Secondary education demands more attention

Dhaka,  Fri,  23 June 2017
Published : 13 Jun 2017, 19:29:35
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Secondary education demands more attention

The time-consuming process of recruitment is largely responsible for the highly disproportionate ratio of teachers and students in the secondary schools. While speeding up the process  is necessary, relevant authorities should also part with the practice of one-time large intake in years, writes Wasi Ahmed
Teacher-student ratio, one of the key indicators of the quality of education, is worsening further with time. This is particularly so in the country's secondary education -- the most important phase in student life.

The gap in the ratio is widening as teacher's recruitment fails to keep up with increasing enrolment in schools. The reasons are manifold. One of the main reasons, however, relates to the casual move in filling the posts that regularly fall vacant due to retirement/death of teachers. Steps towards recruitment are not immediately initiated once few posts fall vacant. The authorities wait for more to fall into the basket -- as many as they can imagine -- so that large-scale recruitment in say, five or six years, spares them of costs and a lot of administrative jobs. However, more alarming is perhaps the fact that the government has almost given up on secondary schools as these are overwhelmingly privately-run.   

Most observers hold that the government's lack of interest in establishing secondary schools in the public sector left the education system at the mercy of private schools. One does find definite logic in this allegation when it transpires that since independence, only a dozen secondary schools were established by the successive governments, and a total of 60 schools nationalised. Presently, the number of government secondary schools in the country is only 339 which accounts for an appalling 3.0 per cent of total secondary schools. In other words, 97 per cent of the secondary schools are privately-run, and the best among those situated mostly in urban locations are expensive. 

In this situation, it is quite likely that secondary education is set to offer many disquieting features that hinge on downsliding the quality of education. One of these, as already mentioned, is the worsening ratio of teachers and students. According to international standard, the ratio at secondary education level is 1:30. In Bangladesh's state-run secondary schools, the situation is really pathetic with one teacher for 103 students. However, on an average, according to the recently released draft of Bangladesh Education Statistics-2016, the ratio was 1:41 in 2015 and 1:42 in 2016. However, it still remains to be seen whether this figure is credible and holds good in respect of schools in many far-flung and low-lying areas.

So what went wrong? Mentioning many wrongs doesn't help. The main lapse on the part of the government is its lack of any concrete approach in defining what it aims to achieve by secondary education. If it's just an increase in enrolment, then the present situation may not be arbitrary. But when it comes to helping the young pupils in classrooms in a meaningful way, there's no choice but to instil at least a semblance of congenial environment in classrooms. To start with, that can be achieved by placing more and more teachers so that pupils get more attention than now.

Lack of attention in over-crowded classrooms forces students to go for coaching centres in all nooks and cranny of the country. Even in remote rural locations, the only choice left to the parents -- mostly poor -- is to allow their children to be privately coached at charges they can barely afford. So, one of the evils that the poor learning environment in schools has let loose is the mushroom growth of private coaching centres, which though commercially run are neither licensed nor are these required to prove their competence to any certifying agency. In a situation where classrooms are not in a position to tackle the needs of students, thriving of private coaching can hardly be challenged, let alone stopped. So, this eventually is an opportunity for those who run private coaching to demonstrate that classroom is not the right place to learn or prepare to pass exams. This is more so because of the recent changes in the curricula requiring added attention which can't be expected from the very limited number of teachers. 

As mentioned, the time consuming process of recruitment is largely responsible for the highly disproportionate ratio of teachers and students in the secondary schools. While speeding up the process is necessary, the relevant authorities should also part with the practice of one-time large intake in years. There has to be a mechanism whereby recruitment can be made as and when some posts fall vacant. Monitoring the situation is thus a matter of prime importance. And to ensure that those recruited are competent enough to meet the requirements of the changed curricula, there has to be adequate training for them. Equally important is to bring the serving teachers under the fold of training on a regular basis. Last but not least, there is the critical need to raise budget allocation, particularly for secondary education. 

wasiahmed.bd@gmail.com

 
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