Why it should be a basic right
The foundation of the educational system in Bangladesh was laid down during the British rule.
After Bangladesh’s independence in 1971, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman ordered to form a national commission in 1972 to formulate an effective and progressive education policy for the new nation.
In 2010, Bangladesh formulated an exceptional education policy that was made open to all for corrective and constructive opinion before final publication. Thus, the national education policy fulfilled all pledges for reformations.
In this policy, one-year pre-primary education was made compulsory. The level of compulsory primary education in all streams was extended from Class V to Class VIII. According to the national Education Policy 2010, the government will provide free and compulsory education up to Class VIII.
But if the question is asked: Does the constitution of Bangladesh recognize education as a right? The plain answer is no.
Education is mentioned in Article 17 of the constitution as a directive principle of state policy. It states that: “State shall adopt effective measures for the purpose of (a) establishing a uniform, mass oriented and universal system of education and extending free and compulsory education to all children to such stage as may be determined by law; (b) relating education to the needs of society and producing properly trained and motivated citizens to serve those needs; (c) removing illiteracy within such time as may be determined by law.”
Although education is mentioned as a state policy, the government is providing free education up to the intermediate level. As the government provides the opportunity for free education, we do not know why the government does not make education a fundamental right.
On the other hand, the right to education already has been accepted as a fundamental right in our neighbouring countries based on some articles in their own constitutions.
In 2002, the Indian government incorporated the right to education in its constitution as a fundamental right of the citizens through Article 21A, mentioning that the state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children between the ages of six and 14 years.
According to Article 36 of the constitution of Maldives, right to education is a fundamental right of the citizens of Maldives and the state shall provide freely primary and secondary education for all children.
In 2007, Article 17 of the interim constitution of Nepal, right to education has been incorporated as a fundamental right for all up to secondary level.
Article 25A of Pakistan’s constitution states that “the state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children from the age of five to 16 years in such manner as may be determined by law.”
In addition, the right to education has been recognized and ensured by some international laws. Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948 proclaims: “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Education shall be directed to the full development of human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among racial or religious groups.”
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has requested everyone to work together for building a hunger, poverty, and illiterate free “Sonar Bangla” as dreamt by Bangabandhu for implementing the “Vision 2021” to make Bangladesh a middle-income country and “Vision 2041” to make it a developed one.
Based on the vision, the government is providing all facilities regarding education to children up to Class VIII for making Bangladesh a country free of illiteracy. The government should also make an amendment to Bangladesh’s constitution — for education to be declared as a fundamental right.
According to me, the government or the authorities concerned should take immediate steps for amending the constitution for making education a fundamental right, similar to our neighbouring nations, providing proper education for all of Bangladesh and showing respect to all international laws.
Delwar Hossain is a law graduate from North South University and now an apprentice lawyer, Dhaka Judge Court.