First World Problem: The teacher erased the board before I finished copying.
Third World Problem: My school has no teacher. Also, my classroom is now a carnival stall.
With the first world students struggling to copy their notes and the problem being solved by giving each student a brand new tablet full of all the notes, we turn our attention to the third world. Here, not only do the students not have a tablet, they cannot even copy the notes because the teachers don't write on the boards, given the fact that they can't afford chalks or even teachers who can write. Yeah, schools in this part of the world are pretty bad. While many shed tears at Micheal Moore's expose of the American school system, we were awed by the fact that every child in the documentary sat on a table. They also had a classroom with electricity. Superman is not even needed.
In 2009, according to a report by One World South Asia, 200,000 teachers taught some 18.5 million students. That means the teacher to student ratio was a little crazy. In physical terms, that meant that every student was assigned half a finger of a teacher. Those are weird terms to put things into, but come on, what can half a finger really teach? And with around $90 a month meant that our teachers remained poorer than our chauffeurs. Granted it's not the most glamorous job but at $90 a month, no one wants to be a public school teacher.
Of course lack of teachers isn't the only problem. In the rural areas of Bangladesh, some schools don't have any students. Some don't even have classrooms, seeing that they rather rent out their entire premise for month-long fairs and earn rent. In these cases, students learn under the sun and aren't exactly motivated to learn. I mean, how can you concentrate on algorithms, when there's a freaking merry go round where your classroom used to be. It's sheer torture. This kind of event isn't a one off thing and happens a lot. Lack of accountability has also resulted in many schools enjoying the government's monthly pay order (MPO) just paying teachers to come sign the register and not teach, opting rather for “private tuitioning”. It's a vicious cycle, but a country where children are seen as additional wage earners, school attendance can only be expected to remain low for both teachers and students.
But it's not all gloom and doom. We have one of the highest literacy rates among women, while school enrollment figures have risen quite considerably. The government administered school tests have seen high results, though the grading methods are feared to be dubious. Nonetheless, the education system has indeed prospered with primary school books being delivered on time each year, albeit being riddled with mistakes. The future looks bright for us. And when the first world finally forgets how to use pen and paper, we will once again show them the way. For our education isn't borne out a sense of self-entitlement. We earn it and then go to the first world, top their classes and take their jobs. Like I said, it's a vicious cycle.
Osama Rahman is a regular columnist for Star Lifestyle, resident detective and a man's rights activist.