Education is at the core of the evolution of human civilisation. Like other countries, the present national education system of Bangladesh is carrying on the legacy of the past.
Reviewing the history of our national education system, we can see that private initiatives, besides government initiatives, played an important part in the establishment, management and financing of educational institutions.
That trend of establishing educational institutions remains today. As a result, the management of education in Bangladesh is divided into many categories.
In our country, the government has always been liberal in setting up privately owned secondary educational institutions. Due to this liberal policy, since independence, many privately owned secondary educational institutions were established in Bangladesh.
No doubt the contribution of these educational institutions in expanding secondary education is immense. There are many private institutions whose teaching-learning qualities are no less than government institutions.
However, the reverse picture of this success must be taken into account as well. There are some institutions which are established for different purposes. These institutions are used as a shield for ulterior motives and are at the centre of various malpractices and corruption. Occasionally few reports are published in the media about these. Needless to say, those are the "tip of the iceberg"; many institutions are carrying out malpractices behind the scenes.
Since these institutions are not allocated money from the revenue budget, there is less government supervision over them. These educational institutions are commonly seen in the capital city, and also at the Upazila and union levels.
Many of them collected donations from expats living abroad in the name of establishing educational institutions in the villages. Then they 'sell' this non-profit identity as the founder of an educational institution in various for-profit places; take appointment with influential people, increase their influence, etc.
The village is a very suitable place to do these because the watchdog role played by citizens and the supervisor role of the administration are weaker in the village.
All these institutions advertise themselves in the same way. Many institutions run admission campaigns on Facebook highlighting their teachers and students.
We are familiar with the styles and language these educational institutions use, for example 'experienced teachers'. This is probably the most widely used phrase of the privately-owned secondary educational institutions.
The truth is, most institutions recruit teachers from their own families and acquaintances. Besides, young students who have just graduated or are waiting for results teach at these institutions.
When admitting students, they declare that no student will have to take private tuitions. Truth is, while teachings in the classroom, the students come to know that the person standing in front of them is not even a real teacher, just someone looking for a job elsewhere.
And there is uncertainty about whether this teacher will be here next month. So the students are forced to study privately with teachers of other educational institutions. Parents are also forced to spend extra money because they need to secure their children's results.
The parents do not ask anything of these educational institutions because, starting from reserving seats for a good student, many facilities are in the hands of the educational institutions.
Many institutions talk about teaching students creatively and conducting regular exams.
There is a dilemma even among the teachers of mainstream educational institutions regarding the creative method. With the help of NCTB, SESIP provides TQI training to the secondary level teachers. This training is mainly available to government and MPO affiliated secondary teachers.
And as for regular exams: it does not require much creativity to take regular exams. In our country, privately-owned secondary educational institutions are in competition on who can take more exams! In this race, students do not have to learn, students memorise the topics themselves to secure good scores.
One of the effective arrangements for a privately owned secondary educational institution in the village is the "Master role", in simple words, part-time teacher. But, where no one wants to be a full-time teacher, who will be a part-time teacher?
The truth is that there are many! Every year in our country, many students wait for results after their honours exam, and this is the time they want to teach for a while. The reasons are many - add a teacher title to their name, prepare for the future job tests, the fascination with female students, financial solvency, etc.
So these part-timers engage in all sorts of malpractices, including appearing in the exam for the student. They often lack self-esteem as a teacher, are goaded by the parents' flattery and hospitality, sometimes this prohibited act in the exam centre is a "thrill" for them, and if they are caught, they have nothing to lose.
He or she does not have a permanent job from which they will be fired. The maximum that will happen is that they will be expelled from the exam centre. Even then, the expelled teacher came to the exam centre for one day only - for one subject. Another "Master" can always come for the next day's exam.
Although it is said that the privately-owned secondary educational institutions take special care of the JSC, SSC and HSC candidates, the truth is, during public examinations, special care is taken mainly of the teachers - especially Mathematics and English teachers.
This is because skilled and qualified teachers of Mathematics or English do not usually continue in privately owned educational institutions. So when it comes to public examinations, students are in trouble.
There are different types of privately owned secondary educational institutions owned by individuals and groups in our country. The government has no authority over them. With a liberal administration in the field of education, privately-owned secondary educational institutions have sprung up in different corners of the country.
As soon as June-July or November-December comes, the various markets, junctions and residential areas of the country are covered with advertisements of educational institutions. Indeed, it is time to consider whether these educational institutions are a resource of the state or not.
Now, the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution has begun in the world. The base of this revolution is knowledge. The plans we made to prepare our next generation for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, because of the Covid-19, now has to be redesigned.
For this, we require strict education management and real educational institutions. We hope that in the coming days, the state will be more aware and far-sighted in providing freedom of establishment, management and financing to the privately-owned secondary educational institutions.
The author is an ex Vice-principal of a collegiate school, columnist and MPhil researcher (Education Science) in the School of Education of Bangladesh Open University, and he can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Facebook @nazrul.russell