Head teacher and political influence
The four head teachers shared their experience about the effect of political influence over their work in the school. At the focus group interview this issue was discussed widely. Karim was outspoken about political interference in his school. He described political interference as our ‘national disease’, but personally accepts that this is the current reality and as a head teacher he has to make the most of this situation. He said:
As long as we live in a country and we have political parties we have to face political pressure or political activities. We have to face these matters with our knowledge, wisdom, experience and tactics. A skilful head teacher has to face the difficulty and go ahead.
Karim also expressed his concern over political pressure and said with anxiety that this is our ‘fate’ as a developing nation. He thinks that a ‘weak head teacher’ bows his head easily to political influence. On the other hand a ‘brave’ head teacher runs into conflict if he questions the authorities. But a ‘tactful’ head teacher manages the situation tactfully and goes ahead with his target.
Rahim thinks that SMC is the place where political involvement takes place. He said:
It is important to keep the managing committee free from political involvement. Partisan people try to be the member of the committee in most cases. People from the ruling party are always interested to be the member of SMC. This is a bad practice. This should be stopped.
People who have political ambition try to be involved in the School Managing Committee to demonstrate their influence in society. Head teachers believe that the selection for members of the managing committee should be fair so that the best people are appointed and they can work smoothly as a team.
Parental involvement and the school
In the focus group discussion on parental involvement, it was clear that there is a gap between rural and urban schools regarding parental awareness. The head teachers agreed and explained that parental awareness and education is one of the reasons behind this difference. Rahim, a head teacher working in the urban area, said:
Parents of the urban areas are comparatively more aware than the rural areas. The students of the urban areas work in a congenial atmosphere. The SMC is consists of aware parents and leaders in the urban schools. Therefore we get good output from that.
He also added that in both the rural and urban areas there are some strong schools and some weak schools.
Hasan, who is a head teacher from a rural school, explained the advantage that being well educated gives urban parents. He said:
The parents of the urban schools are educated and they are enlightened. Undoubtedly their environment for education is enlightened. Their children are growing in a good atmosphere. So they are getting the opportunity to show their potential. I think this is the root cause of the difference.
The head teachers were asked how they could increase the level of awareness of the parents. Shahid said:
I think we can arrange meetings for the parents and teachers to encourage them in the care of their children. We can discuss with them about the ways by which their children can be benefited from their role as aware parents.
The focus group discussion data suggests that there is a significant difference between the schools of rural and urban areas, and that the education level of the urban parents is an important factor in explaining this difference. The head teachers admitted that they often do not get useful and timely responses from the parents in the rural areas. They explained that it would be helpful for head teachers to meet with the parents to discuss issues related to the academic achievement and development of their children so that the parents could better understand the benefit of being involved in their children’s education.
Recruitment of teachers
Recruitment of teachers was another important issue, which was spontaneously raised and discussed by the participants in the focus group interview. They raised this issue in relation to a number of questions and confessed that this is important to them as they struggle to lead the schools without sufficient well qualified teachers. Karim, who is a head teacher of a rural school, thinks that rural schools are not gaining the coveted academic results they would like for their students because of a lack of resources, including well qualified teachers. He is concerned about not having quality teachers in his school. He described the situation:
It has not been possible to keep the standard of education up in my school for lack of quality teachers. There are many teachers who are teaching in the school for fifteen or twenty years but they do not have enough skill to teach well.
He thinks that quality teachers are very important to increase the quality of education. He also expressed his happiness about the present government’s initiative to recruit quality teachers. He said:
The present government has introduced the ‘Teachers’ Registration Examination’ which is a very good initiative. It has built a way to get quality teachers. The graduates who want to be a school teacher he must pass this examination and get a registration certificate from the government which would be shown at the time of application for the job of a teacher.
All the head teachers spoke about the salary structure for the teachers. They think that the salary structure should be upgraded so that capable people are attracted to the teaching profession. Rahim said:
To upgrade the social dignity of teachers it is very important to increase the financial benefit of them. The present salary is not sufficient for school teachers to live their life. Teachers go for private teaching in their home or in the coaching centre to meet up the deficit of their income.
Karim expressed deep concerned about the recruitment of his deputy. The post of the assistant head teacher has been vacant for a long time. Internal conflict among teachers in the school was described as a barrier for recruiting a new assistant head teacher. He said:
For a long time there is no assistant head teacher in my school. We could not appoint new person in this position after the previous assistant head teacher joined another school. It was not possible to recruit for that position due to conflict among the members of the SMC and division among the teachers who want to be promoted to this position.
He also disclosed that a lack of staff is a great problem for his school, as the government staffing quotas do not meet the needs of his school. He mentioned:
I have only twelve teachers who are getting the monthly payment order (MPO). This number of teachers is not sufficient for a school of 1500 students. This is a big problem for us. I have already discussed the issue with the education officer, the minister and different offices. Besides the twelve regular teachers, we have seven contractual teachers who are being paid from the school fund. To ensure quality education government should increase the number of teachers according to the number of students.
The interviews showed recruitment of qualified teachers to be a very important issue for schools. Furthermore, clashes among SMC members and teachers can hamper the recruitment process. Schools with a large number of students are suffering from not having sufficient qualified teachers. As a result of this teacher shortage, the head teachers felt even more obliged to abide by the government rules and regulations, as the government pays the salaries of the teachers.
SHEIKH MOHAMMAD ALI: Assistant Professor in Education, Govt. Teachers’ Training College, Rangpur, Bangladesh