Reality of government primary school teachers in Bangladesh
Teachers play an important role in education process. Competent and effective teachers are an essential requirement to achieve success in education sector. Unfortunately in Bangladesh, the primary education is struggling with ineffective teaching. But before analysing the teaching quality of teachers, we should understand the teachers in Bangladesh. What is their qualification? What is their social and financial status?
The government’s policy (MoE, 2010) prefers women as teachers for primary schools in Bangladesh. So a woman can be a teacher with less educational qualification than men according to the teacher recruitment policy. As historically the status of women’s education was lagging behind than the men’s, so the government took this policy as an affirmative gender policy for women. It is also considered as a aim of the policy to empower the women socially and financially. Also for being a primary school teacher, no one in Bangladesh needs a teaching degree such as B Ed (Bachelor of Education) or C in Ed (Certificate of Education).
As a result of these policies relating to teacher recruitment, a lot of teachers have been recruited as primary school teachers who have lower educational qualification than expected level and who don’t have any teaching degree. Education Watch (2008) reported that 55 % urban government primary school teacher are female where as this rate is even higher in rural primary school with 78.3% female teachers. 46% of the total government primary teachers have only 12 years of schooling experience as their educational qualification. The educational qualification of teachers is even more vulnerable in rural government primary schools where 51.7% of the teachers have only higher secondary degree (12 years of schooling). Among the female government primary school teachers, only 47.7% teachers have a tertiary level of education.
So from the above data, it can easily be understood that government primary schools are not getting sufficiently qualified teachers. The recruitment policy itself is one of the major reasons for that. There are also some other reasons if we think critically. The salary for the government primary school teachers is only 6000 tk (approximately 50GBP) per month. The primary school teachers are considered as Class III government staff where Class I is highest and Class IV is lowest (Bangladesh Education Sector Review, 2006). Though teaching is considered as noble job, this lower status of official pay scale and in job class structures influenced the status of primary school teacher both socially and psychologically. So teaching in a government primary school is no more a desirable job in Bangladesh.
Controversial relationship between teacher’s philosophy and ‘teachers’ in real work place
It is highly expected that the teachers must possess certain virtues and qualities and education is one of the ways to achieve this virtues (from Plato’s view). So when any education system recruits teachers with less educational qualification than required or expected, teachers might struggle with philosophical aspirations for teaching. Teaching in a government primary school is hardly a preferable job for most of the qualified university graduates now in Bangladesh. So for most of those who have taken teaching as their profession, teaching might not be their first preference as profession. And it becomes really difficult to ‘love’ (Freire, 1995) or create ‘personal vision building’ (Fullan, 1993) for a teacher to teaching who had no passion for it. ‘Acculturation’ (Lamm, 1972 & 2000) of a teacher is an essential requirement, if the system cannot recruit qualified (having both educational and cultural elements for being a teacher), it will be really difficult to transmit proper knowledge to the next generation. The current government policies (as described earlier) actually have not only clearly failed to attract qualified fresh graduates to take ‘teaching’ in primary schools as a profession but also have failed to boost up the aspirations for this noble job among current teaching staffs.
Teachers, especially in early grades, need to apply or approach with interactive teaching methods. ‘Interpersonal relationship’ is very important catalyst in the process of education effective teaching. It is very essential for teacher’s ‘socialization’ (Lamm, 1972 & 2000) with students and also important to achieve the qualities that Freire (1995) suggested in his idea of ‘progressive teacher’. But it becomes really difficult for teachers to build up interpersonal relationship with all the children when the ratio between teacher and student is very high with enormous teaching load. At present, the teacher student ratio in government primary school is 1:49 (Education Watch, 2008) which is one of major barriers to achieve effective and interactive classroom teaching learning. Most of teachers in government primary schools have to take a class with very limited resources. Moreover every teacher has to take daily 5-6 classes every day. So this huge daily load of teaching with limited resources, very high teacher student ratio really make it impossible for teachers to take care for interpersonal relationship with students efficiently.
Plato’s ‘teacher’ is an artist who can use the knowledge. Lamm (1972, 2000) claimed ‘disciplinary expertise’ as an important quality for teachers. Fullan (1993) & Senge (1990) picked ‘mastery’ as one of the requirement for teachers to develop themselves professionally. All these claims actually are emphasising on teacher’s pedagogical expertise. In Bangladesh, 46% teachers in government primary schools do not have tertiary level of education. Education Watch (2008) reported 12.1% teachers neither received any pedagogical training nor subject based training. 29.4% teachers who have received pedagogical training but have not received any subject based training. So it is really an over ambition to expect effective teaching from the teachers who not only work in difficult classroom situation but who also came in teaching with lower educational qualification and have not been received much training. It has been a debate about this issue whether government primary education system needs more teachers (with existing salary scale and required qualification) or fewer teachers with more qualification (with new salary structure). But the debate itself is very controversial. Primary education is the base of any education system. For a developing country like Bangladesh, many students left formal education after completing their primary education. So the government cannot make any priority list compromising one with another when it comes with primary education. The priority should be the better quality of primary education and government should recruit more teachers (which will reduce the teacher student ratio) with higher qualification.
Teacher training is the only mechanism for teachers to develop themselves. Education Watch (2008) reported that 55.3% government primary schools do not have electricity let alone computers. Only 5.3% schools have their own library. So even the teachers might have ‘enquiry’ (Fullan, 1993) about different pedagogical or technical issues, they have very limited opportunity for their professional development. Effective supervision can also contribute in teachers’ development and in effective teaching. There are two types of supervision systems for government primary school teachers. Most important and immediate supervisor who can help the teachers very closely is the Head Teacher (HT) of the school. Also the Assistant Upozila Education Officer (AUEO) is also responsible for supervising the schools within his territory. Bangladesh Education Sector Review (2006) reported that both the supervision system is not very effective as well as most of the head teachers being very inefficient in supervising their colleague teachers. The picture is even more unexpected with the supervision from AUEO’s. There are many primary schools in Bangladesh located in obscure and remote villages. But AUEO’s usually do not visit those schools. So a good number of teachers remain not supervised properly. As a result of these combined factors (low access to information, poor supervision etc.), teachers are failing to keep pace with modern concept of teaching and continuous changes in education system.
As the teachers of the government primary schools are government staffs, they have to do some extra duty when government wants them to do. Primary school teachers often have to participate in collecting data for the national census on different issues, preparing and updating national voter list before election, take part as invigilators in the tests for government recruitment examination. These extra official loads from the government actually work for the teachers as a barrier to be more efficient in teaching in one side and make them less motivated on the other side as they have to do this extra duty without any incentives. As a result the teachers start losing their interest and passion for this ‘noble’ job of teaching
The quality of ‘teaching’ is not an inherited quality. Teaching is an ‘art’ that teachers learn through their experience of teaching though it is not very easy to possess this special art. Teaches need to love their job to master this art. Opportunities for continuous professional development are also an essential requirement for the teachers to be more effective. ‘Ideal teacher’ is a philosophic idea that can be expected only in ‘ideal’ context. So it is really very difficult to be an ‘ideal’ teacher unless the context is supportive for a teacher where the teacher teaches.
In summary, it can be said that Bangladesh government or the policy makers should reform the existing policies particularly the policies about primary school teacher recruitment strategies, salary structure, opportunities for professional developments. If the policy makers would fail to address these reformations, it would be really difficult to achieve effective teaching in classrooms. (End)
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Writer: Post-graduate student, University of Manchester, United Kingdom.