A study titled "Secondary education programme: Governance challenges and way out" unveiled by the Transparency International, Bangladesh finds massive irregularities, particularly exchange of bribe money for teachers' appointment, transfer and approval of monthly pay order (MPO). The TIB based its study on 54 secondary schools -36 non-government and the rest government -- from 18 upazilas. But it undoubtedly is representative of the corrupt practices vitiating education at this level. Yet the findings of the Berlin-based international watchdog body cannot be said to be a revelation, it is in fact a confirmation of what many people already know about.
For appointment to the post of a headmaster or assistant headmaster, the asking bribe rates, the TIB finds, varied between Tk 0.35 million and1.5 million. At the time of recommendation of a teacher to a school by the Non-government Teachers' Registration and Certification Authority (NTRCA) an amount ranging from Tk 50,000 to 0.20 million exchanged hands illegally. Even underhand dealings involving an amount between Tk 0.20 and 0.30 million were found to take place for appointment of librarians. During the visit of an official of the Directorate of the Inspection and Audit (DIA), schools were required to pay speed money amounting between Tk 50,000 and Tk 0.50 million. Again, teachers needed to pay a bribe of Tk 5,000 to Tk 0.10 million for inclusion in the MPO scheme. Transfer of teachers cost Tk 0.10 to 0.20 million. For academic approval of a school, the rate of speed money varies between Tk 0.10 and 0.5 million, according to the TIB.
There are other illegal financial transactions involving fictitious procurement and training expenditures but those pale before the system that corrupts teachers who are supposed to uphold values and high morality in order to inculcate those in students. In this connection, the remarks made by the education minister and the road and bridges minister on the National Education Day (Sept 17) can provide some insight into the state of education in the country. The education minister states that a large number of teachers became teachers only incidentally. They did not want to take to teaching for the love of it or were unqualified for other professions of their liking. So, she stressed that people who will come to the profession will make it as their choicest target. The road and bridges minister asserted that university authorities now do the influential student leaders' bidding and even teachers are recruited on the latter's suggestions.
These are statements of facts and there is hardly any scope for disagreeing with both observations. But then may we ask a simple question, whose responsibility is it to correct the system? Those in power, we reckon, have the mandate as well as the responsibility to bring about the desirable change. As the case is, the powerful quarters which take undue advantage to leave negative influences on school managing committees or on university administration almost without exception belong to the party in power. The TIB collected information between May and October 2019, not a time of distant past. True, credit will go to the ministry for introduction of the proposed new academic curriculum for secondary and higher secondary level of education. But if the system of recruitment of teachers remain flawed, ineffective and corrupt, we are afraid the new curricula may fall flat.
What is particularly galling is that local influential leaders, school managing committee are involved in the illegal transactions of money. This paves the way for unqualified people to enter the profession that should have been highly respected. Even teachers wanting in the minimum required quality could improve their skills if they did not have to compromise on ethics and toe the lines of the local influential people but underwent a rigorous teachers' training system. But such options are closed to them and the bribe money they have to pay at the time of their entry into the profession make them disillusioned. Respect for the profession thus goes missing from the very beginning. When the quality of university teachers, as the road and bridges minister claims, are compromised because of political affiliation and student leaders' pressure, what can happen at the secondary school level is anyone's guess.
The new curricula will demand hundred per cent devotion from teachers who are qualified enough for the job. When a large number of teachers are found wanting in quality, the need was to take at least a 10 years programme for teachers' recruitment before introduction of the new curricula scheduled for 2023. An unbiased recruitment system supported by a well-devised extensive skill training programme had to be in place for both existing and new crops of teachers. Now it may look like putting the cart before the horse. Then where is the guarantee that the irregularities and illegal exchange of money for recruitment, transfer of teachers and staff and other educational activities will vanish all on a sudden?
No education system can prosper without its main architect, the teachers, proving their quality, integrity and devotion. One of the prerequisites for developing a quality crop of teachers is to introduce an attractive salary structure along with other facilities. But then the augean stables such as the Department of Secondary and Higher Education (DSHE), education boards, DIA and NTRCA have to be cleaned once and for all.