Rebuilding the base for primary education

Posted: জানুয়ারি 24, 2009 in Primary Education

WITH 50 per cent of the students admitted to class 1 dropping out before completing class 5, as revealed in a seminar, it will be a challenge for the government to implement its pledge of achieving 100 per cent literacy by 2014. Out of 44 lakh students admitted to class 1, only 22 lakh completed the primary level. Though poverty is the prime cause of such heavy dropout, the government must take measures to meet the shortage of trained teachers, availability of textbooks, and accountability of the educational institutions.

Despite the previous political government’s claim about achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG), there is mostly bad news from the education front: dilapidated schools, de-motivated teachers, irresponsible management, and powerless parents. The problem is a lack of resources, declining quality, and woefully inadequate infrastructure.

There have been reports that in some villages of Sirajganj and Comilla classes are held under trees during the dry season, and schools remain closed during the rainy season. Many school buildings have leaky roofs, making it difficult to hold classes during rains. A recent report said that two students in Feni died in a roof collapse, and several others were seriously injured. Educational experts and teachers agree that the state of the premises was the main reason why children didn’t come to school.

How much attention can a student hope to receive from his teacher? Very little. There are about 50 children for each teacher in primary schools. This implies that even if all the teachers are teaching during school hours, teacher time per child will be just one hour a month. One report of a rural school reveals that children who studied up to class 5 learnt almost nothing.

A report published in the Prothom Alo showed that teacher-student ratio in most schools was grossly disproportionate. There are about 33.3 million students and, in about 40 percent of the institutions the number of teachers exceeds the number of students, and in the rest it is the opposite. There are about 30 thousand non-government educational institutions in the country, out of which at least 10 thousand exist in name only.

Reforming madrassa education and bringing it at par with the needs of the new millennium is one of the election pledges of the government. Economists argue that madrassas hardly make a contribution in developing skilled human capital while squandering about 12 per cent of the total education budget.

Proponents of madrassa education must realise that religious education without a modern base will turn out graduates dependent on societal charity, with job opportunities restricted to mosques and madrassas only. The quality of teachers is abysmal because many of them joined the teaching profession unwillingly.

The drop-out problem at the primary level and the dismal performance at the SSC examinations, as well as the quality of the students, call for an in-depth analysis of the state of education. Experts say that the move to recruit primary teachers in the village level on political consideration and in exchange of kickbacks was the main reason for such pitfalls.

In stark contrast to the government’s move to build a corruption-free society based on merit and skill, the reported gift of about 70 miniature gold made boats to an AL lawmaker by the teachers of schools and colleges in Gurudaspur upazila is an unethical attempt to seek undue favour. True, if teachers, considered moral guardians of the society, indulge in unethical means to please high-ups, then the people have little to expect from others.

Precisely true, most of the countryside is now a portrait of human misery because of our failure to invest in our children’s future. But if education is a means to transform lives, then the substandard education that our children got in the earlier days was of little use.

The education sector is corruption-ridden, messy and chaotic. Most institutions have been pushed to the ropes by dearth of qualified and competent teachers, lack of direction, nepotism in recruiting teachers, and lack of supervisory control in teaching and in running the institutions.

Vision-2021, dedicated to the young voters by the AL, will remain unfulfilled if the potential of our millions of children is not fully exploited at the primary stage of their schooling. The task should start right now, without any delay.

Md. Asadullah Khan is a former teacher of physics and Controller of Examinations, BUET.

e-mail : aukhanbd@gmail.com

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