Bangladesh: schools face shortage of English and Bengali teachers

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Fri Jan 26 14:52:02 UTC 2007

>>From the Daily Star, Vol. 5 Num 944  Wed. January 24, 2007

Shortage of Skilled Manpower 3 Schools face acute shortage of trained

Durdana Ghias

Shortage of qualified, skilled and trained teachers is one of the major
problems the educational institutions are facing now.  Both Bengali and
English medium schools are running with teachers most of whom are not
properly trained. The shortage of English language teachers is acute even
in English medium schools in the city, sources said. Tazin Ahmed,
principal of Sunny Dale School, told Star City about the dearth of English
language teachers in schools in the city.

"In an English medium school like ours we need English language teachers
with English medium background. But most of those who pass 'A' level go
abroad for higher studies. When they come back, naturally they prefer
corporate offices, banks and international organisations for better
remunerations," Tazin said. She explained another reason of teacher
shortage by saying: "The girls who study in English medium schools do not
want to take up teaching as a career job. If she becomes a teacher, she
will be stuck in a career with a salary of maximum Tk 20,000. But if she
does a corporate job she will start with an amount of at least Tk 15,000."

"Fortunately, after marriage and childbirth many girls give up corporate
jobs and take up teaching as it is not that demanding. I prefer these
girls as they are just what we want. Besides, female teachers can handle
children the best. Still there is a severe scarcity." Tazin said most of
those who come from Bengali medium and pass honours and masters in English
literature cannot match the standard of English medium schools. "But
sometimes these girls can adapt themselves because of their enthusiasm for
the job." Narrating her experience, Tazin said sometimes they lose good
teachers because they are overqualified. Such people switch to corporate
jobs. But those who are willing to continue as teachers lack quality. "But
I'm optimistic to overcome this situation," she said.

Mark Parkinson, principal and head, Oxford International School, said
schools in Bangladesh lack skilled English language teachers, but it is a
worldwide problem. "Teaching is about communicative skills. It is
important how much is learnt not how much is taught. Teaching is to
motivate, organise and how lucidly you can explain complex concepts. So it
needs the skill of language," said Parkinson. He said there is a shortage
of teachers who are above 40 years of age but this is the age when someone
becomes an experienced teacher. Family pressure and status issues play
roles in switching jobs for teachers in South Asian countries.

In China one million people were trained as English language teachers for
a period of five years, but they could not reach international standard,
he said. "In UK there is a one-year practical course, postgraduate
certificate in education, which includes teaching in a class while someone
observes you and gives you feedback. This kind of training is important
for teachers,"  Parkinson added. "Teaching is developing the learner as a
thinker so that he can be creative and pull the knowledge. But the
education system in Bangladesh is not conducive to instil creativity. It
is tough for teachers to change the system," he said.

Parkinson believes that training helps improve the skills of the teachers
but good management and motivation are important factors to keep them in
the profession. Principal of another leading English medium school in
Dhaka seeking anonymity said: "We do have good teachers but I'm bound to
say that they are not sincere at all. They are not attentive toward the
students in the class." When a child first comes to the school he is given
the visiting card of the teacher to come to his private coaching centres.
Even some of them intimidate the students and parents to fail them in
their exams if they do not show up, she said. "They do not complete the
lessons in the classes intentionally so that students approach them at
their homes. As a principal, I find it very painful but I do not know how
to stop this practice," said the principal.

In Bengali medium schools and colleges the situation is a bit different.

Haspia Bashirullah, head, Department of English, Government City College,
Chittagong, who has worked as a lecturer and vice principal in Teachers'
Training College, puts emphasis on BEd and MEd degrees to train school
teachers. Required degrees, teaching qualifications and the ability to
teach at a particular level like school, college and university are the
qualities of a good teacher, she said. About the reasons behind the
deficiencies of a teacher, Bashirullah said:  "The education system itself
does not prepare a person with competency in a particular subject. The
courses taught at the university level are broad and generalised. It is
seldom applied or practical courses. So there is a basic weakness in the
teachers' education."

She said subject-based training, internship in the final year of
university courses and subject-based applied course are a few things
important to improve skills of teachers. "As a trainer I have seen that
even a three-month short course was extremely useful for teachers," she
said. According to Bangladesh Bureau of Education Information and
Statistics (BANBEIS), in 2005 only 53.6 percent teachers in government and
non-government secondary schools were trained. Only 187 teachers passed
the MEd course in the same year. Kaniz Syeda Binte Saba, assistant
professor, Teachers Training College, Dhaka, said the quality of teachers
is very low at the grassroots level so they cannot make the base of the

Abdur Rahman Mamun, associate professor of the same institute, said: "For
socioeconomic reasons teachers sometimes cannot utilise his or her
training. Suppose a teacher is given computer training. But when he goes
back to his school in a village he cannot implement the training because
the school does not have any computer." "Less opportunity for training,
lack of sincerity and dedication towards the profession, socioeconomic
reasons and inadequate salary are the reasons behind the low quality of
teachers," he said.


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