Kindergartens occupy a significant position in the field of our pre-primary and primary education but in terms of physical facilities these school offer a poor show for some practical reasons. It is true that kindergartens have mushroomed here, there and everywhere. You can find kindergartens even in the union level let alone in the lanes of big cities. But we must not forget that time and gap developed in pre-primary and primary levels have made avenues to mushroom kindergartens from remotest villages to the mega city of Dhaka. We know that Froebel set up a school at Blankenburgh, Germany in 1837 and called for German women to come together and support the school. He described children as plants and teachers as gardeners, thus the term kindergarten emerged, kinder meaning child and garden meaning garden (Headley, 1965). The teachers were called to educate the children from the earliest years through their own experiences to become integrated and whole people (Froebel, 1967).
One newspaper of Bangladesh has recently caught my attention which focused some light on the situation of kindergartens in our country. It says, ‘about one lakh kindergartens are flouting government rules on mandatory registration and running without adequate classroom facilities depriving students of proper education.’ It further says, only 302 out of an estimated 1,00,000 such schools were registered with Directorate of Primary Education till April 2015 , in four years after the Non-government Primary both Bangla and English medium School Registration Rules, 2011 was enacted in August 2011.’ By adding another line the same newspaper has probably given the answer this problem. The added line goes such ‘the government’s failure to enforce the new registration rules and lax monitoring paved the way for kindergartens to mushroom.’
There lies a series of complaints against kindergartens established in our country. Kindergartens recruit incompetent people as teachers, housewives and unemployed people work here as teachers. But do we find competent teachers in our government run pre-primary and primary schools? What I have seen, many kindergarten teachers are Masters or college or university going students. I am sure the government primary teachers don’t teach better than these people. What we can do, we can arrange better training for these teachers so that they can give satisfactory delivery in the class. We must accept the reality of our society. Do we have enough and quality pre-primary or primary schools in the city of Dhaka or other cities? If you find a primary in the city of Dhaka, just look at it whether your mind will allow you to send your kids there. This situation has created kindergartens. Had there been reasonable number of pre-primary and primary schools run by the government , we would not find the existence of so many kindergartens established in the absolutely private sector.
When there is no government control on kindergartens fixing tuition, admission and readmission fees at will and raising the amount every year are inevitable. Government control means to us just making avenues for further corruption without ensuring any quality. If clean and transparent system runs, all the institutions, big or small would register with the government system. Due to complicated process and hush money dealing people usually don’t go to embrace this problem willingly. Kindergartens don’t follow lessons from books which are not approved by National Curriculum and Textbook Board. It’s true. But the books used in the kindergartens are not low quality. Most of the books are written either by Indian writers or English speaking writers. Our NCTB books still cannot attract the students in any way. Leaders of kindergarten associations admitted that almost all kindergartens skipped registration and attributed the reason to ‘some tough conditions of the rules’. But government officials said that many such schools did not register with DPE fearing that the government might impose its full control over them causing their business to suffer. A DPE director pointed out that there was a provision in the rule that divisional deputy directors of the DPE themselves would visit the kindergartens to inspect whether the school qualified for registration or not. The director also said that it was virtually impossible for seven divisional deputy directors to visit all kindergartens in the areas under their respective jurisdiction before giving registration.
The Directorate of Primary Education says that they have taken initiatives for amending the rule regarding visit by deputy directors to ease the registration process. ‘Once kindergartens are registered, we will be able to monitor their activities, prior to the framing of the rules, anyone could establish a kindergarten simply by taking a trade license from the authorities concerned and operate without supervision by any government bodies. The 2011 rules stated that kindergartens would first be given a provisional registration and only obtain a permanent registration after the government monitored their performance, with the registration having to be renewed every five years. It also says that every school must have a managing committee, including guardians’ and teachers’ representatives, with the headmaster acting as its member secretary. The rule further says that such an institute must be located on 0.08 acre of land with at least 3,000 square feet of inside space housing six classrooms and will have a library in cities. This is another impractical rule. Already our existing school prove less than increasing number of children and the quality schools prove further low. In this situation kindergartens supply the needs of education of the increasing number of children. If we look at the city of Dhaka, several famous educational institutions have existed for quite a long time. No such attempt has been taken to establish in response to increasing number of population. The same picture goes with other cities as well.
The government rule says that for the recruitment of teachers, advertisements must be floated in the national dailies. It sounds good but what is the reality? When advertisements will be published in the national newspapers, the local leaders of the powerful party would decide who would be teachers. Then another new business will start. The DPE and the ministry have no statistics of how many kindergartens are running in the country. Bangladesh Kindergarten Association put the number at around 63,000 as per a survey of 2009.
Kindergarten Owners Association general secretary says the number has reached at least 1, 00,000 by now as the schools spread to union level. Bangladesh Kindergarten Association organizing secretary gives another figure which is not be less than 75,000. This certainly proves the serous lacking lying in our pre- primary and primary education sectors.
‘Some kindergartens unnecessarily suggest a number of books without considering the age of children,’ this issue need to be monitored rigorously by the authorities concerned. If authorities are not concerned about it, the guardians must take this matter into account for the sake of their own children. They must not be overburdened. The prevailing chaos in kindergarten education has clearly been the result of regulatory, monitoring and enforcement failures by the authorities concerned. The government needs to revamp its Directorate of Primary Education with adequate manpower and enhancing its service quality so that it can intensify its monitoring and go after the non-compliant institutions to make them abide by the rules. The purpose of the kindergartens is to teach children a rich, meaningful and balanced curriculum of skills and information through age-appropriate activities that encourage children to want to learn more (Manzollo, 1987.p.1). It is important to note that children who may be academically ready to start school may not have the social skills needed to be successful there. Froebel began the first kindergarten to allow children to socialize while at the same time learn concepts needed for school. We must also follow this guideline.
MASUM BILLAH: Program Manager, BRAC Education Program, BRAC, Dhaka, Bangladesh.