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Low contact hours between students and teachers at primary level is one of the major setbacks in ensuring quality education in Bangladesh.
Children are deprived of proper learning due to the low contact hours which also contributes to dropout especially in rural areas, said experts.
While international standard suggests providing at least 1,000 hours of effective learning to every student in classroom annually, the primary school children of Bangladesh get much less than that, said primary education expert Dr Manzoor Ahmed.
“Non-government surveys show the actual amount of effective learning hours is significantly less than 500 hours in Bangladesh,” said Dr. Manzoor, the senior adviser of Institute of Educational Development at BRAC University.
Rasheda K Choudhury, executive director of Campaign for Popular Education, said low contact hours create discriminations between urban and rural areas, rich and poor children, in terms of quality education.
The government officials concerned, however, say the actual contact hours in single shift primary schools are satisfactory, but it is quite less in double shift primary schools.
In 252 school days annually, students of class one and two of single shift schools get 943.5 hours of learning in classroom, while the students from class three to five get 1701 hours.
Students of class one and two of double shift schools get 693 hours, while students from class three to five get 1071 hours, said Shyamal Kanti Ghosh, director general (DG) of Directorate of Primary Education (DPE).
But, education experts say classes are not being taken on all 252 school days. The actual learning hours is very less than the government statistics.
In many cases, it can be noticed that teachers are often late to come to classroom. Moreover, schools remain closed or teaching is suspended under many excuses like–social, cultural and political programmes as well as terminal and annual exams, said Dr Manzoor.
Whatever development is made in infrastructure or building teachers’ capacity, quality education will not be ensured unless the interactive learning contact hours between the students and teachers is increased, said Rasheda K Choudhury.
Talking about the teachers: students ratio, Dr Manzoor said large classes, with a teacher looking after 60 to 70 students or more in some cases, also reduce effective contact between teacher and student.
The students belonging to affluent families can have private tutoring to make up for lost class hours. But the students of the underprivileged section of the society lag behind in terms of learning lessons and perform poorly in examinations.
“When these students poorly perform in examinations, they lose interest in study and start absenting themselves from school. This is one major reason for high dropout rate,” said Dr Manzoor.
The children of urban areas and from affluent families are advancing with the help of coaching or private tutors, while the underprivileged children are lagging behind, said Rasheda K Choudhury.
She also recommended for maintaining the ratio of teachers and students at 1:30 or 1:35 at primary level and increasing contact hours for ensuring quality education.
Responding to the question, DG DPE, Shyamal Kanti Ghosh said the government is working to increase the number of teachers and classrooms to minimise the gap between the teachers: students ratio.