Primary education must be very much attractive and interesting with giving the very basic facts of the subjects children can digest as the impression of receiving education at this level continue till the closing days of a human being. We boast of giving free and compulsory primary education to our future generation along with the free distribution of textbooks. However, the existing quality of primary education baffles us. To deal with the very young minds and could their character and behavior according to desired shapes is really an ingenious task which only highly educated, perfectly trained and dedicated individuals can ensure.
However, our primary education sector shows that only 58 percent primary school teachers are trained and we cannot be sure how much perfect, real and useful training they receive. No follow-up or monitoring and even observation take place to ascertain these phenomena. The rest 42 percent are absolutely non-trained teachers and God knows what and how they teach our future leaders of the country. This figure is further worse in the primary schools which were nationalized in 2013. Till 2012 the number of government primary schools was 37 thousand. In 2013, registered primary, community and other categories of primary schools were nationalized and this number was 26 thousand totaling 63 thousand government primary schools. No uniform or standard rule was followed to employ the teachers of these primary schools which have further deteriorated the quality of primary education. The school management committees employed the teachers in exchange of money, most teachers’ educational qualification is SSC, and that of the head teacher is HSC. Therefore, they find it difficult to cope with the mainstream government primary schools though it is already poor. One lakh and four thousand newly nationalized teachers also did not receive importance from the government in developing their quality. Moreover, a big chunk of children gets their primary education in 30 thousand kindergartens. The teachers of the kindergartens do not; have any training at all. Their salary is also extremely poor which ranges from taka 500 to two thousand. The students, unemployed youths, and housewives mainly constitute the teaching staff of kindergartens. Almost hundred percent students are going to school because of free primary education, stipend, and books free of cost. The dropout rate has also come down to 21 percent. These are positive signs in the primary education sector but imparting quality education is not possible mainly because of the lack of quality teachers. Research for Advancement of Complete Education says 13 percent teachers don’t understand creative questions, 42 percent understand it partially and 47 percent teachers use guidebooks of the market of primary teachers.
2015 Education Watch report says that in 1998 degree passed primary teacher’s percentage was 48.3 percent, it became 57.2 percent in 2014. But in newly nationalized schools graduate teachers’ percent is only 26.1. In non-formal schools, it is 8 percent only. Just two years ago, the qualification for primary school teachers’ was SSC for girls and HSC for boys. Now it is HSC for girls and graduation for boys. In many states in India, highly qualified students come to primary school teaching and their salary is more than 35 thousand taka. We can take a lesson from it. The latest information of primary Education Directorate says there are 24 types of primary education in Bangladesh and a total number of schools is one lakh six thousand 859 and the number of teachers is about five lakh ( 4 lakh 75 thousand). About one crore 95 lakh 84 thousand children study in NGO-run and non-government primary schools and kindergartens. In 63-thousand-government primary school about three lakh 25 thousand teachers, among them 64 percent teachers are women.
During the period between 1991and 1995 SSC and equivalent level, students need not pass separately in the easy type question and multiple-choice questions. Students then studied the fixed 500 MCQ type questions from the so-called question bank and they got 50 questions from the bank. Any student could easily pass the SSC examination attempting the only MCQ questions. 50 thousand people have found their place in the primary school as teachers who passed the SSC through this touch and pass system. Neither these teachers receive any special importance from the authorities to further develop their quality. The decision to upgrade primary education up to class eight further raises the question. Will it be possible to maintain quality in the primary education in the midst of so many hurdles and odds already developed in this field?
Asia-Pacific Regional Bureau for Education of UNESCO expresses concern over the quality of primary education in Bangladesh. Its main reason is quality teachers in this level. Bangladesh lags behind of all the countries of South Asia in terms of primary teachers training. In Nepal the percentage of trained teachers is 90 percent, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka 82 percent, Maldives 78 percent and in Myanmar, it is surprisingly hundred percent. In Bangladesh 12 to 13 percent primary teachers remain absent in schools. Some newspaper reports and our observation say that qualified, highly educated, and creative students do not come to primary school teaching. The social status of primary school teachers is not up to the mark in the society. The teachers enjoy third class employment status in Bangladesh. In the eighth national pay scale, they have started receiving monthly salary sixteen thousand taka and this amount was half in the seventh national pay scale. Still, we cannot expect that the quality and highly educated people will come to this profession. The job condition and the situation of primary schools are not at all attractive though the primary schools must see heavenly decoration to draw the attention of the students. This level calls for the best teachers as many of the primary school students may not go to the secondary level and many will never study in college or university level. So, the education they receive in the primary schools should be very much interesting, basic, and qualitative and whose positive impression will continue throughout the life of a student. Therefore, the teachers of this level must be highly educated, creative, and trained. Their career path to be kept open. That means, if a bright student starts his career as a primary school teacher, the ladder should be spread before him so that he can be a teacher of secondary level, college level and up to Director General. He can be a university teacher as well. In the greater interest of the nation, it is high time to look at the primary education to really upgrade its present status.
MASUM BILLAH: The writer works as an education specialist in BRAC Education Program.