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Who are the learners of Smart Bangladesh?

Date: 4 July, 2023

Writer : Md Afzal Hossain Sarwar and Zunaira Khan
Source : Dhaka Tribune

Reading Time: 6 Minutes

4 July, 2023
Writer : Md Afzal Hossain Sarwar and Zunaira Khan
Source : Dhaka Tribune
· Reading Time: 6 Minutes

Who are the learners of Smart Bangladesh?

Who are the learners of Smart Bangladesh?

Ayesha, a primary level student in the outskirts of Dhaka, faces frequent challenges in her school ranging from peer interactions, navigating through teacher-student relationships, to balancing her overall well-being.

Many students like her at primary or lower secondary levels struggle to vocalize their problems in this day and age, which prevents them from learning effectively. If we look ahead to 2041, the same students as young adults will enroll at a university or graduate from one.

The number of primary students in 2021 is at roughly 20.1 million (BANBEIS, 2022) which is only expected to increase from the past year with the reopening of schools.

Hence a question remains unanswered: How do we imagine our large learner population to grow in the next 15-20 years? Are our learners genuinely prepared to undertake the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow?

Even with more tools being available for support, we ponder how our learners will use them for good.

We live in a post-pandemic world that has been redirected from traditional educational approaches. To ensure the preparedness of our learners, it is imperative to adopt a comprehensive approach that goes beyond focusing on job market-oriented skills.

According to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Future of Jobs report 2023, 49% of graduates work in jobs unrelated to their formal education.

The WEF Education 4.0 Framework has highlighted that in addition to academic knowledge, learners need to develop a range of skills and attitudes to succeed in our ever-changing world.

Starting with a personalized learning style, learners will be made to be self-adaptive with a breadth of skills and leverage innovations at the centre of their learning.

To answer these questions, along with education experts, researchers and stakeholders from various government and private entities, the Aspire to Innovate (a2i) program hosted a series of workshops and envisioned how an ideal learner will be in 2041.

It was found that to shape learners, they should possess eight characteristics as the guiding principles. It is expected that a learner will be:

a)creative; b) a critical thinker; c) collaborative; d) communicative; e) a change maker; f) a global citizen; g) adaptive; and h) productive.

They will learn to work with diverse teams, and respond to different situations with appropriate reasoning. The Future of Jobs Report 2023 has stated that teaching collaborative problem solving in schools has the potential to add $458 billion to South Asia’s economy.

To bring these to reality, the government of Bangladesh has undertaken several efforts in enhancing education to prepare a new generation of smart citizens.

One of them was to revise the national curriculum in 2021 so that learners can translate their knowledge into outputs through project-based and experiential learning, improve digital literacy, and work to address real-world challenges.

The changes will allow learners to enhance problem-solving skills, global awareness, and develop entrepreneurial literacy.

With a pro-active mindset, this introduction of new methodologies allows individuals to learn “how to learn” in becoming self-directed — who can independently identify goals, locate relevant resources, and apply effective strategies.

The curriculum is tailored in such a way that learners will be evaluated based on presentation, communication, and practical assignments instead of tests requiring rote memorization.

It is expected that a learner will be informed and involved in understanding societal problems from the primary stage, as it can heavily influence their lifetime learning.

Instilling knowledge, skills, and the right attitude as core values in learners is vital for their holistic development. Hence, recognizing the diverse learning needs and providing personalized support will be crucial in shaping their future success.

Altogether, ensuring these will cultivate a learner’s assurance in telling themselves: “I am the solution.”

As we speak on the competencies and the notion of a learner’s development, it is also critical to enable a learning environment for learners to thrive. The question arises: How ready are our learners to succeed today and tomorrow?

The readiness, as opposed to stereotypical beliefs, should not start from the school but rather from their homes and communities.

It will nurture a strong sense of compassion and instill the understanding that their actions can have a positive ripple effect.

Supporting such a massive learner population is not an easy task, but when using the competencies as the foundation, we can facilitate their growth at a large scale.

By possessing these attributes with consolidated efforts, it will lead to the creation of smart citizens as effective learners who will be the building blocks of a smart society.

They will be making productive contributions for a sustainable, smart economy and in the long run, shape Smart Bangladesh for all.

Md Afzal Hossain Sarwar is Policy Analyst (Educational Innovation), a2i. Zunaira Khan is a Young Professional, a2i.

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