Although the problem of private tutoring in education has emerged at the top in newspaper reports here, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation's (UNESCO) Global Education Monitoring Report 2017-18 treated it as no more than a side issue. True, it is acknowledged as a global phenomenon with its range and scope on the rise, yet it is by no means the global report's focal point. This is notwithstanding the fact that the private coaching market worldwide is romping on to become strong by at least $227 billion by 2022.
The UNESCO has rightly put its emphasis on accountability of the parties concerned in order to ensure quality education. Titled, "Accountability in education: Meeting our commitments", the report has analysed in details the educational environment in countries all across the world. Projection of the tutoring issue alone, may give the wrong impression that it is the subject of deliberation throughout the report. It is not. In fact, it has covered government fund allocation, monitoring, corruption, auditing, role of teachers, parents, civil society and even aid money committed by members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) among many others.
So far as the commitment of governments is concerned, many countries including Bangladesh are yet to allocate the UNESCO-prescribed 15 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) and four per cent of the national budgets. This may not be the only reason for the 264 million children and youth of the world not going to school, but it surely is one of the reasons of the collective failure to bring such an army of world population to education. Holding the government to account is neither easy nor impossible. It depends on the kind of dispensation a country boasts. Student movements have compelled governments to frame education polices most favourable to universal education in some countries. Even teachers' unions can hold a government to account but unfortunately such pressures have solely been applied in this country for enhancing their pay packages. There are no instances where such unions have held protest programmes for inadequate teaching staff, infrastructural facilities and educational implements.
Clearly, the most important factor in education is the quality of teachers. And their accountability is vital to making education meaningful. A sound education policy with clear goals takes into account the process of recruitment, requisite qualification, training and ethical considerations on the part of teachers. Their responsibility should have been synonymous with their accountability as was the case in the past. But in a changed free market economy, teaching profession has gone through radical changes. In developed societies, the profession has not been threatened because the level of literacy is already high there and the salary structure is compatible with other professions.
In least developed and developing countries, existing social disparities between various sections on account of economic status have led to streams of education poles apart from one another. The global report has not much dwelt on this except observing that these are categorised as public universities, national universities, private universities and madrasha education. One must include here the English medium education. Standardisation of these streams under a system is a daunting challenge.
Here comes the question of taking up teaching as a profession rather reluctantly by the vast majority of teachers both at primary and secondary level. If primary schooling lays the foundation, the secondary education proves highly crucial for countries like Bangladesh. The policymakers and planners have failed to bring discipline here for reasons of lack of vision and indifference to the need for a universally acceptable system of education.
That the reputed educational institutions in the past came up as a result of private initiatives -mostly funded by zamindars --is no secret. The teachers appointed there too were highly qualified and dedicated. Many of them did not take teaching as a profession out of necessity but because they felt they had a commitment to society. Gone are those days and today all kinds of manoeuvring is resorted to for government recognition and grant for even a well run private institution in rural areas.
Barring exceptions, teachers today look for extra income in order to lead a decent life. Admittedly, the salaries they draw do not provide for such a life. So they are not entirely to blame for private tutoring after school. It was the time the government needed to intervene. But it was not financially strong enough to make arrangement for a decent pay package before. Today, with the country's finance getting stronger, streamlining the secondary education may begin.
Here is a system of education that puts undue pressure on students, because they learn little in schools but have to rely on private coaching. The same teachers outside classrooms, prepare students in coaching centres or under private tutoring for scoring marks only. Little do they learn in terms of knowledge and ethics. In fact, a sense of loathing, tiredness and depression prevails because of the compulsion of one after another tutoring class with no time for play, physical exercise or extra-curricular activities. This is how private tutoring is frustrating the main purpose of education. The pleasure of learning is gone and the whole exercise has become mechanical. As architect of a nation, true teachers alone can imbibe in students a vigorous passion for knowledge.