A welcome step
IT IS indeed encouraging that the government has decided to ask all schools, colleges and madrassahs to take additional classes against payment of extra fees to rein in ‘coaching business’. According to a report front-paged in New Age on Friday, the decision comes after the education ministry held consultations with educationists and heads of educational institutions. The education minister was quoted in the report as saying that teachers would not be allowed to offer private tuition to students of the institutions that they belong to; however, a teacher can tutor up to 10 students from other schools, colleges and madrassahs. He said the meetings had finalised the guidelines in this regard, which would require each educational institution to take additional classes, giving priority to ‘weak students’, at a convenient time after or before the routine classes, in exchange for extra fees at the rates of Tk 300 for metropolitan areas, Tk 200 for district towns and Tk 150 for upazila towns per subject. The guidelines, which, according to the education secretary, will be circulated through a gazette notification, also bar teachers from engaging in coaching centres and provides for cancellation of monthly pay order for non-government teachers and cancellation of registration of non-government institutions for violation. Overall, as noted by a prominent educationist who attended the consultations, the guidelines, if properly enforced, could help bring students back to schools and rein in the coaching business.
The education ministry certainly deserves praise for having initiated a consultative process towards formulating a strategy to fight the menace of the ‘coaching business’, which, as different quarters at different times have complained, results in teachers becoming rather indifferent to properly taking classes in the institutions that they belong to and thus depriving students, especially those not financially able to take private tuition. It also marks one among very few instances where the Awami League-Jatiya government has responded promptly and positively to a directive from the apex court to act decisively on a matter of public interest. Suffice it to say, the incumbents have, in many cases, dragged their feet when it comes to compliance with the highest judiciary in such matters.
That said, however, it needs to pointed out that, the ‘coaching business’ is one of the many problems that plague secondary and higher education in Bangladesh. The government needs to seriously consider addressing the issue of poor pay for teachers at these levels, which, many people argue, discourage many qualified and competent individuals from taking up the profession in the first place. Moreover, like any other profession, on-service training is imperative for school and college teachers to keep pace with the changes and improvements taking place around the world in teaching. The government need also to reduce the widening gap of standards between urban and rural schools and colleges through investing more in educational institutions outside the capital and other major cities. Otherwise, the step against the ‘coaching business’ would prove inadequate to meet its ultimate objective — that of quality education.
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