An exhausted teacher with his placard next to him takes a nap during their demonstration demanding nationalization of their jobs in front of the Jatiya Press Club yesterday. Photo: Firoz Ahmed
The recent nationalisation of 26,193 non-government primary schools has elevated the socioeconomic status of around one lakh teachers, but improving the teaching quality at those institutions now poses a serious challenge to the government.
There hangs a question mark over the academic and professional competence of a large number of the teachers at the schools nationalised this month.
As many of them were not recruited as per government rules, there is a qualitative difference between them and the teachers of public schools.
Educationists, however, appreciate the nationalisation, saying the government has fulfilled its commitment to improving primary education. They say this will end the long-standing discrimination in salary, perks and other benefits of government and non-government schoolteachers.
They stress the need for training these teachers to improve their quality. Many might have acquired a certain level of efficiency by teaching children for a long time, yet they should be given training so they can impart quality education.
The demand for nationalisation was met on January 9 with an announcement from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The process will be carried out in three phases.
In 1973, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman first nationalised 36,165 primary schools with 1.55 lakh teachers. Later, 1,507 schools were nationalised. Since then, over two decades had passed without nationalising any more schools.
There are now more than 85,000 primary schools across the country and with the latest step, the number of government primary schools exceeds 63,000.
According to officials of the primary and mass education ministry, the schools that did not come under the purview of nationalisation are semi-autonomous or run by special forces or agencies, commercially run kindergartens, and primary schools attached with high schools.
Ministry insiders say a section of the teachers at the recently nationalised schools have third division in public examinations and were recruited before and after 1990 when the management committees of the non-government primary schools enjoyed the authority to appoint.
Since these schools were private institutions, the government's teacher recruitment policy was not followed, and in most cases, the governing bodies appointed teachers as per their will.
Rasheda K Choudhury, noted educationist and former adviser to caretaker government, said there are questions about the quality of many of these teachers as they were not recruited in a transparent manner and many got the job using political influence.
"For them, training is a must," she told The Daily Star.
Rasheda, also executive director of Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE), said since the government's primary training institutes (PTIs) are burdened with training programmes, it is essential to launch a short-term crash course for the teachers with newly regularised jobs.
The resource centres of the Directorate of Primary Education can be used for this purpose, she said, adding that there should be a fixed regulatory mechanism over the managing or governing bodies of these institutions.
Contacted, Abul Kalam Azad, additional secretary of the primary and mass education ministry, said teachers' training is a continuous process and the ministry will soon step up the programmes.
"We have achieved almost cent percent enrolment at primary level and now we are focusing on quality education. For this, there is no alternative to training the teachers," he added.