If the record-breaking result in this year’s Secondary School Certificate (SSC) Examinations is the illuminating flame, then the wretched condition in the country’s primary education sector could easily qualify as the darkness under the flame.
The adverse teacher to student ratio in the primary schools around the country means that the school teachers are overburdened with class duties and hence fail to come up with innovative teaching ideas.
Most teachers in the government primary schools around the country have to take six to seven classes every day.
“I can concentrate only on the first two or three classes and then I just lose my interest and simply don’t know what I teach,” Faizur Rahman, a government primary school teacher in the capital’s Dhanmondi area, told the Dhaka Tribune.
Apart from the classes that they need to take, the government often assigns them additional tasks like collecting information for updating the voter lists, conducting surveys on the children and other tasks.
Rajshahi University graduate Fauzia Akhter, a government primary school teacher in the capital’s Mirpur area, said she was looking for a better job because the pressure was unduly high.
“You can’t imagine how hard it is to work as a primary teacher. I am looking for a good job and hopefully will get it soon. No one who has other opportunities will want to continue in the teaching profession in the government primary schools,” Fauzia said.
Officials in the Directorate of Primary Education (DPE) said the number of teachers was not adequate compared to the number of government primary schools.
According to DPE, there is a total of 37,672 government primary schools in the country. As compared to a student count of 10,687,349, the number of teachers is only 201,900 – one teacher for every 53 students.
The government-set standard for an ideal teacher-student ratio is 46:1.
The fact that many schools around the country run on two shifts to accommodate all the students, makes it even tougher for the teachers.
DPE figures also show that a total of 6,300 primary schools around the country do not have any headmaster right now.
According to DPE’s Annual Sector Performance Report 2011, only 45% government primary schools around the country met the standard teacher-student ratio.
In the Nobaberbagh Government Primary School in the capital’s Mirpur area, eight teachers are responsible for 800 students – an overwhelming student-teacher ratio of 100:1.
Head teacher of the school Tofail Ahmed said they were facing severe problems in conducting classes due to an acute shortage of teachers.
Manzoor Ahmed, senior advisor of Brac University Institute of Education Development, said Bangladesh needed to increase the number of primary school teachers by at least 50% as also increase the teaching hours per calendar year to meet the minimum international standards for quality education.
“The minimum standard is one teacher per 30 students. The annual learning time also needs to be raised to the internationally recommended 1,000 hours per calendar year,” he said.
He added that extra-curricular work burden of the teachers also needed to be curtailed. “Primary school teachers are often pressed into all kinds of government activities because they are often the only educated people available in many rural areas.”
Professor Nazmul Haque, from the Institute of Education and Research (IER) of Dhaka University, observed: “Teaching children is hard work. If teachers do not get enough rest between classes, they cannot do quality teaching. Students therefore are the biggest sufferers.”
DPE Director General Shyamal Kanti Ghosh said reaching the ideal teacher-student ratio in Bangladesh was very difficult.
“There used to be one or two teachers in government primary schools around the country. But things have changed now. The process of recruiting more teachers is underway. We hope the situation will be improved after the recruitment,” he said.