A LARGE number of kindergarten-type schools run without being registered with relevant authorities. There are, as the Bangladesh Kindergarten School Association says, 70,000 such schools and only 600 of them registered with the primary education directorate. The Annual Primary School Census also shows a steady increase in the number of kindergarten schools. Although the schools are meant to provide early education to pre-school children, they, in reality, offer education up to secondary or even higher education. As the schools are largely unregulated, the quality of education there is not monitored and they mostly run with a profit-only motive. Many parents complained, as New Age reported on Saturday, that many schools sell textbooks that are meant to be supplied free by the National Curriculum and Textbook Board. They compel parents to buy guidebooks and school uniforms from designated shops at higher than market prices. Parents and educationalists unanimously blame a lax oversight of education managers for this unchecked commercialization of primary education.
The association’s leaders, however, point the finger at government officials for delay in registering the schools. The school registration process ideally must not exceed 90 days. As the authorities, as the association leaders say, do not hold evaluation meetings regularly, the applicants need to wait for months, even years, for registration. Educationalists allege that government officials in full knowledge of the situation are inactive as they too extract undue benefits from unregistered schools. It is not surprising in this situation that the quality of education, especially at the primary level, is declining. A World Bank report in March showed that 35 percent of Class III students cannot properly read Bangla and 43 percent cannot give complete answers to questions written in Bangla. But when government schools fail to provide quality education, parents prefer sending their children to private schools, which has contributed to the mushrooming growth of private educational institutions with all their malaise and ill impact.
Primary education is considered the foundation of child development. But a weak and poor monitoring system in Bangladesh risks the very foundation of children’s education. The government must, therefore, immediately take steps to review unregistered schools to bring them under its regulatory purview and ensure that the quality of education is not compromised on profiteering motives. In doing so, the government must also investigate the allegations of corruption against government officials of different agencies that are meant to monitor educational institutions. In the long run, the government should abandon its strategic emphasis on increasing the number of schools and graduates and adopt a policy that would ensure quality education.