First News
Volume:7, Number:39
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COVER STORY
THIS WEEK

Teaching Without Teachers

| Shova Rahman |

Acute shortage of teachers in the academic institutions of Bangladesh seriously undermines the country’s commitment to education and its dream of having educated citizens

Teachers are vital to the achievement and success of the Education for All (EFA) movement, a global commitment to provide quality basic education for all children, youths, and adults. However, a shortage of qualified teachers in several countries is preventing the achievement of this goal.

Bangladesh has been facing a massive teacher shortage for a long time. An acute shortage of teachers is hitting the education sector hard despite all attempts to universalize education with the help of 'Right to Education'. This shortage is causing extremely bad repercussions in the overall education system of the country. Educationists have long been pointing out that the shortage of teachers is a big hurdle and recruiting an adequate number of qualified teachers to ensure a quality education is the only way to overcome this problem. Unfortunately, the authorities are yet to pay heed to their suggestion.

Teacher shortage hits primary schools

There are around 63,000 state-run primary schools in the country where more than 21.9 million students are being taught by 322,000 teachers. Of these schools, 25,552 were nationalized in 2013. However, academic activities at government primary schools across the country are being seriously disrupted by teacher shortage. According to the Primary and Mass Education Ministry, there are 60,695 posts for headmasters , of which 37,677 are in non-nationalized government primary schools, and 23,018 are in nationalized ones. There are 319,851 positions for assistant teachers, 228,151 in government schools, and 91,700 in nationalized schools. Of these two categories, some 45,000 positions are now vacant: 17,615 for headmasters, and 27,388 for assistant teachers.

For example, 86 primary schools in Netrakona, 448 in Patuakhali, and 108 at Khulna are operating without headmasters for a long time, which is hampering the administrative and academic activities of those institutions. Teachers and guardians complain that the number of teachers is highly inadequate for the increasing number of students in most schools around the country. "We have seven posts for teachers, but only three of us are running this school at the moment. This has made our job even more difficult. We are facing problems in carrying out academic activities, but we have no choice. The authorities repeatedly assure us about recruiting new teachers, but nothing actually happens,” said Abdus Samad, headmaster of Narandia Government Primary School.

Students are seriously affected by the teacher crisis. In many cases, teachers have to take five to six classes a day due to teacher shortage, which totally exhausts them at the end of the day. As a result, they cannot teach properly. Mehedi Hasan Polash, a fifth grade student at a government primary school, said: “We have to rely on coaching centers as our overburdened teachers cannot provide adequate lessons.” Ferdaus Sardar, acting headmistress of Nikaripara Government Primary School in Jhalakathi, said: “We are forced to perform the duties of the vacant positions, which results in below standard lessons in the class.”

“The number of students is increasing day by day but the teacher numbers remain the same. How is it possible to provide standard education with this small number of teachers? We demand immediate recruitment of teachers in the vacant posts to provide a decent education to our future generations,” said Ansar Ali Khan, guardian of a fourth grade student. When contacted, Dr. Md. Abu Hena Mostofa Kamal, ndc, director general of the Directorate of Primary Education, said a process of recruiting teachers is underway. "We are almost at the final stage of appointing around 4,000 teachers under the freedom fighters' quota. Another 30,000 teachers will be recruited soon," he said. “Furthermore, there has been a long-standing debate over the qualification of teachers to be promoted to the position of head teachers. In fact, several cases have been filed over a government decision on recruiting head teachers, adding to the present crisis. We expect that the legal battle will end soon and then we will be able to start the promotion process,” he added.

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Nurul Islam Nahid Education minister of Bangladesh

Shortage of teachers in schools, colleges, and universities has become a major concern for us. This crisis is more acute in government colleges located in rural areas or small towns. One of the reasons behind this uneven distribution of teachers is their unwillingness to work outside Dhaka. Unfortunately, almost 80 percent of the teachers, who visit the ministry, go there with requests to be transferred to the capital. Sometimes they show transfer recom - mendations from political leaders and ministers. Why does everybody prefer Dhaka? Should the students outside Dhaka stop studying? It is not fair. So, I want to warn them th at a negative impression will form against those who lobby for transfers . We feel the urgency to increase the number of teachers as the numb er of students is increasing day by day. For this reason, we have bee n pressing the PSC to hold a special BCS for teachers. In addition, ou r ministry plans to set up an institute that would deal with teacher recru itment and training. We have taken some initiatives to solve the problem b ut the situation cannot change overnight.

Students suffer as colleges face acute shortage of teachers

A shortage of teachers at government colleges has become a major concern in Bangladesh. Currently, the teacher-student ratio in public colleges is 1:145, which clearly shows the bleak reality of overburdened teachers and overcrowded classrooms in colleges.

However, it is worrying to note that colleges outside the capital have been suffering badly from severe teacher shortage while colleges in Dhaka have a surplus. In these colleges outside Dhaka, in many cases, students are being taught by guest teachers. The crisis of teachers is more serious for such subjects as marketing, home economics and finance, as the recruitment of teachers for these fields has remained frozen since 2007. Moreover, many local colleges do not have teachers for basic subjects like Bangla, English, and Mathematics for many years now. DSHE sources said the country currently has 312 government colleges, including four madrasas, and 14 teacher training colleges. There are 15,638 posts at these colleges. Of them, 113 posts of principals, 229 posts of professors, 119 of associate professors, 339 of assistant professors and 2,222 of lecturers are lying vacant. Some 509,137 students are studying at these institutions.

According to DSHE reports, around 20 percent of college posts ranging from those of principals to lecturers have been vacant for a long time. In terms of numbers, some 3,022 posts comprising of professors, associate professors, assistant professors, and lecturers remain unfilled. As these colleges offer honors and masters courses, students pursuing a higher education at these institutions are the worst victims of teacher shortage. One of the main reasons behind this uneven distribution of teachers is the unwillingness of teachers to work outside Dhaka. According to sources, there are 224 teachers for 200 posts at Dhaka College, 198 teachers for 174 posts at Titumir College, 145 teachers for 117 posts at Government Bangla College, and 41 teachers for 23 posts at Government Science College. Swarupkathi College in Pirojpur has are vacant, but Government Science College in Dhaka has 48 teachers where there are only 23 posts. The teacher- student ratio at Beanibazar Government College in Sylhet is 1:260. At Swarupkathi Government College, no mathematics and zoology classes could be provided in the last three years as there are no teachers for these two departments. Bakerganj Government College student Imran Hossein said many departments in his college cannot complete their syllabuses due to teacher shortage.

Some principals of various colleges outside the capital said they had written to the Education Ministry to create new posts in colleges without delay to improve the situation. But no initiative has yet been taken to solve the problem. They have asked the government to take other assistive measures such as introducing special allowances or making it mandatory for all teachers to work outside metropolitan cities for about three years to solve the problem. They have also urged the authorities not to transfer teachers to remote areas as punishment. The Directorate of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education (DSE) has recently directed teachers teaching one subject to teach another as well and has even asked teachers of one college to take classes at another.

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Professor Harun-or-Rashid Vice chancellor of National University

The contact between academicians and learners disrupts if the ratio becomes imbalanced. The ratio between teachers and students for higher studies should be 1:20 or 1:25. But it is a matter of sorrow that in Bangladesh the ratio is much higher than the standard level. As a result, teachers cannot take proper care of more students in a classroom. Moreover, apart from regular classes, there were tutorial classes at public universities in the past, as the ratio between teachers and students was satisfactory. The tutorial class system was stopped because of teacher shortage and the adverse ratio of teachers to students. At present, it is difficult to hold tutorial classes after taking regular classes. So, the authorities concerned should permit universities to recruit teachers as per their requirements. Otherwise, it would be very difficult to provide a standard education to our future generations.

Teacher crisis in preprimary indigenous Schools

For the first time in Bangladesh, the government has distributed free textbooks to indigenous pre-primary level children in their own mother tongues this year. The NCTB has distributed 52,000 textbooks in Chakma, Marma, Garo, Sadri and Tripura languages this year for around 25,000 pre-primary indigenous students. Despite such a great initiative, the main goal of distributing the books apparently failed due to a lack of trained teachers.

Most pre-school indigenous children in Bangladesh are facing trouble dealing with the books since they do not have enough trained teachers or instructors in their localities. For instance, there are more than 600 primary schools in Rangamati. Each school is supposed to have at least one teacher appointed for preschooling. However, the areas are largely dominated by Bangalis and hardly have any trained teachers for indigenous students, which is badly hampering the education of minors. The school authorities in Rangamati attribute the situation to a shortage of trained teachers, which has left children starting their academic life in their mother tongue in a poor manner. “We thank the government for distributing free textbooks in our mother tongue, but this initiative will not be fruitful as we do not have skilled teachers for pre-primary children,” said Porinoy Chakma, education officer of Kaukhali upazila in Rangamati district.

He, however, claimed that the government last June had decided to train teachers, although the decision is yet to be implemented. Some teachers said t they simply cannot teach indigenous students in their mother tongues without a professional language teacher. “There are two teachers in my school who know the Chakma language, but they have not practiced it for a very long time. So, training them is very necessary. Only after that can we teach indigenous students properly,” said Archana Talukdar, principal of Bonorupa Government Model Primary School.

Mentioning that the government initiative of printing and distributing textbooks in the mother tongues of indigenous groups will face a setback because of the shortage of trained teachers, Prasanna Chakma, one of the seven specialists appointed by the National Curriculum Textbook Board (NCTB) for the Chakma language, said teacher training is a must in order to provide lessons in indigenous languages. On the other hand, Triratan Chakma, upazila education officer of Rangamati, said there are some trained teachers. The government will start to provide training to more teachers soon. Next year, there will be no shortage of trained teachers, he assured. “We plan to train as many as 375 teachers in the Chakma language in Rangamati district for pre-primary schools,” he added.

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Professor M Wahiduz Zaman Vice chancellor, Noakhali Science and Technology University

We have long been pointing out that the short - age of teachers is a big hurdle to ensure quality education and that the only way to overcome this is to recruit adequate qualified teachers. But the authorities did not pay heed to our suggestion. For instance, there is an acute shortage of teachers in my universi ty, but the authorities concerned are not permitting us to recruit teachers as per our requirements. They always ask us to improve the quality, but it is not possible to provide quality education with this limited manpowe r. So the government should take initiatives to solve this problem immedi ately. Otherwise, quality education in the universities may be hampered. We request the government to approve the proposals of the universi ties to create more teaching positions immediately.

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Rasheda K Chowdhury Former adviser to the caretaker government

The teacher-student ratio in Bangladesh is very imbalanced and that is why it is impossible for teachers to adopt a competency-based teaching approach in classrooms. So, to cope with the prob - lem, the government should immediately begin direct recruitment of teachers to maintain the quality of education. This recruitment procedure could be seriously considered by employing suitable teachers ac cording to their merit, academic qualifications, and teaching capabiliti es. We should keep it in mind that the sufferers of this crisis are ou r students. So we expect the government to act accordingly and tackle the c risis reasonably, thus putting an end to it.

Teacher crisis hits the Leather Engineering College

Bangladesh College of Leather Engineering and Technology, the country's only educational instittion of its kind, has only five teachers for 800 students. According to the college authorities, it requires a minimum of 84 teachers, 28 in each department, but it is running with only five, causing a decline in its standard of education. More worrying is that the college can hardly publish its results in time because it has to depend on Dhaka University, which supervises its examinations. The college offers a four-year Bachelor of Science degree in three subjects -- leather engineering, footwear engineering, and leather products engineering under the Dhaka University. Currently, it has 800 students in five sessions of the three departments but only five teachers -- one professor, two assistant professors and two lecturers. Despite issuing a circular for the admission of students to its first year honors courses for the 2006-'07 and 2010-'11 sessions, it did not admit students due to a lack of teachers. Apart from the major courses in its three departments, there is no expert teacher for 13 other courses, sources at the college said.

Comparison of teacher-student ratio with other South Asian countries

The poor teacher-student ratio in secondary schools is widening, while the ratio in primary schools has already been higher than what was aimed at in the National Education Policy 2010. The current ratio in primary schools is much worse than the 1:25 that UNESCO sets out and 1:30 that the National Education Policy 2010 aims for.

The Annual Sector Performance Report 2013 of the Directorate of Primary Education that came out in January 2014, says that there are 50 students per teacher at government primary schools and 47.43 students per teacher at registered non-government primary schools. In many primary schools, the teacher-student ratio goes much higher than the average statistics. For example, in the Nababerbagh Government Primary School at Mirpur in the capital, there are eight teachers for 800 students, taking the ratio to 1:100. Moreover, the ratios in both secondary and primary schools in Bangladesh are higher than the South Asian average. According to the World Bank, in Nepal, the teacher-student ratio was 1:30 in 2011 and 1:28 in 2012. In Pakistan, it was 1:40 in 2011 and 1:41 in 2012. In the Maldives, that ratio stood at 1:12 in 2011 and 1:11 in 2012. In Bhutan, it was 1:25 in 2011 and 1:24 in 2012. In Sri Lanka, the ratio was 1: 24 in 2011 and 2012, and in India, it stood at 1:35 in 2011 and same in 2012.

Meanwhile, the teacher-student ratio of secondary schools in Bangladesh is worsening. According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics, in 2013, there were 37 students per teacher; in 2014, the number increased to 39. The ratio in secondary schools in Bangladesh is also higher than the South Asian average. According to the World Bank, there were 21 students per teacher in 2011 and 20 students per teacher in 2012 in Bhutan. The ratio in Nepal was 1:30 in 2011 and in 2012. In Sri Lanka, it was 1:17 in 2011 and same in 2012. Many schools across the country are running below the average teacher to student ratio. For example, in capital Dhaka, Viqarunnisa Noon School and College has more than 15,000 students and with 425 regular teachers.

Professor Syada Tahmina Akhter, Institute of Education and Research of Dhaka University, said, “The teacher- student ratio is an indicator of the quality of education. In crowded classrooms with a high number of students, the quality of education suffers. So, the government should recruit more teachers urgently as per the requirement to provide a decent education to our future generations.” Fahima Khatun, former director general of the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, said, “The number of students in schools has been increasing every year and the authorities have been struggling to provide them with the required number of teachers. The government is recruiting teachers but the situation will not change overnight. A process is underway to recruit more teachers. We hope that the situation will improve in the near future.”

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