Comprising of one of largest youth populations, the Bangladeshi education system is currently at a crucial and definitive stage of development, with a massive potential at hand for the nation.
With the government’s Digital Bangladesh vision of crafting the country into a developed nation by 2041, as well as to deliver the staggering needs of one of the top most densely packed nations, it is imperative that Bangladesh becomes an innovation hub and an early adopter of frontier technologies. And to do so, it needs to invest in the human capital of its youth, the changemakers who can actualize the nation’s dreams of tomorrow.
At Springdale International School (SDIS), situated in the heart of the capital Dhaka, the educational scene is set of bring in inter-disciplinary technological learning from the earliest age, starting from Pre-School. The school has an umbrella framework of STEAM education giving life and 21st century essential learning to its curriculum. STEAM is an amalgamation of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics –where subjects are taught in tandem and within with each other which leads to a concept understanding.
Professor William Derrenger, Principal of SDIS notes “Traditional, standardized, rote learning only helps specialize in repetitive tasks & skills, and these have increasingly being taken over by AI. We need children to be able to solve novel problems and be prepared for jobs and situations that don’t even exist right now”. A fundamental part of a STEAM based curriculum is that students are not simply taught the subject matter, but also how to ask questions, how to be innovative and how to create. This allows them to cultivate the ability to approach any situation with an open mind and a mindset that’s creatively wired.
Partnering with the U.S Embassy managed Senator Edward M Kennedy (EMK) Centre, SDIS hosts makerspaces for children as young as 2 years old. This is a clear breakaway from mainstream education which is still plagued with a wide-spread belief of solid grades and standardized education superseding creative learning in classrooms. SDIS Makerspaces are hubs for ‘purposeful play’, where the most ordinary of resources are meshed with engineering and technology and transformed to answer problems. Simultaneous acceptance of technology as a pedagogical tool for learning and the use of various tech platforms in the SDIS classroom has resulted in creating an ecosystem which provides personalised, on-demand, self-assisted learning, making learning fast and assessment more transparent. It also garners inter-disciplinary collaborative learning and problem solving among students, a skillset that has become ever so important in the current global pandemic and will continue to do so in the future.
There is already a conscious need for STEAM learning in Bangladesh, as witness by the growing number of start-ups and investments in app-based and both online and offline tech classes. The potential of the Bangladeshi youth is indeed immense, having already won a number of prestigious international awards in the short span these initiatives have operated. Yet, a parallel ecosystem of tech platforms providing both STEAM learning and smart tutoring not only makes the school classroom redundant and children losing interest in their formal education, but also is a source of financial strain on parents in an already struggling economy and thereby widening the privilege gap, an educational conundrum neighbouring India is facing.
To this end, the real paradigm shift comes not in SDIS’s STEAM based education, but the strong belief and work to create a unified curriculum and ensure that a leaner, more relevant, and more creative education is the new standard in Bangladesh. STEAM learning as a curriculum mindset can be catered to at any budget (indeed using the least resources is a 21st century standard), and SDIS is set to share its pedagogical skills in doing so. The school has already partnered with the Jagoo Foundation, an internationally awarded foundation providing education to over 4000 under-privileged children, to help build the STEAM foundation from grassroots level.
For Bangladesh, STEM education and awareness is key to social and economic development. Encouraging science education will benefit entire communities, grant access to cheaper health care, create more job opportunities, spread technology awareness, and fight existing cultural and gender stereotypes. It is the way forward for a better standard of living for its people. The paradigm shift must start early, and more educational institutions such as SDIS must come forward to pave the way.
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