Education Policy

Playing Different Roles by Teacher Associations

In Bangladesh, political parties can hardly give anything positive to the Teacher Associations. Image source: Pakeman Primary School
In Bangladesh, political parties can hardly give anything positive to the Teacher Associations. Image source: Pakeman Primary School
Masum Billah
Written by Masum Billah

Under the umbrella of various teacher associations, teachers get together and press home their demands or extract some benefits from the authorities concerned. Teachers’ association means for the welfare of teachers and mostly it means monetary benefits. In developing countries like Bangladesh, such kind of role played by the teachers association is not unnatural. Of course, such kind of role has convinced the society and state to think that teachers association means a wing of a political party of teachers.

If the wing belongs to the party in power of the state, they are powerful and retain the ability to exert pressure and gain much more monetary gains. But this kind of enlightened people’s association particularly the people who shoulder the responsibility to prepare the future generation may contribute to the society and the education sector more pragmatically and differently without having any political colour and incurring criticism. This is applicable from primary teachers’ association to tertiary level.

Teacher association can arrange cleaning competition, gardening competition among the schools within their jurisdiction and purview. Most of the schools are having big playgrounds and land in this age of land scarcity but these fields remain unused several months of the year. Only in the months of January, February or March, the fields are used. The rest of the time of the year the field remains barren and unutilized. Many school campuses don’t have any flower garden. Flower gardens can enhance the natural beauty of the campus, attract the learners to institutions and supply mental food to the learners, teachers and all concerned. Teacher association without obtaining white, golden or pink colour titles, can pay serious attention to the matter of making school and colleges campuses attractive. The campuses must be turned into a heavenly place where learners and teachers will feel an exclusive kind of attraction to work, stay and love.

Associations can establish a cooperative society where poor students and teachers can work. They themselves can establish and raise funds to further contribute to the schools and community. Society expects something positive from the teachers. The financial constraint of the state proclaims its inability to give the requisite amount of fund for the welfare of the teachers and education though honest desire harbours in the mind of the people dealing with education management of the country. The government’s inability and teachers’ demand invite friction between the teaching community and the government. Hence, the political colour emerges when the haggling goes on. Actually, political parties can hardly give anything positive to the Teacher Associations. The associations must devise their own plans and programs to evince some innovative approaches to further go ahead highlighting the quality of education which stands as a chronic problem but remains almost unaddressed in the true sense of the term.  

Teachers have an acceptance and a separate value in society. They can utilize it as capital. Many ponds and haors remain unutilized in the country. These can be brought under fruitful use of these unutilized places scattered in rural Bangladesh. Now, many can ask the question of why teachers will bother about or hanker after these commercial projects. Yes, they should. Most of the time they try to extract financial gains from the government creating serious hindrance to academic affairs and they take tough measures sometimes like strike and not conducting examinations of the students.

Not only that, their political colour has exerted a negative impact on society and among the students casting a slur on the whole teaching community. In Australia, a Teacher’s Association has turned into a Limited Company. But in our country teacher associations hardly think of increasing their fund through commercial and creative activities of their own. They just press the government which actually does not afford to give them monetary benefits. If a teacher association becomes financially solvent, they can dedicate themselves to their professional work and society will look at them with encouragement and appreciation.

Teacher Associations can bring out a Bengali or an English weekly, Bi-Weekly or Monthly magazine or they can publish education journals regularly. If it is done, teachers’ development will happen automatically. Teachers and students hardly write anything creative. They will be encouraged to write something new and reflect the problems of education, solutions, innovative ideas and new techniques of teaching. Whenever, any seminar is arranged regarding education, the whole teaching community presses or blames the government. Yes, the government is the guardian and should take the blame but it does not have the real capacity to bear so many burdens. The teacher community through their association can give a positive contribution to the education of the country.

English and Bengali debate competition can be arranged by teacher associations to bring novelty to their service and developing their speaking ability in public. Though some leaders already have achieved public speaking quality, many teachers still have not mastered the art of talking and delivering a speech in public. Speaking with the correct accent, pronunciation and confidence is an integral part of a teaching career. Some teachers just pass their days without thinking to improve these aspects. The teacher association has many scopes to give input in this gap. Workshop on education management and subject-based workshop both locally and nationally can be successfully conducted by different teacher associations. Participating actively in tree plantation, family planning, killing mosquitoes’ campaigns will further bring positive impact and acceptability of the associations. Social and educational programs will enhance their face value. Standing beside the ailing communities during natural calamities and any other disaster will be highly appreciated.

The world sees some success stories of teacher associations. Ekntikrono is a deprived urban community in Kumasi, the second-largest city in Ghana. This sprawling community’s single primary school ‘Kentikrono Metropolitan  Authority Primary’  enrolled only 215 pupils in 1999. Mismanagement, poor quality teaching and poor relation between the school authority and community earned the title for the school the ‘ Lazy teachers’ school’ “In 1999 USAID became involved and executive members of the parent-teacher association were trained in education approaches designed to help improve student learning and increase community support for the school’s activities.

The teachers upgraded their skills in a lesson, note preparation, use of teaching and learning materials and effective classroom management and then began applying these improved practices.;  to bolster its role to support the school in providing quality basic education, the school committee learned how to prepare action plans and keep financial accounts. It also organized meetings with the entire community to discuss the need to visit the school regularly to participate in school activities and to provide the basic school materials and for their children.  Now the school is doing far better and many parents have even withdrawn their children from nearby schools and enrolled them in Kentikrono increasing its enrolment from 215 to 495 in 2004. In harder subjects students are showing envious results drawing the attention of all many schools.

Parent-teacher relations have also improved remarkably. They visit the school regularly to discuss their children’s performance and attendance. More than 100 teachers from other local schools have visited Kenitrono to learn its methods of lesson planning, school and class management and community relations.  This change has become possible by the association of teachers and parents. Without doing any tricky politics, they utilized their talents for the real welfare of the school which is giving benefit to the stockholders of the school.  

Good news can be mentioned here in relation to this development that in our country CAMPE (Campaign for Popular Education, Bangladesh), is trying to disseminate some quality education through the involvement of different teacher association of Bangladesh. Teacher leaders sometimes are sent abroad by CAMPE to see for themselves how the associations of their countries contribute to the cause of education. They are trying to develop leadership quality among the teachers. In this respect, I won’t add one point that is subject-based teachers associations can be developed to ensure quality and establish a healthy completion through the participation of various subject-based teachers who will have divisional and national levels conventions as BELTA (Bangladesh English Language Teachers Association ) is doing. The subject-based teachers association should be further strengthened to boost up the quality of teachers and it is the prime need of our education sector.

Many schools and colleges of our country don’t have any healthy and hygienic canteen to have tiffin and breakfast and any kind of refreshment. It’s a chronic problem in many schools and colleges. Students need to take tiffin or refreshment after continuous classes in the leisure period.   But they don’t have any well-arranged system of having it.  As a result, they take food from the outside of the shop and get sick. The food they take is not hygienic at all. School authorities cannot afford to look after this thing as per requirement.  Some schools or colleges may have contracted caterers who don’t have a hygienic sense as well. Keeping something clean and keeping it germ and disease-free mean quite a different thing. Teachers association has serious scope to do many things here. They can locally establish a developed group of caterers who will ensure good and hygienic food in each school and college where teachers and some students can be given part-time job. The benefit and interest will be used for the welfare of teachers and even sometimes for the poor students.

Now the question arises who will sensitize the Teacher Association of our country to play a different role as they have developed a traditional role model. It is not an easy task to divert them from their long time stance. Any kind of change whatever welfare-oriented it may be incurs frowning and criticism. So, difficulties lay scattered at every step. Even, then change is a must. The present education authority of the country seems to be active enough to bring some positive change. With these efforts, the good expertise of some NGOs can be shared and joined to have better fruit.

About the author

Masum Billah

Masum Billah

Masum Billah works as an Education Expert in the BRAC Education Program, BRAC, and President of the English Teachers' Association of Bangladesh (ETAB), Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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