Opinion

Education in conundrum in Bangladesh
Faruque Ahmed
07 Mar,2017

The country has now enough resources for funding education from primary to the highest university level and yet the education sector is acutely suffering from lack of facilities and proper planning.  There is a classroom shortage from primary schools to public universities and government colleges. There is also a short supply of teachers from primary schools to public universities. Besides, the lack of government control over the private universities is adversely affecting teaching and functioning.


The question is why the government is failing to provide resources and properly develop the sector to enable it to meet demand side of the skilled and educated manpower to run the administration efficiently and provide technical manpower to business and industry to bring qualitative changes and transform the system. The fact is that resources are there but the leadership is failing to use it effectively.
 
Education is nobody’s business

Newspaper reports on Sunday say that over 400 students of 15 batches are crowding in four classrooms at Chittagong University’s Marine Science and Fisheries Institute. It appears unthinkable how the ‘varsity management is conducting the classes and running 90 courses for students. This simply suggests the students are not getting proper education.

Another report said 21,000 students at Gurudayal Govt. College of Kishoreganj are overcrowding in 34 classrooms and there is a shortage of 109 teachers there. Allegations galore that most big government colleges are overcrowded with students without enough classrooms and teachers  and suffer from lack of proper library and laboratory facilities.

Yet another report said 45,000 posts of primary school teachers including over 17000 headmasters are lying vacant in 64,000 government schools across the country. Since assistant teachers are acting as headmasters, regular teaching is also severely suffering.

This is a horrendous picture of our education system exist in the public universities to primary schools while the education sector has been allocated a huge sum Tk 49,009 crore in 2016-17 budget. The question is when the government is providing huge budget for education every year why primary schools, government colleges and public universities are lacking basic infrastructure facilities.

Media reports and point out that many primary schools are running classes in dilapidated buildings across the country and teachers are taking classes in open air. One question naturally arise is why so much money is failing to solve the problems and where so much funds are being used.

The Marine Science and Fisheries Institute of Chittagong University was established ove two decades ago to explore marine resources in the off-shore waters of the Bay of Bengal. It later opened three academic disciplines for teaching and over time number of students increased manifold but classrooms and number of teachers remained the biggest problem for expansion of the physical and teaching facilities. It has four classrooms for around six hundred students.
 
System doesn’t work

It needs new building and other facilities but things are not moving mainly because of political influence and bureaucratic wrangling and lack of discipline to ensure proper implementation of different projects.

It is no secret that dishonest officials and contractors are grabbing the bigger part of development budgets of schools, colleges and public universities. Ruling party men and leaders of their student fronts are taking the lion’s share of development budget by forcing the contractors who are to implement projects. If they are not paid, they simply prevent the construction work taking effect.

The Engineering Department of Primary Education, which is entrusted to build primary schools is allegedly highly corrupt and divert major part of the resources to vested interest quarters. As a result construction of new primary school buildings is slowing down and decision to build new school buildings in some areas also depends of political consideration.

Similarly despite the shortage of so many teachers at primary level, recruitment of new teachers is also facing setback for many reasons including political intervention. It is now conducted with written test followed by viva-voice test.

But the political influence behind the selection of a candidate starts from the grassroots and final approval of the results depends on how much bribe a candidate can cough up with. It is no secret and even known to the minister but he has little control over the system.  Consequently, vacancies keep lying vacant while the rigmarole for recruiting new teachers goes on.

Meanwhile leakage of question papers has become endemic causing to breakdown the public examination system. It happened once again during the ongoing SSC examination when question paper of mathematics was leaked out before the exam started. There is no secret that a section of teachers is also involved in such leakage and few days ago the education minister warned that ‘no one involved would be spared’.
 
Bribery at public universities

Recent TIB report said bribery has been detected in a study report of recruitment of public university teachers’ which varies up to Tk 10-15 lakhs in many cases. On the other hand, most private universities are using their establishment as business enterprise charging five to six lakhs taka for a four-year course without having proper faculty and other facilities for the students.

It appears that most private universities using private houses to run their classes ignoring contractual obligations to shift their campuses into their own facilities. Over 39 universities are operating in rented facilities and since powerful persons within the government own such establishments, the University Grants Commission is helpless in strictly enforcing the rules
Many of them have no regular Vice Chancellor and acting VCs in running them. Many have no registrars or treasurers to save money and make more profit. Sponsors of some are also publicly engaging in quarrels as to who will control the establishment and the UGC ignores such unacceptable behavior of the sponsors.

Meanwhile the government has decided to give license to six more private universities to powerful people close to the government. Few new Medical colleges are also getting permission when some existing ones in the private sector are not having their own college campuses and running classed in hired facilities. They have no room for anatomy classes and other necessary in-house training facilities of a medical hospital.
 
Unholy alliance in education

Some Medical Colleges are operating in only several hired rooms, the University Grants Commission report says, while admitting regular students in those institutions. They realize huge charges per semester in which students from rich families get admitted only for boosting their family image that their children are going to be medical doctors. These medical colleges should not have been permitted to operate in the first place.

There is no doubt that the country is facing a serious crisis to develop a properly functional education system where powerful people have established their control over it to make fortune overnight. The government is failing to run the public sector educational establishments while private sector involvement has made education as business establishments without any check and balance.

The nation has the resources to build a reasonably good base for proper and competitive education in the country. However, its political leadership has joined hands in an unholy alliance with private businesses and is failing to develop the education sector to create the necessary manpower that the country urgently needs to advance its own economic development for higher growth.