PRIMARY education has almost never been put in a holistic perspective as is evident in the present state of education at the primary level. The government boasts of a very high enrolment, distribution of textbooks in time and the arrest of dropout rate in primary education. But what it has failed to attend to includes teacher shortage, which has been plaguing the primary educational institutions for long, the poor quality of teaching, which has failed to make students earn the competences keeping to the curriculum that they are supposed to, and almost no training for teachers, which makes teaching not so effective as teachers, especially teaching for long, burn out. The government has also failed to put in more money in early childhood development programmes, the absence of which could severely affect the productivity of the children in their later life. The World Bank in its report, ‘World Development Report 2018: Learning to Realise Education’s Promise’, released in February, says, based random tests of Class III and V students of 1,600 schools, that 35 per cent of the students cannot properly read Bangla text and 43 per cent of them cannot give complete answers to questions written in Bangla. Three in four Class V students cannot solve mathematical problems of their standards.
The Bangladesh Primary Education Annual Sector Performance Report 2017 shows that 8,564 government primary schools have an acute teacher shortage. There are, as the report says, 7,764 schools with three teachers, 721 schools with two teachers and 79 schools with only one teacher while the policy requires the schools to have at least four teachers. The preparation for the 2018 report is under way, but primary education directorate officials still find many schools faced with teacher shortage. In January, the Non-Government Teachers’ Registration and Certification Authority recommended the recruitment of at least 39,317 teachers for 15,157 non-government primary schools, which is good, but the recruitment needs to be done early. Teaching of poor quality, which fails to enable students to earn the required competences, has also been attributed to the examinations-centring education, which has results in its primary focus. When the main focus is on results and the system is burdened with public examinations every two to three years from primary to higher secondary levels, students hardly get the chance to learn as both the parents and their teachers want them to get good scores, which in most cases encourages learning by rote. The changes in the curriculum meant to dispense with rote learning, thus, fail to make any difference. The government also appears to be reluctant to train teachers, especially in service, as it does not perhaps believe that great teachers can make great students but training makes great teachers.
The government, under the circumstances, must shore up together all the issues that could make primary education, or any education for that matter, great and effective. Selective emphasis on parts of the education system is highly unlikely to make any good of the whole.
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