In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals that focus on sustainability and development from a holistic view. Of these goals, goal number 4 ensures inclusive and equitable quality education by promoting learning opportunities for all. To discuss this important issue, the Daily Star, in conjunction with the British Council, broadcast a session entitled ‘What do the UN sustainable development goals mean for education in Bangladesh?’ on November 15, 2022. It was part of their live webinar series hosted by Wendy Naylor, Consultant at The British Council.
During the discussion, Wendy explained the seven steps of this goal and stated that Bangladesh has already made significant progress in increasing the number of children in primary school. However, due to this increase, there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure the quality of education. According to UN Sustainable Development Goal indicators, Bangladesh should monitor whether students complete primary and secondary education. The indicators also commit us to exploring whether reading and math are a sufficient reflection of academic achievement, and how to better preserve gender inclusiveness among students.
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“The Sustainable Development Goals agenda is a powerful framework and global commitment from countries around the world,” said Toufiq Hasan, Head of Education Bangladesh at The British Council. During the discussion, Toufiq stated that the biggest challenge that remains is to focus on quality over quantity, as he said that according to statistics, student numbers and gender equality have improved dramatically in primary schools.
Toufiq also added that the Primary Education Development Project (PEDP) is now more about new curriculum and assessment, teacher in-service training, certificate in education and implementation education to ensure quality education at the primary level. There are also some major secondary and tertiary level reform projects, and some credit goes to the SDGs framework for reforming these government projects.
On the contrary, the founder and chairman of Sunshine Education, Safia Ghazi Rahman, believes that many factors remain to ensure quality education. Providing only textbook education in schools will not be effective if students are in a dire situation. She said: “There are many schools in remote areas where students come to school barefoot and they hardly have anything to wear. They also need food, clothing and medical supplies so that they can concentrate on their studies.”
According to Safia, Sunshine Education provides these much-needed supplies to students in need. They also offer Bangla and English secondary education for free so that young students can study without worrying about costs. She also said that if social and financial barriers are removed and private sector people actively participate in government, the ultimate goal of quality education can be achieved.
Wendy adds to Safia that in addition to the government and institutional organizations, local entrepreneurs also play a crucial role in providing public education. She said: “I think there is a powerful link between Sustainable Development Goals. For example, the first three goals – zero poverty, zero hunger, and good health and well-being – are the cornerstones for people to thrive and feel secure, so they can later engage in education.” Wendy believes educators from across the spectrum should support students to overcome such issues to increase classroom participation.
Both speakers said that the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic has seen many remarkable changes in human behavior. The unprecedented challenges have created gaps in education that have not yet been fully resolved. Using government initiatives alone will not guarantee quality education, the SDGs should also provide a roadmap for cooperation. The discussion outlined that all actors in the education field should work together to pave the way for better education for Bangladeshis everywhere in the world.