The case of secondary school teachers

| Updated: October 24, 2017 08:25:23

The case of secondary school teachers
A survey-cum-study report released recently says around half of the secondary school teachers in the country do not have any training at all. Newspapers picked up the issue, and made headlines. There is something rather simplistic in the way the matter is being looked at, as though it is only training that can hand down all that is required of teachers in the thousands of secondary educational institutions (including colleges) in the country. Understandably, one of the reasons why the situation is viewed seriously is the changing curriculum in the education system that makes training and updating of teaching skill so critically important. Given this, the question that needs to be answered: can training make up for the essentials that determine a teacher's competence in the classroom? 
   The survey on the state of secondary level teachers' training was conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics in March 2014 covering all 28,253 secondary schools, school and colleges and madrassahs. The report of the survey was published in November 2015. The survey finding says about 46 per cent of 312,479 teachers at the secondary education level including schools, colleges and madrassahs are untrained. Of them, 35 per cent are school teachers, 43 per cent school and college teachers, and 75 per cent madrassah teachers. The situation was thus at its worst with the madrassah teachers, as only 25 per cent out of the total 87,881 teachers were found trained. 'Coverage of training facility is small compared to the number of teachers. Their lecturing method has been found ineffective, partly because most teachers did not receive effective training and partly because the evaluation method they practice encourage rote learning. All these have negative impact on the learning process,' said the survey.
With the changing curriculum as well as shifts in the evaluation methods, the fallout of untrained teaching is inevitably reflected in what the students actually learn in the class rooms. The government's latest Learning Assessment Survey that came out in November 2014 showed that about 92 per cent class VI students lack required competence in English, 89 per cent in Bengali and 82 per cent in Mathematics.
The survey also showed that only 34 per cent class VIII students across the country had competence in English, 35 per cent of them in Mathematics and 49 per cent in Bengali.      
This is more than a grim picture of the state of education at the secondary level. We have been speaking of demographic dividends for sometime now, but many of us tend to overlook the very fact -- however harsh it may sound -- that the sheer number of increasing younger population with little or no skill and knowledge is a burden threatening enough to counter prospects of development in various fields. 
Now, is teachers' training the only recourse to raise the standard of secondary education? The answer should be a blatant 'no'. While there can be no arguing the merit of training teachers, the most important component that adds to the competence of the teachers is their own levels of education. With schools and colleges coming up in every nook and cranny of the country, the least that counts is: where will the teachers come from? Are certificates of degrees attained just enough to ensure that those who are recruited are capable of helping the youngsters, let alone groom them through imparting learning in a desirable way? These are the questions that barely get asked. 
It is well known that given the very low esteem with which teachers at the primary and secondary levels are treated by society at large, there is virtually no motivation for some one with sound academic background to opt for teaching as a career. The saddest irony is that a clerical job is far more preferred to becoming a secondary school teacher. It is the gradual degeneration and the falling apart of the values and ideals of teaching over the decades that has made the education system what it is now. Coupled with this is the pervasive corruption that goes with the recruitment of teachers. 
A good deal could have been salvaged if recruitment of the teachers could be made fair, based on merit and a knack for teaching. There is no alternative to picking teachers with good academic background if improving the standard of secondary education is on the agenda of the authorities. Training can improve their teaching skills, but not their knowledge base that comes with their learning.

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