Teach Them Young

I was recently given an example of a question that used to be asked of children enrolled in primary schools in Bangladesh when conversing with a colleague.

“How much crushed stone needs to be added to a kg of rice to make a Tk. 2 profit?”

Sounds like a perfectly valid mathematical question, right? What about the question from an ethical standpoint? What kind of ethics will the question be promoting in the little child’s mind? The children are being taught such deceptive business practice early on, which they go on top apply to other aspects of their daily lives. (These type of questions may since have been removed.)

Those designing such questions deserve condemnation and removal from their post that enables them to influence the thinking of the country’s future. More importantly, it deserves a little reflection.

What kind of mindset are we promoting among our children with questions of this kind? Could the same question not have been asked in the following manner: If the trader is making a profit of Tk. 4, that is Tk. 2 more than the average, how much crushed stone might have been added to the rice?
Sure, it’s got more words, but doesn’t this convey a much cleaner image?

Whereas the first one teaches deception for profit, the second one indicates how to spot deception. How to protect against deception and be on the lookout against it? Instead of asking how much crushed stone needs to be added, could not the question have asked where the process could be improved/modified for a larger profit?

When the very ones responsible for passing on knowledge, and its ethical use, is responsible for teaching such deception to the future, is it any wonder that the primary thought of a large portion of the people is geared towards material well-being at the cost of social well-being?

This makes me curious, did the editors not see the question and object right away? Has editing been reduced to such a brainless job here? “All that you have to check for is the grammar structure.” Yeah well, dumbasses would get fired under me, I can get machines to check for grammar better.

When did the entire process of educating the future of a nation become reduced to simply checking if the question is framed in the proper language, and not in the proper ethical context as well? I always imagined proper education to encompass several aspects; technical know-how, ethical values, and general character development. The three are inextricably linked, and are perpetuated through the schooling imparted to the young generation: the lessons taught to them, the understanding that is sought of them,  and the questions that are asked of them.

The flaw in our education lies in the first and third parts of the schooling process – we pass on the wrong lessons and then ask them the wrong questions. We do not inquire about their understanding or try to rectify it if it is wrong (it’s a glaring omission not a flaw, it would be flawed if there was something on that front). In between all, the future grows up with a flawed understanding of the ethical implications of the knowledge they learn.

Simply an overhaul of the education syllabus on a technical front will not suffice, Bangladesh needs a paradigm shift in the approach to “education”.

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