AL edn pledges hardly kept

Mohiuddin Alamgir | Updated at 12:16am on September 12, 2018

Implementation of edn policy, separate pay commission, service commission for teachers still elusive

Full implementation of education policy, setting up a permanent national education commission, separate pay commission and service commission for teachers are among the vital pledges the consecutive Awami League-led governments failed to keep.
It also failed to live up to its promises of campuses free of hooliganism, evil politics, politicisation and session jam beside extension of compulsory and free primary education till class VIII, eradication of illiteracy.
Awami League had promised all these in its election manifesto before the parliamentary polls in 2008 and the party reiterated these promises in its manifesto ahead 2014 general election to woo voters.
This lack of implementation of these pledges keeps teachers struggling for bread and butter as well as undermines smooth academic atmosphere.
Dhaka University professor emeritus Serajul Islam Choudhury and National Education Commission formulation committee members professor Siddiqur Rahman and Quazi Faruque Ahmed have blamed government’s insincerity for failing to keep its pledges.
‘Many non-government teachers are finding it difficult to make both ends meet in absence of proper and adequate pays and perks,’ mentions Quazi Faruque Ahmed, also a teacher leader.
‘The government was not earnest about fulfilling these vital pledges like separate pay commission and service commission,’ Serajul Islam Choudhury observes, adding, ‘Awami League made the pledges with some political agenda and only to woo voters, not to bring any change in education’.
Although the National Education Policy was framed in 2010, its implementation was at a crawl, policy implementation committee members have found.
Many key elements of the policy, including enactment of an education law for the implementation of education policy, setting up a permanent national education commission and forming a non-government teacher selection commission and others, are yet to be addressed, they mention.
Education minister Nurul Islam Nahid had, however, said that implementation of education policy was a continuous process and several committees were working on expediting the implementation.
Although the education ministry formed a committee in early 2011 to formulate a separate pay scale for teachers, the committee made no significant progress, Quazi Faruque says.
He recalls that Awami
League had promised twice in 2008 and 20147 that a higher salary scale for teachers would be ensured but in reality teachers remained ill-paid. Low pay and benefits force the teachers to try to seek out means to earn extra money, they added.
Government primary school assistant teachers have been facing discrimination due to gap in salaries between head teachers and assistant teachers for the last four years, Bangladesh Primary Assistant Teachers’ Association president Mohammad Shamsuddin mentions.
The assistant teachers are in the street demanding that their jobs should be upgraded to 11th grade with the basic salary of Tk 12,500, from the existing 14th grade with the basic salary of Tk 9,500.
Secondary level teachers get poor salary and about one lakh teachers, who are not on the monthly pay order, get no salary, house rent and medical allowance from the government.
Public university teachers in Bangladesh are paid less than what their fellows get in many other countries in terms of purchasing power parity.
Academics find setting up a permanent national education commission and separate service commission for appointing teachers important for enhancing quality of education.
‘If you want to attract meritorious and qualified people to teaching, there is no alternative of separate pay and service commission,’ notes Siddiqur, also former director of Dhaka University Institute of Education and Research.
Nahid said that government did not set up separate pay commission for teachers but their salaries were increased through implementation of latest pay scale. ‘We are working on providing MPO facilities,’ he said.
The manifestos of 2008 and 2014 had said that educational institutions would be rid of hooliganism and session backlogs, evil politics and politicisation.
But in reality, scores of students were killed in the last nine years and a half as activists of the ruling party-backed student organisation Bangladesh Chhatra League clashed with opponents or fought among themselves to establish supremacy or take over campuses.
Students of many public universities and all colleges under National University are gripped with prolonged academic life.
Many public universities, including Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, Jahangirnagar University, Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, Cumilla University and Khulna University remained in turmoil over confrontation between teachers and vice-chancellors centring allegations of corruption, irregularities and nepotism during the back to back AL governments.
All public universities are currently being run by non-elected and government-nominated vice-chancellors, without elections to students unions and with unelected representatives of registered graduates in the Senate. Huge allegation of nepotism and appointment of partisan people also tarnished image of public universities.
In manifestos, AL set a target of increasing net enrolment at the primary level to 100 per cent by 2010 and elimination of illiteracy by 2014.
About four months left of its second term, primary and mass education minister Mostafizur Rahman on September 6, citing Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics data, claimed 72.9 per cent the adult literacy rate.
‘We are trying. We inform whatever success we make. No research was done on the failure,’ Mostafizur mentioned, adding that the government was implementing a basic literacy project aiming to make 45 lakh people literate.
Awami League in 2014 manifesto promised that primary education would be extended to class VIII and the education would be free and compulsory.
Government in May 2016 declared that primary education in Bangladesh had been extended to Class VIII but backtracked from its decision within two months.
Mostafizur said that the extension of primary education until class VIII was still at an experimental level.
The government during its tenures faced huge criticism for its failure to check question leak in the public exams, less quality education at school and colleges and others.
It, however, claims achievements in the sector, including nationalisation of about 26,000 primary schools, formulation of education policy, new curriculum for primary and secondary education, introduction of Class V and Class VIII completion examinations, timely and free distribution of textbooks, ensuring gender disparity in primary and secondary education.
The government has taken many initiatives for teachers as it has provided monthly pay order benefits to over 1,600 schools and 1,214 teachers and maternity leave for teachers in non-government institutions for six months.
The government increased the house rent and medical allowance for teachers enlisted for the monthly pay order and upgraded the status of assistant teachers of government secondary schools and primary head teachers.
Nahid said that quality education still remained a big challenge.