English-medium schools run unlicensed

Ershad Kamol | Published: 00:42, Sep 20,2020


Most English-medium schools in the country are operating without permission while the registered ones have never taken approval for their managing committees or submitted annual audit reports to the government as per the rules, government officials said.

Only 118 such schools in Dhaka and two others in Chattogram have their registrations from the Dhaka and Chattogram education boards, board officials said, adding that 12 registration applications were pending with the Dhaka board and another with the Chattogram board.

They, however, could not give the total number of schools that operated in the country according to the curriculums of the Cambridge International, Edexcel or International Baccalaureate boards.

But, English-medium school owners claimed that an estimated 500 English-medium schools were offering primary to A level courses while about 4,000 kindergartens were offering courses up to Grade VIII.  

After passing Grade VIII from such institutions, students take O level exams as independent candidates from any foreign board, they said.

Most of these schools have no document other than trade licences taken from the city corporations as educational consultants but not as educational institutions, owners admitted.

But the Registration of Private Schools Ordinance 1962 and the Private School Registration Rules 2017 oblige all schools, including the English-medium ones, to register with the authorities concerned, Dhaka Education Board school inspector Abul Mansur Bhuiyan told New Age on Thursday.

‘Operating unregistered schools is a criminal offence as stipulated in the rules and ordinance,’ he said.

It is also mandatory for the schools, he said, to have government-approved governing bodies and also to submit annual audit reports to the boards for ensuring transparency of their operations, income and expenditures.

The government has no control over these schools and has never taken any initiative either to this end as children of influential people study at such schools, Dhaka University professor emeritus Serajul Islam Choudhury said.

‘The government has rather created discrimination in the country’s education system after the independence allowing operation of such schools without regulations and not updating the mainstream education system in accordance with global needs,’ Serajul said.

‘The society’s dominant sections having enough purchasing ability send their children to such schools hoping that they would help them obtain higher education abroad while children of the commoners struggle throughout the life for not getting quality education in the mainstream education system,’ he continued.

The government has also allowed students of English-medium schools and madrassahs to enroll at the public universities, he said.

While the number of English-medium schools was less than five in Dhaka in the 1970s it is now over several hundred across the country for their ever-increasing demand, guardians and school owners said.

Even the middle income people these days send their children to such schools and the trend helped the kindergartens, operating mostly at rented houses in every locality, to offer English-medium courses along with the mainstream Bangla medium courses and their English versions.    

They said that various schools offer various types of education, curriculums, teaching methods and realise various amounts of tuition fees thanks to the lack of government monitoring.

‘They operate as pure business enterprises and make huge profit at the expense of students and teachers,’ said AKM Ashraful Haque, convenor of Bangladesh English-medium School Parents Forum.

Ashraful said that the schools charged between Tk 5,000 and Tk 50,000 as tuition fees and at best spent a 40 per cent of the income on salaries and other purposes.

Private companies obtaining registration from the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and Firms or trusts registering with the Social Welfare Department run such schools after getting affiliation with a foreign education board, he said.

The schools, he further said, take trade licences from the relevant municipal authorities for their operation but do not go to the education board as they do not comply with the requirements for operation as stipulated in the laws, Ashraful said.

‘We the parents become victim as we send our children to such schools hoping that they would get international-standard education and certificates,’ he said, adding that an estimated four lakh students were studying at such schools and the number was ever growing.

Parents said that they did not find any change despite filing writ petitions with the High Court, appealing to the government and calling press conferences for bringing English-medium schools under regulations and controlling the increase in their tuition and other fees at high rates.

A High Court Division bench on May 25, 2017 directed the English-medium schools to take registration, obtain approval for their managing committees comprising representatives from guardians, teachers and authorities and to publish audit reports on websites in accordance with the 1962 ordinance and the 2017 registration rules within six months of passing the order.

The HC bench also ordered the schools not to appoint teachers without the approval of the managing committee against the vacant posts.

It made the education ministry responsible for executing the directives within six months.

‘The schools and the government have not yet fulfilled the order,’ said petitioners’ lawyer Aneek R Haque.

He said that English-medium schools continued to act arrogantly by not allowing students to attend online classes for not being able to pay tuition fees. They also terminated many teachers following the COVID-19 outbreak.

The schools continued to ignore the demand from the parents for framing a separate education policy for the English-medium schools, ensuring the representation of parents and teachers in the managing committees, controlling the fees charged by the schools and their arbitrary decisions of terminating teachers and students, parents said.

English-medium School Association of Bangladesh convenor Quazi Taif Sadat admitted that over 4,000 kindergartens offering courses up to Grade VIII had no permission for operation other than trade licences.

‘Children of the middle class will suffer most if the kindergartens and the newly-established English-medium schools stop operating for nonpayment of tuition fees amid the COVID-19 pandemic,’ he said.

Quazi Taif Sadat, a director of Uttara-based Jahan International School, claimed that the registration application of his school was pending with the education ministry for six years. 

South Point School and College principal Hamida Ali said that the school had recently applied for registration from the Dhaka board for offering courses up to A level along with running courses as per the national curriculums and their English versions.

HURDCO International School deputy managing director retired colonel AKM Zaki said that they got registration and was taking measures for taking approval for their governing body.

Scholastica did not reply to New Age question sent last week addressing its communications director Zia Hashan.

English-medium School Association General Secretary GM Nizam Uddin said that the association would pursue its members to comply with rules even though the inclusion of parents in the governing bodies might create problems.

Dhaka South City Corporation chief revenue officer Rafiqul Haque said that they issued trade licences for educational consultants if registered companies applied for operating the entities outside residential areas.

Education secretary Md Mahbub Hossain said that the government took an initiative for bringing English-medium schools under regulations and had recently ordered all education boards to compel such schools to have registration and follow other rules. 

Dhaka Education Board chairman Md Ziaul Haque and Chittagong Education board chairman Pradip Chakrobarty said that they served notices to the English-medium schools for taking registration and complying with the rules.

Ziaul also said that the board was working on setting a ceiling on the tuition fees for the English-medium schools. 

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