PRIMARY SCHOOL TERMINAL EXAM 2012
Quantity achieved but quality?by Mohammed Norul Alam
THE results of the primary school terminal examinations 2012 were published in the last week of December. The pass rate marked an increase of 0.09 percentage point; 2,415,351 students or 97.35 per cent passed the examinations. The number of students scoring GPA 5 rose to 230,220, more than double the 2011 number of 105,673. On the other hand, 65,778 failed and no student from 710 schools passed the examinations. Like previous years, the results show that schools attached with the Primary Training Institute, and run by BRAC, topped the chart with more than 99 per cent passing the examinations. In contrast, Ananda schools, which are under a government project, ranked the lowest. The overall result clearly stated a remarkable achievement in terms of quantity but there seem to be a long way to go for quality education.
There is no doubt that some important decisions worked as triggering factor behind the achievements — rise in enrolment, fall in dropout, surge in pass rate and heightened awareness of education among the public. As the only country in the world, Bangladesh distributes free textbooks among primary and secondary students. The government has distributed 92 crore textbooks since 2010; this year, it plans to hand out 26.17 crore textbooks to 3.68 crore students across the country. The government has also formulated a national education policy, extended stipend programmes to cover 90 per cent of the students, introduced e-books, and taken measures to curb coaching and admission business. Nationalisation of all the 26,284 non-government primary schools has also been a major initiative.
In spite of all these achievements, ensuring quality education still remains a big challenge for the government.
Result of both junior school certificate and primary school terminal examinations has shown that students of educational institution in urban areas have done much better than their counterparts in rural areas. The primary exams results show that none of the 20 best institutions of the country is from rural areas (New Age, December 28) and most of the GPA 5 scorers are also from urban areas. The New Age report says teacher shortage, poor infrastructure and the lack of government support are mainly responsible for the poor performance of schools in rural areas while educationalists complain of ‘negligence’ by the authorities concerned. However, these are not the only issues hindering quality education for all.
The financial disparities of the guardians in urban and rural areas also have reflections on the exams results. Research shows expenditure in primary education has increased over the years from 2005 to 2011. In 2005 guardians had to spend on eight items for their children’s education; the number increased to 17 in 2011. Expenditures also increased from Tk 2,785 to Tk 6,483 for a poor family in the same duration while guide book, coaching fees and communication cost come as compulsory expenditure in family budget (ActionAid, 2011).
Lack of adequate school infrastructure and suitable classrooms are another big factor for achieving quality education for all. For quality learning, schools should have appropriate numbers of classrooms with appropriate size, accessible to all with adequate and separate sanitation facilities for girls and boys. The structure should be resilient to disaster. But reality does not show the same picture. Research reveals that only 42.5 per cent of schools are resilient to flood, 47.5 per cent to earthquake, and only 27.5 per cent to river erosion (ActionAid, 2011). Only 45 per cent schools have separate toilets for boys and girls, and 35 schools have no source of safe drinking water.
For quality education, it is imperative to have sufficient numbers of trained teachers, of whom a good proportion should be female. Teachers should receive good quality pre-service and in-service training with built in components of gender sensitivity, non discrimination, inclusive education, etc. But a research shows that more than 11 per cent of the newly-recruited teachers enter into the classrooms before getting any kind of induction while only 35 per cent teachers receive training on inclusive education (AAB, 2011). At the same time students-teacher ratio is far from the commitment by the government (the education policy suggested 1:30).
Children should be safe on route to and in school. They are not bound to receive any corporal punishment in their school premises; the route to school must be non-violent and safe. But research shows some alarming scenario. More than 50 per cent teachers still carry stick in their classrooms and 11 per cent students were injured by corporal punishment in 2011; the scenario is particularly devastating in rural areas.
Another bar to quality education is the failure to ensure relevant education. The school curriculum and its reflection on textbook should not discriminate and be relevant to the social, cultural, environmental, economic context and the language of learners. Preparing textbook for ethnic communities in their own language is yet to be achieved. It is assumed that education will enable all persons to participate effectively in a free society (ICESCR). But unfortunately, we are going far from a democratic and accountable education system. Children should have participation in all the affairs of schools where school management committees will play a vital role. But research shows that 50 per cent of the committees have no idea about their role and responsibilities and most of them are formed by their political identity.
Finally, for achieving quality education, more budgetary allocation is required. During last two decades, allocation for the education sector lingered between 11 and 15 per cent, which is way short of the UNESCO prescribed level of 20 per cent or 6 per cent of the GDP. This rate is significantly less than many of African countries, even among the South Asian countries Bangladesh’s position is still third (2.4%) from the bottom.
If the government can address these problems in a proper way, there is no doubt that Bangladesh will be much more likely to succeed in providing its population with high-quality, and universal primary education. And demand will be required to rewrite the history of primary education of Bangladesh. I like to dare to dream of that day!
Mohammed Norul Alam is senior programme officer, Education, ActionAid Bangladesh.
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