Banning coaching centers is not the only solution; scrapping the redundant public exams - PEC and JSC - is a must.
That teachers working in both public and private schools are prohibited from coaching the students commercially is a worthwhile verdict recently given by the apex court of Bangladesh. Now this has become a law to be strictly followed by the teachers and to be executed by the Ministry of Education. This is true that we have achieved significant progress in primary and secondary education in terms of enrollment of the students and distribution of books (more than 32 crore) for free every year. Nevertheless, the current state of education system at both the levels is not up to the mark/standard. If it comes to ensuring quality education for all at primary/secondary level, we are still lagging behind. If we really want to make education accessible to all and ensure quality education at both primary and secondary levels, the government needs to seriously implement SDG 4 by 2030. The following is a list of areas/issues on which the government should put emphasis:
Lack of well-trained teachers: There is a dearth of well-trained teachers at schools. Although the government has taken some initiatives in this regard, not all the teachers have come under the training program. Currently, problem also lies in English version because the teachers who teach the English version students do not get any subject-wise training either from the Directorate of Primary Education or from the schools. The government seems reluctant to put stress on their training and solve the problem.
Ineffective creative (srijanshil) method: According to a survey conducted by Research for Advancement of Complete Education (RACE), more than half of 100 primary school teachers, who took part in a survey, are still unclear about creative education method introduced about 7 years back. Even more alarming is that about half of the teachers (47%) surveyed rely on guidebooks to prepare lessons while 92% students take the help of guidebooks to understand their lessons (Source: The Daily Star on 26 January 2016). The findings of the report, titled “Ambiguity in understanding among teachers and students render creative method ineffectiveness—a study on primary school in Bangladesh”, also unveil that our students are failing to comprehend what they are taught in schools. Besides, the money-making tendency of the schools, the non-creative methods like rote learning (rote memorization) and the over-dependence on guidebooks are detrimental to the intellectual development of the students. Besides, some teachers do not have a clear idea of contents/materials. Classes are not interactive. Learning assessments are old-fashioned; exams require rote learning of some mundane facts or information. This is why students have become examiners, not life-long learners.
Rampant corruption and unbridled coaching businesses: Corruption in education sector is now a menace to ensuring quality education at all levels. Some of the school management committees resort to money-making motives. Some teachers do not teach properly in classrooms, and they force the students to come to their coaching centers. We, the parents, are also very interested in sending our children to those coaching centers. We think that achieving GPA 5 is the main motto of education. The obligation of sitting for the public exams—PEC and JSC—is the root cause of the mushrooming growth of coaching centers. We wonder why our students at tender age are being forced to sit for the PEC or JSC exam which is unnecessary. Our eminent educationists and intellectuals - national professor Dr Anisuzzaman, national professor Dr Jamilur Reza Chowdhury, DU emeritus professor Serajul Islam Choudhury, professor Abdullah Abu Saeed and professor Dr Zafar Iqbal – have already given their opinions in policy-making forums and asked the government to rethink and scrap both the exams (PEC and JSC).
Poor pay for the teachers: This is really unfortunate that the school teachers are ill-paid in an independent country. Even they do not get proper respect from the society. Their social stratum is not defined as well. As they do not get good salary, most of them are compelled to go for running coaching businesses. Since the independence, no government has taken any positive initiative to offer decent/lucrative remuneration (salary) to the school teachers who are thought to be the real nation-builders. And due to the poor pay, meritorious students do not come to this profession by choice. Teaching at school is, by far, unrewarding in terms of salary. This is also a major impediment to ensuring quality basic education for all.
Misprinted and unedited books: Over the years it has been detected that students are getting, to some extent, misprinted and unedited books (NCTB books). Last year Bangla books (from class 3 to class 8) were marked with some glaring mistakes in terms of spelling and information. Even some great poems, written by all-time famous writers, were replaced by the substandard ones in Bangla textbooks. Some English version textbooks are not well-translated.
In conclusion, I would like to put forward some recommendations which could help the policy makers or the government to work on upgrading education system at school level.
A. The government should take proper steps for approving the “Right to Education” law as per the commitment of the Education Policy 2010 headed by the former national professor Kabir Chowdhury.
B. The government should revamp the entire education system to ensure uniform quality education for all up to class-Eight as per the Education Policy 2010.
C. The government should make a strict guideline for the schools to follow the approved chart of tuition fees.
D. The government should make a comprehensive school mapping to ensure equal access to primary education for all.
E. The government needs to take effective measures to train the teachers for Bangla medium, English version and Madrasa.
F. The government should enact a tougher law to stop the school authorities from imposing any extra books (burden) on the students’ shoulders at primary level.
G. The government should make sure the creative education methods are properly implemented and practised at schools.
H. The government needs to strictly implement the law banning coaching businesses.
I. The government needs to revise the composition of school management committees which should necessarily comprise the educationists (from all unions, upazilas, districts, divisions or metropolitan cities) to head the governing bodies.
J. The government should immediately form an independent pay commission for the teachers at all levels.
K. The government should ensure quality primary and secondary education which must align with Education Act 1990 and National Education Policy 2010 respectively.
L. The government needs to take strong action against the corrupt individuals who are involved in question leakage in public exams.
M. The government should scrap PEC and JSC exams immediately, preferably from this year, and help rid the students of the perennial pain/burden.
Sheikh Nahid Neazy, chair and associate professor, Department of English, Stamford University Bangladesh.