Weekend Independent Featured Article – 19 Aug 2010

[box] The Carter Academy: Spreading the light of education

Author / Source : by M.A. Taher

Thursday, 19 August 2010 22:23[/box]

As the saying goes, “Education is the backbone of a nation”, but what have we done to spread the light of education? Education is considered an expensive commodity in a country like ours where a vast majority is still illiterate. A huge segment of our population is deprived of getting any formal education due to lack of resources or unwillingness. Amid all the shortcomings, there is still some hope for us because the noble people out of the lot are ready to address the setbacks in order to defy the odds. The establishment of The Carter Academy (TCA) is one such initiative. The Carter Academy (TCA) is a community based tuition free school that provides a competitive global education to financially disadvantaged students exhibiting academic promises. Situated in a remote village in Bangladesh, TCA is a technologically equipped residential institution where the curriculum emphasizes leadership, life skills, and physical fitness at a disciplined academic setting.

Based on the Bangladeshi curriculum conducted in English, TCA is a secular institution where the open exchange of ideas are encouraged and practiced. The aim of TCA is to create future entrepreneurs and leaders who have global perspectives and is committed to enrich Bangladesh. TCA is located in the village of Islamabad under the upazila of Matlab. The principle philosophy of TCA is to cultivate and nurture future societal leaders, selected from the most humble of origins and elevate them to the apex global society. The Majeda-Anowar Foundation (MAF) is bearing all the financial responsibilities of the academy. MAF was formed to honor the parents of the dynamic founder of the institution – Ghulam Suhrawardi. Under his direct patronization and guidance, the Carter Academy recruits candidates ranging from the sixth to twelfth grade levels. When talking to the Weekend Independent, Suhrawardi said, “I always wanted to help the poor students get quality education. Building TCA is one of my visions to implement this goal.”

So what’s the mission of TCA? A confident Suhrawardi replied, “We want our students to achieve their dreams with true potential, while imposing no limits on their ambitions. We are providing unparalleled academic excellence and future career prospects in a humane and caring environment. Our students are prepared for the challenges of an ever-expanding world. We nurture ethical practices, the development of social awareness and responsibility in all our students is a must for us. Moreover we provide loving care, support and encouragement equally to all of our students regardless of their background. The school provides a learning environment in which all individuals are equally important.”

The teachers of TCA are part of the most professional faculty available. They provide a holistic, well rounded education and outlook. As mentors, the instructors and teachers of the Carter Academy provide guidance and discipline to the student body. The faculty is instrumental in advising, leading and inspiring students throughout the process of maturation which culminates in their graduation. They are also aware of students going through the inevitable triumphs and trials associated with boarding school life and continually being supportive. In addition to acting as informal counselors, instructors and teachers are actively involved in the daily classroom life of a student throughout the academic year and attend to their academic needs. As an academy that fosters leadership, the instructors and teachers are continuously examining the educational and personal goals of each student in relation to their special interests, strengths and weaknesses. The curriculum of TCA facilitates such goals.

To quote Suhrawardi, “Together, our administration, faculty and staff form our employee community. Each individual is pivotal in the daily functions of the Carter Academy; its offices, dining services, facilities and all other areas of the institution. The academy offers a communal camaraderie that is unique to our school.” Instructors of TCA pay specific attention to the minds and morals of the youth under their leadership. The academic mindset will encompass the equal distribution of knowledge and goodness while emphasizing the need to develop understanding, dignity and character. TCA believes these qualities are the foundation for well rounded individuals whom will be assets to mankind.

The academy seeks students who combine academic ability, intellectual curiosity and determination coupled with decency and good character. The daily interactions of a residential school also nurture integrity, empathy and kindness—social skills that are necessary in this world today. Because learning and progress at the academy arise from each individual’s growth within the community, the value of this education demands diversity in all its dimensions. “We strive to instill the principles of honesty, tolerance, compassion and responsibility among our students. The transcendence of these ideals will influence the progression of the community and the enrichment of Bangladesh. TCA seeks to graduate young people whose creativity and independence of thought sustain their inquisitive and reflective minds; whose interest in others and the world around them surpasses their self concern; and whose passion for learning motivates them to move beyond what they already know” said Suhrawardi.

Speaking about the curriculum of TCA, Suhrawardi said, “Here a student’s education begins in the sixth grade and continues for seven years. Each class generally has an average of 25 students. Academic subjects that are taught at TCA include: Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Bengali, English, Economics, Civics, History, Religious studies, Arts and Crafts and Geography. A calendar year is usually comprised of three terms which are broken down on our academic calendar. The academic calendar advices students of all examination dates. Two exams that are of significant importance are the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) and the Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC). Successful completion of the HSC is necessary for graduation from TCA. The calendar year also includes the parade, physical training (PT), games, sports, cultural shows – each of which are an integral part of this academic system. Students are avid participants in these activities.”

TCA has an array of co-curricular activities which compliment time spent in the classroom. The harmony amongst the student body while they are working towards a goal, or serving their community, brings an extra dimension to life at the academy. Suhrawardi puts it like this, “In addition to academic guidance, we teach students to appreciate physical achievement, to respect their bodies and to understand the importance of sound health. For this reason, the desire to actively participate in sports and physical fitness is instilled in the students of TCA. They are frequently involved in activities such as basketball, volleyball, soccer, tennis, cricket, field hockey and swimming. The school also offers annual events such as Cross Country Marathons and Obstacle Courses. Sports are only one group of activities that the school offers, other programs are also available at TCA.”

“Students are avidly encouraged to take part in cultural activities that will nurture their intellectual growth. They participate in rhetoric competitions like impromptu speeches and debates and also enjoy creating displays for cultural affairs and special days. To celebrate cultural events, students engage in activities that include musical and acting performances.” Whether it is playing on a sports team or at supper in the Dining Hall, living at the academy offers an exceptional experience, a chance to be surrounded by friends, classmates and mentors. The crux of residential life at the academy focuses on the amount of thought and attention given to creating a warm and supportive environment within each student’s living space. Faculty, students, and staffs all work together to ensure that the school is healthy, clean and a stimulating place to live and learn; a place where the spirit of openness, honesty and concern for others prevails. Suhrawardi believes that students will begin to achieve a sense of community and learn to reside with others to balance a desire for privacy with a growing sense of the needs and rights for the others. “This emphasis on community will help our students discover that learning at a boarding school is a continuous and lively journey to further development.

TCA also ensures health services for its students. A visiting physician and dispensary serves the Carter Academy students with comprehensive health care. For special circumstances in which emergency medical attention is necessary, individuals will be transported to the closest hospital located in Matlabganj. The bulk of the expenses of this noble school are provided by none other but its founder, the philanthropic person, Ghulam Suhrawardi. But the institution also welcomes monetary donations from businesses, foundations, consortiums and individuals. The Carter Academy is a prime example of a noble institution which is aimed at eliminating the evils of illiteracy. If more such institutions are established in the country, the light of education will hopefully reach to everyone and we will have a country free from illiteracy, sooner rather later.