There used to be something of the charming about teaching in the old days. These days, properly a time I can describe as late autumn in my life, I often sit back and reflect on all the years of youth that my friends and I spent teaching little children in school. We are today far removed from those days of golden sunshine, with our company of idealistic men and women scattered across the globe at various professional tiers. We are the salt-andpepper generation now. Even so, it is those days that we recall, for the good reason that teaching was symbolic of nobility and enlightenment both for those who practiced it and those who were the recipients of it.
In the old days, teachers came into the classroom well-prepared, ready to educate the young. Those little boys and girls we taught at schools like Greenherald and Scholastica are today themselves parents of young people. In the classroom, they were all bubbly children ready to imbibe knowledge, forever ready to argue and banter with their teachers on specific areas of knowledge. They went home properly happy at having come by new information. Their teachers made their way home planning outlines of the following day’s classes. The evenings were always free for these teachers, for they operated no coaching centers, though some of them did tutor some students at home. And the young? Coaching centers were unheard of for them. They did their homework on their own, sometimes helped by their parents.
It was all so long ago. In these present times, a searing pain courses through the sensibilities knowing that a section of teachers at English medium schools have of late been drawn to temptations of drawing their students to the coaching centers they operate in various areas of the nation’s capital. In our times, such thoughts of selfaggrandizement were far from our minds.
Today, if you ask the parents of the young, you will likely come upon realities that you think are part of a fervid imagination but are in fact the truth. These teachers, paid by the schools that employ them, do gross injustice to themselves, to their schools and to their students. And how do they do that? They avoid teaching the young seriously in school, the goal being to lure them to their coaching centers from the afternoon through late evening.
The centerpiece of all this action is greed. And here is an example that should describe the crass materialism which underlines the ‘professionalism’ of these teachers: a coaching center run by some teachers in Dhanmondi, aware that O Level and Senior Cambridge examinations have just come to an end and that sooner rather than later many parents will be seeking places for their children at A Level coaching, put in place an ugly method of student recruitment. These teachers, with not an iota of shame, informed parents when they went visiting them that they had to make deposits of tuition fees for six months all at once. You tend to feel that these avaricious teachers know pretty well that the methods they employ in coaching the young often disappoints parents, who then withdraw their babies. So what do these teachers do? They make hostages of parents and students in blatantly crude manner.
Perhaps it is time for these coaching centers to be brought under the scanner, for a few reasons. First, they are little more than money-spinning machines, a means of extortion. Second, the coaching centers are turning the young into people who see nothing of beauty in life unless these teachers are around to (mis)guide them. Third, these coaching centers are a reflection of a deeper malaise, which is that the laxity which schools employ in dealing with their wayward teachers threatens the very basis of education. It is the young and their parents who end up in a terrible situation, for they have to hand over hefty amounts of hardearned money to both the schools and the coaching centers, as fees.
Everyone knows of this malady eating into education, but no one does anything. The High Court recently did the necessary thing, which was to forbid schools from taking yearly charges every year from students when they graduate to new and higher classes. This criminality --- for it is that --- on the part of a number of English medium schools has gone on year after year, and no one in government has felt the need to clamp down on these nefarious deeds. Hopefully the schools will not be arrogant enough to disregard the judiciary or to skirt around it by rephrasing yearly charges into something else that will keep the money rolling in. If they do or try to do anything of the kind, the State ought to be ready to pounce on them.
And, yes, a proper and definitive survey of coaching centers needs to be undertaken. There are certain points that should serve as terms of reference for such a survey. What do these teachers do in the schools that employ them? How qualified are they to teach the young? What is the ratio relating to the time they spend in the classroom and in their coaching centers? And do they pay any taxes and are they registered?
Syed Badrul Ahsan is the Associate Editor of Asian Age