The quality of an elementary school is arbitrated on the basis of the number students adorned with GPA 5 in the Primary School Completion Certificate examination. The non-government primary schools such as Nursery, Kinder Garten etc. are quite ahead of that race than the government primary schools. The guardians are also convinced with the performance and they fall on the queue to get their kids admitted into those schools just at the beginning of the New Year. The grade is a concern to the guardians of today. But the highest grade might not always a matter to a kid to flourish himself as a real human being in the days ahead of him. Therefore the highest GPA and the quality of education is a concern to many of us.
The primary school is the fresh field to nurture the children to build up as the sincere, resourceful and spiritually enriched human being for the well-being of the country. I am not talking about those extraordinary students who hold the credits of the highest GPA and at the same time the art of ingenuity within him/herself equally. The exception is always an exception. I am talking about the majority who are going to be the general mass in near future to hold the country high. The government is quite aware of this and so the literacy percentage is on the way to sharp increase. The number of she-student is running head to head to that of he-students. But still, there are a lot of shortfalls in the system. The quantity is in the increasing trend but the question is about the quality. It is true that the number of government primary schools is not enough to accommodate all the kids ready their holy start in the school catchment area. Most of the schools are already overcrowded. So in the name of reducing the burden of government primary school, there is a tendency to establish private schools anywhere in any form within the catchment area. These schools are governed by the authority themselves who established the school. In fact, they do not have any bindings to the government. There administrative capability, qualification of the teachers, teaching efficiency, all are not beyond questions. Anyway, there are exceptionally good private schools also whose efficiency is fairly good even better than those of the government systems. So, it is apparent that the students under their concern are not getting a proper education. But the knap-sack bag at the kids’ back is loaded with a huge number of books, pencil box, geometry box, tiffin box, water bottle etc. They are overloaded with some excessive books also like general knowledge, grammar books, drawing books etc. In addition to this, they have to carry the load of note khata, two per subject—-one for HW (home work) and the other for CW (Class work). Most of the kids are very much familiar with a voluminous guide book always branded with a catchy name. They have to carry those guidebooks also. But the National Curriculum and Text Book Board (NCTB) has recommended only six books and four notebooks (Khata) for the elementary students. The khatas are used to copy the texts directly from the books kept in front of them or from the blackboard without getting any clear conception what they are taking notes, actually. Ultimately, they have to disgorge all those memorised stuff on the exam-sheets. Unfortunately, there is a little opportunity to express their talents as the students. Even a student having some creativity might lose his sense of enthusiasm in a school like that.
The textbooks must be recommended by the NCTB. These books are well planned and written by the leading intellectuals of the country. If a student has an opportunity to go through the books step by step, he/she would have his skills developed on the subject naturally. He/she need not memorise but realise the content by his/her heart. But the teacher must have to know the teaching methodology. The students must not force feed the texts just by saying do this or do that. But what is going on to those private schools? The students are just asked to memorise guidebooks but not to get through the subject matter described in the text. The teachers are not much aware of the passion of the students. Even they do not bother the level of acceptability of the students. In the case of general knowledge, a student of class two has to memorise the name of the presidents of a faraway country with his tenure. This is an absolutely unnecessary burden to the minor kids. In the drawing class, they have to follow a prescribed book with some specific drawings. The students have to follow that as it is. Even they have no option to use any colour of their own choice. It means a child has no right to exercise his/her mental creativity. If he/she does something of his/her own might be awarded a low score.
Every school has its own dress code with specific bag and the other essentials. Most of the time it is a kind of financial burden to the parents in a rural area.
Still, they have to manage uniform dresses, similar tie, shoes, shocks, etc. every year from the school authority. In a government schools admission once at the beginning of the schooling is enough for the next four years. No tuition fee is needed. But in a private school, the student has to pay admission fee every year. Not only that, they have to pay different fees in different names. These private schools are beyond the control of the government and depend on the autocratic attitude of the authority. Most of the parents keep themselves silent as their kids are getting excellent grades.
The teachers of these Non-government schools are not trained from a formal training institute. So they are not accustomed to the basic principles of education and learning. They never ask students for reading from the text. The teachers always insist their students take notes from the books. So the students are getting competent mostly in writing skill but a little on the expression of the subject matter. Anyway, the art of writing is good but the art of expression that is earned through the practice of reading is better.
The school committee seldom understands the necessity of spacious room, school library and playground. Most of the private schools do not have a piece of spacious land of their own. They are running their school in a small piece of land or hiring a flat with no scope to perform their extra curriculum activities like sports, drill, outdoor games etc. Even there are no arrangements for in-door games. Of course, the classrooms are congested with little aeration facilities.
The authority of a private school hardly knows about the United Nation’s Convention on the Right of the Child (UNCRC). They are Survival rights, Development rights, Protection right and Participation right. It is earnestly desired that the school authority should at least be familiar with the development rights that includes education, play, leisure, cultural activities, access to information, and freedom of thought, conscience and religion. There is another concern to be taken care of is the participation right to encompass children’s freedom to express opinions affecting their own lives.
The private schools are used to keep the kids very much busy around the clocks. The school starts at 8’O clock in the morning. That is why the students have to get ready from 7 O’clock. He has to attend the class till 1 or 2 O’clock. Getting ready in hasty the students have to run school with sleepy eyes.
After finishing the class they have to sit with a private tutor either in the school or at home or at the tutor’s home. Most of the cases the teachers themselves act as a private tutor. If a student does not get his tuition from his class teacher, he might have to get low scores. Or he might have to be punished otherwise. After coming back home he has to prepare for the next day HW and etc. Thus the students have the little scope of playing or enjoying free times with friends and parents or brothers- sisters. All these activities only related to the schooling activities by the elementary students are not in the alignment to the UNCRC convention.
So how to improve the system? The reality says we must have to allow some private schools everywhere in Bangladesh. But that must be done through the guidelines prepared under the care of the government. All schools should be brought under the strict supervision of the department of primary education. The salary structure, gratuity, provident fund facilities, etc. should be as per the government run schools. There should have the system of regular auditing system as per the government office. The teacher recruitment should be done through ads in a newspaper. The teacher must be well trained and must be brought under the system of sub-cluster training (a regular training programme for the government primary school teacher) so that they could be familiar with the up to date knowledge of the department. There should have the playground adjacent to the school. Thus the problems with the private elementary schools could be solved to some extent.
The writer is Assistant Upazila Education Officer, Kapasia, gazipur