Monday, 6 February, 2023

Teacher-guardian Relationship and Primary Education in Bangladesh

Sandhya Rani Saha

Teacher-guardian Relationship and Primary Education in Bangladesh
Sandhya Rani Saha

A class teacher is a person who teaches in a class having skills and training in a particular subject. However, he is not the only person to be considered a teacher of children. Learning begins with the nearest and dearest ones (parents, guardians etc.) at home. What great teachers they are! Children are getting well versed in their mother tongue and social norms from them without following any particular rule of teaching. Don’t we know how difficult it is to master a language other than the mother tongue? So, the parents/guardians are the children's teachers at the beginning. Alongside, professional teachers are responsible while the children stay in school. In a true sense, parents, guardians and school teachers are considered teachers of the children. Therefore, there should be a convenient relationship between parents/guardians and teachers to assist the children/students in acquiring proper education.

The teacher's responsibility is to keep advancing the basic principles of education planted within the children/students laid by their parents/guardians. So, academic qualifications and skills alone are not enough for a teacher to teach students. In this case, the various knowledge and skills provided by the children's parents/guardians act as guidance for the teacher. Thus, a sense of equality grows between them. This perception of the teachers motivates the parents/guardians to materialise the various school education in the life of their children. The schooling period is significant in inspiring students to develop their characters, ideals and socialisation. But they stay connected with their parents/ guardians for their whole life. So, the parents/guardians help the students materialise their school education in their real lives. All the efforts of the school might fail if the parents/guardians do not provide the students with the opportunity to practice the education achieved in the home environment. Therefore, a student-centred mutual relationship between teachers and parents can accelerate the life development of students by coordinating their work and responsibilities.

It is time to measure how effective this relationship is as the government is trying to provide equal facilities for all children (rich and poor, regardless of religion and caste, boys and girls, disabled and especially-abled) to extend quality education for all. Without targeting any specific group, the government is working to ensure quality primary education for any child in Bangladesh. The government recruits qualified teachers every year and provides them with various training. The construction of new buildings with washrooms and maintenance of old buildings is regular work now. The government allocates enough funds for purchasing educational materials and provides free textbooks, stipends, etc. All efforts are in full swing. The government ensures the enrolment of all children in the school-catchment area (except the severely handicapped children). Salaries and allowances of teachers and education administrative officials have been increased.

Despite these efforts, some of the deficiencies in primary education are not yet solved. One of the reports published on third-grade students in Bangladesh said that the students were weak in English (the Business Standard on 18 October 2022). Only 08 per cent of students can read an English sentence like “Kaniz reads in a primary school. She goes to school every day” outside their syllabus. Many teachers do not prepare lesson plans as per the annual lesson plan. However, during the training, the teachers were made aware enough of those subjects. The lack of effective communication between grassroots-level officials (Assistant Upazila Education Officers: AUEO) engaged in education administration with the stakeholders (teachers, parents, residents, energetic social workers, Union Parishad representatives, etc.) hinders primary education in Bangladesh in many ways. As a result, appropriate education remains beyond the reach of backward people. During an inspection, I noticed that out of 30 students in a class, only four or five students could solve simple arithmetic problems. Most teachers are more attentive to the children of educated parents, i.e. those who have the means to receive education at home. If this situation continues in this digital era, will Bangladesh be able to eliminate rural poverty successfully?

Father of the Bengali Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman said in the 29th General Assembly of the United Nations, “Let us together create a world that can eradicate poverty, hunger, war and human sufferings and achieve global peace and security for the wellbeing of humanity”. Aren't we rejecting Bangabandhu's statement keeping most children away from proper education? Today, due to a lack of real education, many of our children suffer from psycho-social problems such as academic phobia, mobile phone addiction, parental conflict, irritable temperament, disrespect for family values, always being angry, inferiority complex etc. How will Bangladesh contribute to world peace and security with them? Patriotism growing only at an early age through appropriate education would assure safety in this country. During the inspection, I asked the teachers about the non-achievements of primary education. Their reactions are very much customary. They blame the parents as uneducated ones, unaware of education, divorced parents, working as labourers, the impact of Covid-19 etc. We have seen how children in the developed world have been taught online during the Covid-19 pandemic. A negligible number of our teachers were engaged in this work. Our government also continued to give proper instructions. So, who could be responsible for not keeping pace with the world and government on time?

However, our parents send their children to school with the desire to get the proper education. Teachers and concerned Upazila Education Officers (UEO)-AUEOs are engaged in education administration at the grassroots level and must match their activities with the parents' desire through professional responsibility. Otherwise, there will be no success. Most parents are poor. The educating authorities must consider their children with due attention. Unfortunately, most teachers and grassroots-level education officers do not consider the importance of the teacher-parent relationship. The visiting officers only asked whether the school has a 10-member committee (PTA: Parent-Teacher Association), if so, how many meetings have been held so far (in a year). They do not take much care about the PTA activity committee in establishing effective child-learning-centred relationships. As a result, local grants are almost zero for schools with SLIP (School Level Improvement Plan) funds. But by donating 33 decimals of the land, the locals helped the government in the country's education by establishing schools. Nowadays, members are reluctant to attend the meetings of the PTA and SMC (School Management Committee). That is why achieving quality primary education in Bangladesh is impossible without the relationship between teachers, parents/guardians and local people.

This is high time to take essential steps to establish this relationship. The AUEOs are well-trained to work efficiently at the grass root level. What we need is to place them in the exact position to work accordingly. There are usually 20 government primary schools under every Union Parishad. They must visit at least 10 primary schools every month. If 10 days are spent on visiting 10 schools (excluding eight days of weekend), 12 days are still left. During these 12 days, they should visit students’ houses to inspect whether the teachers have a good relationship with the parents/guardians. Alongside, encouraging both teachers and parents/guardians to participate in the school and relevant socio-economic issues is also under their jurisdiction. Besides, they should guide the smooth running of classroom activities. The grassroots level education administrators would mediate in establishing a good relationship between parents/guardians and teachers-students to increase their knowledge, skills, and ability to take.

During this Covid-19 period, the rate of child marriage has increased manifold. The apparent poverty has increased to some extent. People are stricken with various problems like gender discrimination, juvenile delinquency, marketing of adulterated baby food. Our AUEOs know how to encounter all these odds in the system. In other words, they would work as craftsmen to build a society to adapt to the era towards 4IR. UEO and all officials of the Upazila administration would support them. The government has an order (section 63, third schedule of the Local Government (Union Parishad) Act 200) that the AUEO have to have their office in the designated room of the Union Parishad complex-building to provide one-stop service to the public at the grass root level. In this situation, they have to have their regular office works in the Union Parishad Complex Building as per the order issued again on 06/04/2022. But they are still based in the Upazila education office and stay in district towns. It appears that they are not aware of the order. Many of them are posted for many years in their own district and related to teachers as friends and relatives by blood/marriage. By and by they get familiar with local influential elements also. All these factors affect the activities of teachers-parent meetings, management committee activities, integrated education programs etc. For the sake to avoid nepotism, those AUEOs should be posted away from their present place of work, immediately.

Thus, they could barely maintain close contact with the local general people. Instead of visiting the school, cooperating in teaching activities, establishing good teacher-parent relations, and calling for local support, they are following bureaucratic activities with ordinary stakeholders. But this should not be. They should work in unity with the union people under the honourable Chairmen of the local government (Union Parishad) having their office in the Union Parishad Complex building. Only then will it be easy to ensure that all children in Bangladesh get quality primary education.


The writer is the Upazila Education Officer, Kamarkhand, Sirajganj