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Observance of National Primary Education Week 2014 and Some Relevant Issues

National Primary Education Week
National Primary Education Week
Written by Editor

National Primary Education Week 2014 was observed in the country which started from March 09 and it was inaugurated by Prime Minister at Osmani Memorial Auditorium. She made several important announcements in her inaugural speech. One was the upgrading of the status of government primary head teachers from grade III to grade II which calls for appreciation from all concerned.

Another announcement also proves extremely positive and government’s sincere effort to spread education. It is government’s target to extend ‘free primary education up to class eight and making it mandatory for all children.’ We do appreciate this effort of the government also. Her government is putting highest priority on ensuring quality education and does all necessary for things for the students. 

Continuing the stipend program for female education is another pledge of the government and it has approved a project for implementing the non-formal education program for elderly people to achieve the target of cent percent literacy. Our country usually experiences the on-going effort of the one government is discarded by the following one. But the prime minister has retained the ‘stipend’ program for the interest of education only.


We know that bright students are usually not coming to teaching profession in general and in primary teaching in particular. Can we make an arrangement which will ensure a brighter career path for the talented students even though they join in primary schools as teachers?


Primary education is the foundation and main ladder of education which needs to be given serious importance. I want to add another point for the kind perusal of the Prime Minister. We know that bright students are usually not coming to teaching profession in general and in primary teaching in particular. Can we make an arrangement which will ensure a brighter career path for the talented students even though they join in primary schools as teachers?

If they join as normal teacher in a primary school, they will have the scope to go to secondary, higher secondary and college level teaching. As primary is the basic level of education, the foundation must be built on a strong footing and in order to do that quality teaching is a must for them. Students who pass the primary school completion test are supposed to acquire 50 competencies but unfortunately our students are gaining only 19 competencies which are grave concerns.

A recent World Bank report reveals that most children who have studied up to class five are unable to read or write. Only 25 percent of the total students enrolled acquired desired skill in Bangla and 33 percent in Arithmetic. English remains almost an unknown subject to them whereas this is the stage when they can be given good idea of English without putting any mental pressure on them.

In 1973 Bangladesh took the country towards its first step of advancement in educating sector through nationalization 36,165 primary schools and services of 1,57,724 teachers. The government formulated a production oriented, science-based and time-befitting education policy and had nationalized over 26000 primary schools including services of about 1.04 lakh teachers.

To infuse dynamism in the primary education, the government reduced the ratio of student and teachers in the classroom. Again, a total of 79 lakh primary students, 4 lakh secondary level students and 1.33 lakh students from higher secondary to degree level are getting government stipends. Education Assistance Trust Fund of Prime Minister has been constituted with Tk 1000 crore seed money to help the poor and merit ours students to continue their studies. We cannot but appreciate these timely steps of the government.

The Prime Minister  mentioned that scope for online reading of books has been created through covering all books from primary to secondary levels into e-books  while multimedia classrooms and ICT labs were established and teachers being imparted training in this regard.

Inter-primary sports and cultural competitions are also being arranged from 2011 and initiatives were taken from 2010 to establish student council in every school for flourishing the leadership of children. She distributed medals among the officials, teachers, schools and public representatives for their outstanding contribution to the promotion of primary education at national, divisional district and upazila level for 2012 and 2013 years.

President Abdul Hamid also stressed the need for building a skilled and knowledge workforce for implementing their ‘Vision-2021’ as declared by the government aimed at turning Bangladesh into a tech-savvy country. The president sought support from all to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and vision-2021.


The Prime Minister  mentioned that scope for online reading of books has been created through covering all books from primary to secondary levels into e-books  while multimedia classrooms and ICT labs were established and teachers being imparted training in this regard.


On the basis of the Prime Minister’s declaration a gazette notification was issued by the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education saying that the status of headmasters- both trained and non-trained ones- of government primary schools has been upgraded to Grade II from Grade III.

The salary of the trained and untrained headmaster has been raised to Tk 6400-Tk 1455 meaning in the 11th grade and Tk 5900-Tk 13,125 that is in the 12th grade respectively with effect from March 09, 2014. The pay scale of trained and untrained assistant teaches has been hiked to Tk 5200- Tk 11,235 meaning in the 14th grade and Tk 4900 –Tk 10, 450 showing in the 15th grade respectively with effect from 9 March, 2014.

To bring about professional development and motion in primary education both internal and external motivation is necessary for the teachers. Intrinsic motivation of the teachers can be developed through proper training and upgrading their position in terms of salary and status is extrinsic motivation. It is very essential. The government has taken a very judicious step in evaluating the primary education of the country which is undoubtedly the basis of other educational layers.

With upgrading the status of teachers, the infrastructure of primary schools is also very important to retain the motivation and interest of the learners. Schools must be made an attractive place for them. But unfortunately a recent report of the Directorate of Primary Education shows that about 40 percent of the classrooms in government primary schools are ‘unusable’ while 18 percent of them are reported to be ‘bad.

It said 21 percent to the schools reported that they don’t have supply water while 15 percent schools reported that they don’t have at least one functioning toilet. There are 37,672 government primary schools in the country and the government has recently nationalized 26000 non-government primary schools. The Annual Sector Performance Report 2013 also reveals that the number of unusable and bad classrooms has increased compared to the previous years. According to ASPR 2012, 3 percent classrooms were unusable while 15 percent classrooms were bad.

The government had spent billons of taka  to implement second primary education development program from 2003 to 2011 and a large amount of money had been spent on infrastructure  development but many primary schools still remain  in a bad state. According of Directorate of Primary Education, a total of 40440 classrooms were constructed from 2003 to March 2011. Teachers often allege that the newly constructed school buildings become useless for use because of low quality construction materials. 


Resource constraints and declining quality are the significant problems in the primary education sector. Very constructive decision must come from the government to pragmatically deal with these important issues of primary education to lay it on a strong foundation. 


Campaign for Popular Education Executive Director Rashada K Chowdhury says that it is difficult to coordinate infrastructure development of schools in rural areas from Dhaka. She is in favor of   decentralized system to ensure sound infrastructure.  In some cases she said contractors eat up a good portion of money allocated for infrastructural development. Shymal Kanti Ghosh, Director General of the Directorate of Primary Education, says that a good number of non-government schools had been nationalized recently. ‘Construction of new buildings is going on. Infrastructural condition of school buildings will improve in the coming days.’

Resource constraints and declining quality are the significant problems in the primary education sector. Very constructive decision must come from the government to pragmatically deal with these important issues of primary education to lay it on a strong foundation. 

Masum Billah: Program Manager, BRAC Education Program and Vice-President, Bangladesh English Language Teachers Association (BELTA), Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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