Training our teachers for a better Bangladesh

Various discourses and newspapers have iterated that the quality of education is decaying although the literacy rate is improving. Such statements are also established using facts and figures such as this survey conducted by Directorate of Primary Education, which shows only 25 per cent of grade five students performed satisfactorily at grade level in English, Bangla and mathematics. However, collecting and analysing data maybe useful and usually drives decisions, but it is not enough. It constitutes just the tip of the iceberg and fails to take into account several other qualitative and deep rooted behavioural issues that also contribute to the status quo. We need to engage with the problem on a much deeper level using a scientific approach (where we take ignorance as a preamble to question and analyse every single observation).

In a grade three classroom at a government primary school in Tangail cramped with 48 young students memorising loudly in a rhythmic tune, slowly moving from front to back and back to front, it seemed as though they were chanting some mindless tune. The classroom depicted a prison, where inability to follow the rules or to regurgitate would result in corporal punishment. The students said they did not enjoy coming to school, they looked forward to being around friends and playing on the field.

The teachers received at least one training bi-monthly, but there was a big gap between the trainings and its everyday application. It seemed teaching was like any other chore the teachers had to complete. These teachers are mostly drained out fulfilling all the duties at home of a mother, wife and daughter-in-law so the job at the school is nothing more than a bread job. They had very little motivation or time to reflect on their teaching, let alone try new ways to improve it. There are several trainings in the market that have tried to address these issues. However, little gets changed from trainings that fail to engage or inspire these teachers.

On the other hand, private school teachers are eager to learn and ask several questions to understand the application of each method in a training session. As a follow-up of a training we provided to five private schools when their classes were observed, the trained teachers’ endeavours in applying new methods were commendable. These teachers felt the training programmes gave them credibility as teachers and it helped them improve their performance. They feel the better known they are as teachers the higher chances of them getting more students, earning higher pay, better reputation and better job security.

Based on these observations, a few reasons can be attributed to the lack of eagerness of the government school teachers to take training and applying it in their classrooms. Firstly, the classrooms are not monitored and the teachers are hardly evaluated on the basis of their classroom performance. In most cases, although there are upazila education officers, they are unable to properly monitor the classrooms. The only indicator of the teacher’s performance is based on the scores achieved by students in their board exams (PEC, JSC, SSC, HSC). These scores are not sufficient indicators of the teachers’ or the students’ performance. Several emotional, social and physical developmental issues remain unaccounted for by these numbers. Also, the teaching skills or the teachers’ performance are not reflected in their salary or its increment. Due to lack of monitoring and feedback sharing, the areas in which teachers need to improve remain unaddressed in the training sessions.

Moreover, mostly the trainings are limited to Upazila Resource Centre so there is an absence of practical demonstration of the teaching methods. The teachers are deprived of seeing the trainers demonstrate the course content in real classroom settings.

Even if the teachers wanted to try out new approaches they are overburdened with responsibilities at home and administrative work at school. As a product of the deeply patriarchal society, most women despite having fulltime jobs are not exempted from their household responsibilities. This leaves most female teachers with no choice but to carry out all the household tasks by themselves without any help which diminishes their determination to achieve their career goals and aspirations. Moreover, documentation of several administrative facts and figures such as number of households and students covered in those areas in school’s catchment area, information about school building maintenance, parents receiving remuneration, etc. are carried out by the teachers manually on a regular basis. This leaves them with little or no opportunity to dedicate enough time to using new approaches to teach in class, building empathic relationship with students, their parents, taking prior preparation for lessons and other self-development endeavors.

Now that the government is allocating resources to digitize classrooms, it is essential to also digitise monitoring and evaluation of teachers’ classroom performance. The student feedback on the teachers also need to be taken into account and this data must then be tied to the incentives and the raise given to the teachers.

Around 4,000 crore Taka has been allocated for training programmes in the Fourth Primary Education Development Programme. However, if the root causes are not addressed and if the training programmes are not customised accordingly, this may result in the misuse of this budget. So, that brings us to three ways to readdress the training programmes. Firstly, the training sessions must be experiential, secondly, it must have a component where the content from the training is practically demonstrated by both trainers and trainees and thirdly, through monitoring and evaluation sustained practice is enabled. Depending on the performance report of the teachers need basis training can be provided that also meet the prerequisites of the changing future requirements of the fourth industrial revolution.

 

Azwa Nayeem is the founder and chairperson of Alokito Hridoy Enterprise, a non-profit organisation based in Bangladesh working in the field of education and a lecturer at North South University. He can be reached at nayeem.azwa@gmail.com.

Ahmed Mostafa is an education sector specialist at e.Gen Consultants Limited and a marketing consultant at Alokito Hridoy Foundation. He can be reached at
ahmed.mostafa@egenconsultants.com

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