Education is a huge business. Take a look in your city and you’ll find numerous new school projects springing up, especially British curriculum schools doing the Edexcel or Cambridge International Examinations.
Established British curriculum schools in Bangladesh have a track-record of getting good results, which means parents can be relatively confident that they are leaving their children in reliable hands when they drop them off at the school gate. But what about these new school that have no track record?Newly established British curriculum schools are currently harming the education system in Bangladesh. They are set up with little scrutiny of owners, especially with regard to whether those running the schools have and pedigree in the education sector. When people have the future of the nation in their hands, shouldn’t they require far stricter monitoring and a greater level of accountability?
In the beginning these new schools are a force of marketing, filling the classrooms with impressive technology that ‘guarantees a better education’, and justifying exorbitant fees with the promise that their ‘international teaching methodology’ will bring out the best from each and every student. Parents are spending hard-earned money based on bombast, bluster and very little evidence that the new schools can live up to the high expectations they are selling.
So, what happens when the new schools, five years down the line, fail to do what they have been claiming? Who is at fault for the failure? And what can be done to stop these ‘schools’ from cheating parents out of their savings in the future?
Parents and students require protection, and this can be provided with the publishing of data. It should be mandatory that all British Curriculum schools publish their IGCSE and International A-Level results after every sitting. This is the first step towards some accountability. At the end of the day these schools are businesses, and a requirement to give full disclosure of results will ensure that a school’s administrators prioritise learning first, otherwise bad results are seriously going to eat into profits.
Then there are the exam boards Edexcel and Cambridge – they make their money selling their courses to schools, yet how often do they actually check that the schools and the teachers are capable of teaching for their exams?
Based on experience, Cambridge inspects a school before allowing it to do the Cambridge curriculum. But the inspections I have witnessed amounted to little more than looking at the facilities, before having cup of tea and nice chat. There was no assessment of in-class ability before the conferring neither of Cambridge status, nor after it was given.Similarly, Edexcel schools, from my experience, do not get any kind of inspection to ensure the quality of teaching. The onus on ensuring the quality of private, English-medium, British curriculum schools should be on both the Government of Bangladesh, and the exam boards that profit so greatly from being allowed to market their exams in this country.
Does it seem unreasonable that the government should require regular inspection of British Curriculum schools, using the OFSTED guidelines that actually regulate schools in Britain? OFSTED assess schools as Outstanding, Good, Requires improvement or Inadequate – bring over inspectors to assess the schools and have Edexcel and Cambridge fund the initiative. Should a school be deemed ‘Inadequate’ then that school should not be allowed to offer Edexcel or Cambridge exams? A school that ‘Requires Improvement’ should be given a set period of time to take the measures that bringing it up to ‘Good’.
If the private education system in Bangladesh is not cleaned up, it will be the students and ultimately the country that suffers. Right now, in schools across the country, there are teenagers with the potential to achieve great things, but that potential is being stifled by schools that quite simple are not fit for purpose. The time to act on this is now.
The writer is the Academic Head of Bless Education, and holds an LLB Law and LLM International Law.