Twenty thousand head teachers of sixty-four government primary schools have recently got three time scales and that have further increased their salary and grade. This is another cause of assistant teachers’ getting angry
Just one week stands ahead to begin new education year when students will get new books in their hands. At this critical juncture thirty five lakh assistant teachers of sixty four thousand government primary schools started strike to resolve the salary and grade disparity between them and their head teachers. They want their grade next to the trained head teachers’ grade who belong to grade eleven whereas assistant teachers have been in fourteenth grade. Till 1977 there laid no disparity of salary between the government primary head teachers and assistant teachers. In 2006 that saw two grades difference and in 2014 the head teachers’ position was upgraded to second class and the gap stood three grades between them that infuriated the assistant teachers of government primary schools. The head teachers have been enjoying eleventh grade whereas assistant teachers in the fourteenth grade. The government is trying to further upgrade the position of head teachers keeping pace with second class officers of other departments and it will be upgraded to tenth grade that has further angered the assistant teachers. So, a large portion of these teaches started demonstration at the Central Shaheed Minar since 23 December 2017 that was broken on 26 December through a speech of the minister. Of course, no solution has been mentioned clearly that used to happen in the previous cases as well.
When three stages gap developed between the head teachers and assistant teachers in 2014, the assistant teachers started their mild protest in the form of human chain, arranging meeting among themselves and doing work abstention. They also met the director general of primary and mass education directorate but of no avail. To press home their demands they started demonstration again on 23 December ‘17at Central Shaheed Minar under the banner of grand alliance of five assistant teachers’ organization. This is a unique feature of our teacher organizations that they agitate and demonstrate only to increase their own benefits, not for the betterment of whole education system. They hardly talk about how to bring about quality in the education and develop a child friendly environment in the school and classroom and to make the curriculum and textbooks attractive keeping pace with the outside world. The quality of education provided in the government primary schools offers a very miserable and poor standard. Most of the students coming out of government primary schools cannot read Bengali let alone English and cannot do even simple summing up problems.
Twenty thousand head teachers of sixty-four government primary schools have recently got three time scales and that have further increased their salary and grade. This is another cause of assistant teachers’ getting angry. But we salute the decision of the government to upgrade the position of head teachers of primary school and making it second class officer status. We actually expect to see it as first class officer position as is a practice of many developing countries and our neighboring country Sri Lanka. There lies no alternative to make the primary education the most attractive centre of learning to present a prosperous and real educated nation. Primary education must be kept above any politics and conspiracy.
If we caste our glance at the situation of primary education we can see the salary of both head teacher and assistant teachers of primary school which was only Tk 135 between 1970 and 1973. But the head teachers received only ten taka more than assistant teachers as their charge or responsibility fee. Then from 1985 to 1991 a trained head teacher used to draw salary of Tk 750 per month and it was in the 16th grade and an assistant teacher would get Tk 650 as basic salary and his grade was 17th. Then till 2005 a trained head teacher got taka 3100 as monthly salary in the 16th grade and assistant teachers Tk 3000 being in the 17th grade. In 2006 the head teachers fell in 13th grade and their monthly salary became taka 3500 taka and assistant teachers’ were in the 15th grade and monthly salary was 3100taka. And the disparity started since then.
In 2014 the present prime minister announced to enhance the salary and dignity of primary school teachers that became effective from 2013. The position of head teachers was upgraded into second class officer, their grade became 11th with monthly basic salary 6400 taka. In opposite to it, the position of assistant teachers was third class staff and their grade was made 14th with monthly basic 5200 taka. The basic salary difference between the head teachers and assistant teachers then stood 1200 taka. In 2015 the eight national pay scale was declared that difference further widened.
Now a trained head teacher gets monthly salary Tk 12500 in the 11th grade whereas an assistant teacher 10200 taka being in the fourteenth grade. But non-trained head teachers and assistant teachers both obtain salary in the 15th grade. One teacher leader says in this respect that after serving sixteen years the salary difference between a head teacher and an assistant teacher will be taka 20,000 thousand that cannot be accepted. Again, an assistant teacher will have to go on retirement with the salary as head teacher now gets that is a serious disparity between us that needs to be removed, not narrowed only. If we really want to give a better basic education to our children, we must attractive bright candidates to come to this profession and a ladder must be set before them so that they can gradually reach the peak position of education.
The facts mentioned in the above paragraphs give us clear hints that our primary education though in most of its part is run by the state itself does not receive due importance and the decisions taken to improve the situation of teachers and head teachers were not based on well through-out plan. Primary education calls for much more attention from the state. It has been taken as a common fact that standard education will not be available in the government primary schools. If not, what is the necessity of running sixty-four thousand primary schools? When government officials or the affluent class don’t send their children to state run primary schools, it clearly gives us signal that the education provided in these schools is of low quality. We can remember James Tooley who was working as a consultant for an arm of the World Bank in 2000 in India. He left his five-star hotel in Hyderabad, India, to see the Charminar, As his autorickshaw proceeded through middle-class suburbs, he was struck by the ubiquity of private schools. Tooley’s surprise, the private schools didn’t thin out as he passed through poorer areas. When he continued his journey on foot, deeper into the slums, “there seemed to be a private school on every street corner”.
In nearly every case, he discovered, these schools, though they relied largely on unqualified teachers receiving minimal salaries, outperformed the state schools. Most remarkably, state education officials and aid agencies denied their very existence. Similar is the case in Bangladesh, the poorly established primary schools in the private sector gives far better education to the children without receiving any state facility. When this is the case, should we nurture government primary schools just to rear a large number of teachers just to show and declare that our primary education is free and compulsory? If we really want to claim it, we must give full attention to its problems and to offer best quality education.
The writer works for BRAC Education Programme