Introduction: It is said that education is the backbone of a nation. In this regard, the primary education is the founding phase where the citizens would grow with a certain vision, quality and competence. Thus, if the primary education system of a country is not well organized, viable and development oriented, the future development of the nation must be constrained by numerous problems and obstacles. The present state of primary education in Bangladesh is riddled with a lot of problems and shortcomings. Centralized system, quantitative expansion without proper attention to quality, less local involvement etc. are depriving our child of quality education.
Present state of primary education: Bangladesh has made significant progress in primary education in recent years. 97 percent of school age population in Bangladesh was enrolled in primary schools in the year 2000. The ratio of boys and girls in primary education is 51 : 49 while the ratio of male and female teacher is 34 : 66. However, the dropouts over the five year cycle of primary education have declined from 80 percent in 1970 to 35 percent at present. Primary education expenditure per student is $23.
Major problems and issues of primary education:
The primary education in Bangladesh is riddled with a lot of problems. It is mostly centralized, quality of teaching is very low, numerous gaps like rural urban, boys-girls, formal non-formal etc. are aggravating the problems in education. So, the major problems and issues of our primary education may be cited as under
1. Government—the main provider: Bangladesh has one of the largest centralized systems of primary education in the world. Close to half of the primary schools in Bangladesh are financed and run by the government. Another quarter is registered as non-governmental primary schools. Nonformal schools operated by non-government organizations (NGOs) also provide primary schooling to about 3 million children. Besides, primary education expenditure of $ 23 per student in Bangladesh is considerably lower than that in Pakistan ($48), India ($42), Sri-lanka ($43) and China ($42). However, the share of primary education in the total educational budget in Bangladesh is quite high, as 40 percent of revenue and 50 percent of development expenditure for education are allocated to primary education. The structure of government expenditure
is, however, unbalanced.
2. Quantitative expansion without qualitative improvement: Although Bangladesh has made impressive progress in quantitative expansion in primary education with it’s high rate of enrollment, available evidence suggests that the education, particularly that provided through government schools, is quite ineffective in terms of quality. The rural urban discrimination in quality has also risen over the years. According to a survey conducted by Asian Development Bank (ADB), one third of the students surveyed had basic competency in life skills, numeracy and reading and writing while two-thirds had competency in life skills, numeracy and reading and writing skills. In case of basic competency, the urban schools were found to be better than rural schools while girls did better than boys. The rate of attendance was found to be 70 percent on average both for the boys and the girls. So, the findings of the study indicate that apart from increasing enrollment and enchancing gender equality, achievement in other spheres e.g. teacher student ratio, completion rate, learning achievement, management and supervision-cost effectiveness and institutional capabilities have remained less than satisfactory.
3. Logistical and systematic weakness: Teacher-student ratio in Bangladesh is lower than that of other low income countries. Majority of the teachers lack proper training and skill as well as motivation for delivery quality education. Teachers are burdened with many nonteaching activities. Low attendance rate, lack of educational materials and tools contribute to the persistent low quality of primary education in Bangladesh. Absence of academic supervisions and mechanism to monitor class-room performance is also responsible for poor quality. On the demand side, poverty and illiteracy of parents create obstacle to enrolling and to ensuring completion of the five-year primary school cycle. Prevalence of child labor is another impediment to enrollment and continuing education.
4. Weak local involvement: Community participation in the school affairs is minimal at present. The school management committees (SMCS) and parent teacher associations are not effective in discharging their functions. Lack of cooperation from the committee members and lack of coordination among committee, teachers and administrators hamper the smooth management of schools.
5. The formal and non-formal education’s divide: There is a wide gap regarding quality and management of primary education between the formal and non-formal educational institutions. In non-formal schools, students are more competent in all the areas compared to their counterparts in formal schools. However, schools being ran by NGO’s are also not accountable for the deficiencies.
6. Resource constraints : Shortage of fund and improper use of available resources are also among the crucial constraints of quality improvement of our primary education. Even the resources available are being ill used due to rampant corruption in the education sector.
- For addressing the quality aspects, decentralization of administration and financial management are essential
- Undertaking an independent review of quality improvement aspects of major primary education development projects is a must. It is necessary to develop a comprehensive and coordinated quality improvement strategy and programme.
- Existing list of competencies should be reorganized and enhanced. Fresh orientation should be designed for teachers and supervisors.
- Measurement indicators and standards for the competencies must be devised and introduced.
- New materials and books should be introduced to engage students in creative and problem solving exercises in various subject areas.
- It is important to raise the number of teachers to increase teachers pupil contact time and ensure their full-time devotion to the task of teaching.
- Training of teachers and education officials is essential to upgrade efficiency.
- The government should take strict measures to ensure the supply of textbooks on time and Khata and pencils free of costs, especially for those who are disadvantaged.
- Food for education and stipend programs should continue to encourage regularity and completion.
- Autonomous district education authorities should be created for overall planning, management and accountability of primary education;
- The proposed eight-year primary cycle should be implemented until the existing system is more responsive to the need of students.
- Measures should be taken to create motivation for learning. An awareness campaign highlighting economic and social benefits of education should be launched. The effective participation of community in the management of schools should be ensured. Because the community has important stakes in the education of the local children.
- The government should double the GNP share of public resource allocation for education to five percent in the next five to seven years.
- Measures should be taken to improve the reach and performance of the secondary school system to create aspirations among primary students and their parents.
To make the primary education system viable i.e to ensure completion, stop the trend of dropping out, enhancing the quality of education and teaching, a lot of measures are needed. For this, it is impossible only for the government to shoulder the responsibility of improving the situation. The non-government organizations and civil organizations should come forward with massive programs of mass education. Hence, our civil society must be more active in making education a social movement and make the people aware of it.