Fakhrul Alam, a father of two, spends over 50 percent of his monthly income on his children's education.
However, as a teacher himself, he is not satisfied with the quality of education his sons receive at school. Therefore, like many other parents, he spends a lot of money on private tuitions for his children. To meet these expenses, Fakhrul often wishes to become a private tutor himself.
This is the private tuition conundrum that Bangladesh has been facing for years.
In Bangladesh, salaries of school teachers are quite low compared to other professions. For over a decade, coaching centres and private tuitions have been their prime sources of income.
"In a typical school classroom, the student-teacher ratio is 60/70:1. It is very difficult for one teacher to teach so many students," said Shariful Rahman, a high school teacher from Brahmanbaria Sadar upazila.
However, with only 15-20 students in coaching centres, teachers can give each of them more time.
Driven by their thirst to ensure GPA-5 for their children, parents also opt to admit their children to coaching centres, thus perpetuating the problem.
This is a vicious cycle that ultimately hinders the intellectual growth of students. In reality, good grades do not always translate to better opportunities.
"Good grades and certificates can take a person in front of an interview board; they cannot take you further," he opined.
But parents are not willing to bet their children's future on this opinion.
Laila Husne Ara Begum, a mother of two, spends her whole day taking her children to the school and then to the coaching centres. "If my children do not get proper care and attention in their studies, then they will not get admitted to good colleges or universities," she said, adding that most colleges and universities prefer students who have received a GPA-5 grade.
"If teachers provided better education at schools, then we would not have to go for private tuitions," she said.
Despite a government ban on private tuitions and coaching centres, the practice still runs rampant.
If government teachers provide private tuitions or coaching, they will face disciplinary action.
Teachers in private institutions will be terminated, unless they receive prior permission from the heads of their respective institutions.
Why then, are teachers still risking their jobs by providing private tuitions and teaching at coaching centres?
Poorly trained, poorly paid
Primary school teachers usually receive in-service training – the Certificate in Education (C-in-Ed) training. For secondary education, the teachers are required to have Bachelor of Education (BEd) training.
The requirement for public primary school teachers – Government Primary Schools (GPS) and Registered Non-Government Primary Schools (RNGPS) – is a Bachelor degree. No professional training is mandatory. Once the teachers get appointed, they are sent to the Primary Teacher Training Institute (PTI) for professional training.
Although primary teachers teach multiple subjects, only 27 percent of GPS teachers and 30 percent of RNGPS received subject based trainings, according to the Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics.
Each year, approximately 241 participants go to the PTI, where 14 professionals oversee the C-in-Ed programme, including the Superintendent and the Assistant Superintendent.
This means that during a two-month period they need to supervise 14-15 participants, making it difficult for supervisors to offer the best training to the participants.
Participants often receive the C-in-Ed degree without proper guidance and training from the supervisors.
These teachers, who then go on to teach at educational institutions, are also paid low salaries.
"Teachers earn around Tk2 lakh each month from private tuitions. Those working at small towns or villages can make around Tk1-1.5 lakh per month. So, they give their full effort in coaching centres, rather than in schools," Shariful explained.
Moreover, better social recognition and rewards are also required to stimulate the primary and secondary school teachers to improve their performance.
"Teaching used to be a noble profession – not a business. Schools used to be the second home for children, but this mind-set no longer exists," Shariful stated.
Improvement of the teachers' quality, one of the most ignored topics, will remain ignored if necessary steps are not taken to change it, claim education experts.
If the issue of remuneration for primary school teachers is not addressed, then the quality of education may further deteriorate.
Additionally, transparent assessment of the teachers' performance is needed.
The local primary education authority can set certain criteria based on the standards of teaching.
Not only considering the number of years in service, the assessment based on these criteria should also be used as a verifiable indicator for differentiation in the ranks of teachers and for a career ladder (assistant headmaster, and headmaster).
Quality and skill based remunerations, which would help work as incentives to teach better, also needs to be introduced to attract competent people.