MD. MASUM BILLAH
The Primary School teachers under different banners of their association have registered their protest of the government decision to allow Brac to supervise and monitor all the primary schools in twenty upazilas. Without learning the facts and findings and background this news definitely infuriates the teaching community belonging to this tier of education who enjoys the status of government employee except some community primary schools. They arranged a press conference to make the nation know the government decision which they apprehend as the initiation of privatizing primary education. They strongly protested this decision. The teachers of the country threatened to go for tougher movement against the government decision of handing over the responsibilities to Brac, a non-government organization to supervise all primary schools in twenty upazilas.
Bangladesh Primary Teachers’ Association, Bangladesh Private Primary Teachers Association, Bangladesh Graduate Primary Teachers Association and Bangladesh Community Primary Teachers Association jointly organized a press conference on May 27 at BPTA office and demanded withdrawal of government decision on monitoring of all the primary schools in twenty upazilas across the country. They declared a series of programmes which include submission of memorandum to adviser and secretary for primary and mass education , director general of the directorate of primary education and other concerned authorities. Besides, they will also wear black badges across the country on June 10-12 and will also submit memorandum to the chief adviser on June 12.“ The main objective of NGOs in the country is to start micro credit programme if they enter any school in the name of monitoring quality education, the workers will definitely launch their prefixed credit programme.” said BPFTA President Mohammad Shamsul Alam at the press conference. He also said the government must lift the decision within next ten days otherwise they would go for countrywide tougher movement to compel the government to cancel it as they did in 1981.
Wahiduzzaman Miah, president of BPTA, apprehended that country’s primary educational system supervised by such inexperienced institution like Brac as it could not continue its own schools in remote areas for ‘mismanagement’. This comment of the president of BPTA calls for serious scrutiny and the facts regarding Brac’s experience in running primary schools needs to be unfolded before the nation. Brac actually launched its experimental Education Programme in 1985 with 22 one-room primary schools. The Brac Education Programme is now a leader in providing non-formal primary education to underprivileged children out of the formal education system. Brac schools work to build the skills and confidence level of the children and motivate them to continue their education through the formal system. Brac Education Programme currently operates several types of primary schools such as Brac Primary schools, Brac Adolescent Primary Schools, Educational Support Programmes Schools and Urban Cluster Schools and Education for Indigenous Children Schools. Brac arranges monthly refreshers, year ending and subject –based training for its primary teachers. Brac also conducts subject based training in secondary schools teachers particularly English, Mathematics and Science teachers in Brac’s own training centres which are well equipped. Brac has also mentoring programme for the secondary level students who play pioneering role in enhancing the attendance of the students and other co- curricular activities of the school. Brac disseminates training to subject teachers to further develop the capacity of the teachers.
In recent years, Brac Education Programme’s services have expanded nationally to offer specialized educational access to children of ethnic minority groups. the inclusion of children with special need, the provision of continuing education and life skills training to adolescent in service teacher training for primary and secondary school teachers as well . BEP has also expanded internationally with the introduction of Brac schools in Afghanistan and the replication of Brac schools model in Haiti , Sudan and other African countries. To date 3, 492,065 children have graduated from Brac Primary school system and 93% of them made the transition into secondary schools in the formal system. At the end of 2006 BEP was operating 32000 primary and 20168 pre-primary schools all over Bangladesh that were providing education to over 1.5 million disadvantaged children of whom 65% were girls.
Education Development Unit of Brac Educaiton programme designs and disseminates curriculum-strategies, user-friendly materials and interactive instructional methods needed for attaining educational goals in Brac schools. Capacity Development Unit is responsible for training and professional development including skills development of all BEP teachers and support staff. It focuses on contributing to BEP’s efforts to provide quality education by significantly improving the delivery of education in its schools through the improvement of the equality of the teaching –learning process. It also conducts follow-up training. It collaborates with Quality Assurance Specialist to ensure the operational and pedagogical aspect of training and development of staff.
Khondaker M Asaduzzaman, director general of directorate of primary education responded to the leaders of primary school teachers association saying “The pilot programme of Brac will assist government’s second phase of Primary Education Development Programme (PEDP). Monitoring of the government programme on primary has not been given to Brac or any other NGO.” This is the point which was supposed to be crystal clear to the teaching community of this level otherwise this kind of decision must receive serious protest which is happening now causing a serious setback in primary education. Government should have consulted the teachers, community leaders, teacher leaders and the guardians. Whatever good intension lies behind this decision it seems to be one-sided and keeps ample scope for criticism. The aims, objectives, purpose and way of monitoring, the extent of monitoring needed to be explained to the stakeholders. Their apprehension to bracise or to introduce micro-credit through this initiative leaves grounds. A survey and an open discussion were essential to dispel the uncertainties and apprehension fomented in the minds of teachers, community leaders and guardians.
The success stories of Brac primary education have been followed and replicated in many developing countries of the world. Brac actually expands non-formal education for those who don’t have access to government and traditional way of primary education. According to the availability of schooling time education has been arranged for the disadvantaged. This fact may not be known to the government primary school teachers. Had they known it definitely they would not have shown such kind of apprehension regarding Brac.
Primary and Mass Education Adviser , Rasheda K. Choudhury said to the media men. “We need supports from all stakeholders including NGOs for improving the quality of education in primary level. With this end in view we gave an NGO the responsibility of monitoring all the primary schools in twenty Upazilas across the country. It is an experimental programme , not a permanent one.” She further said that Ministry and Directorate of Primary Education will monitor the pilot project and make a report after completion of mid-term and final supervision evaluating the performance of the NGO. The ministry will cancel the pilot project if the NGO fails to reach the target.” These statements came when the teachers have already burst into protest. We expected these arguments and plans must have been transparent and clear to the media men and all the stakeholders. Then the misunderstanding among the teaching community would have been dispelled. She requested the newsmen to spread this message among the teachers. But we think government should talk to the teachers directly otherwise the confusion and misunderstanding already developed among the teachers may not disappear so easily.
Education is a matter of spontaneity and pleasure particularly in the primary education where coercion or force hardly works. Teachers of this level must be involved to take any decision. Brac has many successful stories regarding education management which must be made open and clear to the teachers of primary level. Their future plan, involvement and contribution must have been discussed openly. Education is a gigantic field with manifold problems imparting low quality education comparing to other countries which is still unknown to our teaching community. It is not possible for the government alone to address the problems lying in this sector and ensure quality education for all. The involvement of non-government origination is the needs of the time. No small interest should be given priority rather greater and national interest must reign supreme here where concerned people’s consensus, cooperation, cordiality and good understanding is a must and government should play the role of guardian in this respect.
Author: Senior Manager, PACE, BRAC Education Programme, BRAC, Dhaka, Bangladesh.