan Nasiruddin (1246-66) and Sultan Giasuddin Balban (1266-87), all appreciated the importance of education. Besides sufi- darbish or pir-fakir (who came to Bengal for preaching Islam) also established khankah, maktabs and madrasas in different places in the country. In the Khalji and Tughlaq era, the Muslim education or Arabic Education and culture became enriched and spread even more. In the middle age, education system became enriched because of the efforts taken by the intellectuals and enthusiast ruler. Education was' extended by the service of religious master of numerous mosques, maktabs and madrasas. Among them the Maktab-based education was the primary level education of Muslim education. Although going to Maktab at the age of four for primary education was usual the main practice of education began at the age of seven. The key lessons in the Maktab were about obeying the Quran and all religious instructions. Besides, reading, writing and general accountancy were taught. For the Hindu children there was opportunity for schooling in the Pathshala. Besides, the wealthy families arranged tutors at home for educating their children. In the higher level of Maktab, the biography of the darbish and the Pir-fakir and Persian poetry were taught. Saying the prayers and learning the religious practice was the least level of education in the Muslim era, which were mandatory for all the Muslim students.
Mughal period in the era the Muslim rulers, Amirs and Omrahs were very much enthusiastic about literature beside the formal education. The Persian literature became popular, as it was the imperial language. School-based education system developed and expanded mainly in the reign of Akbar. Akbar transformed religious education into a formal education in the primary level along with non-formal reading, writing and accountancy. In this period, Hindu-Muslim had the opportunity to exchange education and culture with each other and blending of Hindi, Persian and Arabic language a new language created which is known as Urdu. In this era Maktab, Madrasa was for the Muslim children and Pathshala, tol for Hindu children. The wealthy people of the society established those and they appointed teachers, donated land and money for the institutions. So both the administration and the society conducted the educational activities with collaboration. But Maktab-based education was funded mainly by the collections of the Mosques, Jakat and other donations. So, it is certainly can be said that even at that time in our society there was practice of complimentary education or primary education. Additionally, there was an independent bureau for managing the funds and governing the state -owned educational institutions.
Colonial era in this period under the rule of East India Company (from 1757-1857) there was no significant development in primary education in India. At that time there was no economic provision by the state to spread primary education. The maximum amount of the expenditure on education was for the secondary and higher levels. The responsibilities of primary education rested upon the local autonomous institutions. But in 1813 AD according to the proposal of Lord Minto, by the education documentation in the British parliament, East India Company officially took over the responsibility of primary education in their governed region. According to the Act-XLIII of 1813, A budget proposal was made of One lakh rupee for the first time on education sector in this subcontinent. Besides policy making and new education system was initiated in the British India.
On 20 January 1835, lord bentinck, appointed William Adam of Scotland to collect elaborate and accurate data on education of Bengal and Bihar. After doing long research from 1835 to 1838, William Adam submitted three reports on the education system of India in which the first report was on the primary education.
Later on, in 1844, lord hardinge established Vernacular Schools to spread education in mother language in the villages, but it faced extinction as it failed to compete with the English medium schools, which was again re-established in 1904 by lord curzon. In 1854, the famous Education proposition of Sir Charles Wood was published, which is known as 'Wood's Education Despatch' in history. According to this proposition, the post of Director of Public Instructor (DPI) was created in every province of the greater India, Many primary schools were established and 'Normal School' was established to train the teachers. The primary education became more advanced by taking both Bengali and English as the medium of education. In 1882, according to the proposal of the Indian education commission of Lord William Wilson Hunter, the responsibilities of primary schools were given upon the District board, City corporations and private organisations. Although this venture failed later on. At that time in Primary, Secondary and Higher English School, English was taught in every school. For training the teachers, 'Guru Training School' was also established in every Mahakuma in 1902.
After 1902 many proposals and requests were made about education but no specific measures were taken or there was no significant change in the education system. The Bengal Primary School Act of 1930 stated that, Primary education for all children of 6-11 years will be full-free and primary education shall be consisting of four years. In 1937, East Bengal government submitted a proposal for enhancing the primary education and according to this proposition, full-free primary education was being spread by dividing the four classes of primary education into two. To keep up the rate of primary education, for conducting education in this level official regulation was made on 27 March 1940. But it failed due to the reluctance of the administration. In 1945, in opposition of the higher and lower levels of primary education, four years span of primary education was introduced and the system prevailed up to the end of British Empire.
1947 and onwards following Partition of India in 1947, Bangladesh became a part of Pakistan. In 1948, the Education Advisory Committee increased primary education from four to seven years. The first five-year plan (1955-66) introduced a scheme for compulsory complementary primary Education for all. However, there was no significant development in the Primary education during the plan period except an increase in the salary scale of the primary school teachers.
Bangladesh era After the independence of Bangladesh, education was identified as a basic human right in the constitution of 1972. The duties of the state towards the education of the citizens were described in the articles XV (a), XVII and XXVIII (3). To design an appropriate education system for the independent and sovereign Bangladesh, an Education Commission was established under the chairmanship of the renowned scientist and educationist Kudrat-E-Khuda. The Commission, which published its report in 1974, recommended the introduction of compulsory education by 1983. But the recommendation could not implemented because of the political change in 1975.
While planning the First (1973-78) and Second Five Year Plan (1980-85), Universal Primary Education was introduced in 44 thanas under International Development Agency (IDA) by the assistance of World Bank. Moreover, elaborate plan was taken in the First Five Year Plan regarding Non-Formal Education, like- Open School, Literacy School, Feeder School, which helped a lot in advancing the primary education. Besides, ongoing primary educational activities remained unchanged in the Intermediary Two Year Plan (1978-80). While drafting the Second Five Year Plan (1980-85), An Primary Education Bureau was also established for the successful development of the primary education.
Primary Education Act-1981 was passed in 1981. Under this act, Local Education Authority was established in the Mahakuma level and the supervision, regulation, administration and management of primary education was vested in them. But unfortunately this Act was abolished before implementation. In 1982, the ordinance for administrative reform and decentralisation abolished Mahakuma, and upgraded thanas to sub-districts in 1983, and as a result of Ministry of Education bestowed the responsibility of the primary education of this country in the hands of the sub-district authority.
Primary education was given high priority in the Fourth Five year Plan (1990-95). In 1990, 'Compulsory Primary Education Act' was approved by the National Parliament and was introduced in 68 thanas around the country. Compulsory Primary Education Implementation Monitoring Unit (CPEIM) was formed in 1990. A new division naming Primary and Mass Education Division (PMED) was formed in August 1992 to strengthen the structure of primary education, ensuring education for all and removing illiteracy. Under this, to increase the rate of student admission, equal enrollment of boys and girls and to enhance the exact standard of education, three projects were taken, which were included in 'General Education Project (GEP). Later on the project to build school in natural disaster affected areas was also implemented. In 1995, in the remote village areas, for the children of 6-10 years, 'Satellite School' was established and primarily 4000 school in the country and increasing the number in 6000 within 2000 was the target, but at present, there is no trace of it.
In the Fifth Five Year Plan, among the 23 projects to improve primary education, the majority was properly implemented. Food for Education Program and Upazilla Resource Center was included in the development plan. Many development partners are cooperating with the government. There are Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Bank, and Department for International Development (DFID), German Technical Corporation, International Development Agency (IDA), Islamic Development Bank (IDB), Norwegian Agency for Development (NORAD), United Nation's Children Fund (UNICEF), Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and USAID. Bangladesh government took a new project named Primary Education Development Program (PEDP) with the economic assistance of ADB for this purpose. As PEDP-1 was not fully successful. So PEDP-2 was taken in 2002 which targeted at increasing the rate of enrollment in the primary education and fully complete the education cycle which means, helping to improve the quality of education and rate of literacy.
Later, in January 2003, Primary and Mass Education Bureau was transferred to Ministry of Primary and Mass Education (MOPME). The administrative chief of this ministry is the Secretary. For assisting the Secretary, 2 join secretary, 4 additional secretary, 9 senior assistant secretary, 1 senior assistant chief, 2 assistant chief, 1 statistician, and 56 employees are employed. The policy designing of the primary and non-formal education, administrative management and overall coordination in the responsibility of the Ministry. At present all the projects to enhance the quality of primary education are being implemented under PEDP-2, under the Ministry.
Under the Ministry of Primary and Mass education of Bangladesh, there are four types of school. They are: Government School, Examining School under PTI, registered private primary school and community school. The first two are funded by the government and the teachers of the private primary school receive 90% of their salary from the government. And Community School teachers receive a fixed amount of salary from the government. Beside this four kind of school, unregistered non-government primary school, High school adjoin primary school, kindergarten and some NGO coordinated primary schools are there. There is also Ebtedayi Madrasa or high Madrasa adjoin Ebtedayi Madrasa (equivalent to general primary school). Before there was a kind of school named satellite school but it was closed in 2004. So, in Bangladesh, at present there is 10 kind of primary school, which is almost near 80,401 in number and almost 1 crore and 18 lakh children are studying and the number of teachers are 3 and a quarter lakh.
Most of the national education commissions and committees recommended extending primary education from 5 to 8 years. Moreover, National Education Policy Implementation Committee published a report on primary education in 2000, where emphasises were on 8 years of primary education. Because according to them, primary education is prime stage of education for the majority of the country. After receiving this education a huge number of students start their life entering' into the labor market. So hoping that, 8 years span of education would provide an effective basis on their life. But considering the national resources constrain and limitations of management, in the present context of Bangladesh, the proposal is not applicable, so the duration of primary education is decided to keep within 5 years. [Taposh Kumar Biswas and Tania Rubaiya]