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     Volume 7 Issue 1 | January 4, 2008 |

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Saving English Medium Schools

Iftekhar Hassan

The interim government in its last one year has taken some commendable steps, of them include the war on corruption and the proposed human rights commission. At the same time it has decided to enact some regulations for the English Medium schools of the country, some of which will harm the sector, if not destroy it.

Before these laws are discussed further, we must recall that most of these renowned schools in Bangladesh were established at a time when parents had been sending their children abroad for quality English medium education. This was taking its toll on the country's foreign exchange; there is no denying it. It is, then, not a mere co-incidence that the urban middle class has heaved a sigh of relief after schools like Scholastica, Sunbeams and Mastermind have been established and the demand for quality English Medium education in the country is a testimony to that. There is no denying that our Board system has failed to provide quality education, the main reasons behind this being corruption, factionalism among teachers and undue government interference. Government-run schools is a case in point: during the governing-body elections, these schools turn into a mini war zone, with teachers, parents and students canvassing like the way we see it in the city corporation elections. These governing bodies, which control the management of Bangla-medium schools have become a breeding ground for power-hungry corrupt persons, for a berth in the management committee means the power and authority to hire and fire, not to mention the embezzlement of schools' money.

There is no surprise, then, that from ward commissioners to members of parliament, everyone in power wants to have a say in the management of the schools. Now it is shocking that the government wants to introduce this very same system in private English Medium schools. To begin with, the proposed management committee is to consist of 11 members, eight of whom are representatives of the owners. Most of these schools are owned by two-three individuals, almost all of whom are themselves teachers. It is practically impossible to have eight members from the owners, which makes the formation of these management committees fundamentally flawed. And parents' representation in the management committee through elections may end up sending the wrong people in the committee, this may spell disaster for all parents who send their children to private schools have jobs, in cases it may lead to conflicts of interest or runs the risk of inefficient people managing the school administration. The same goes for the election of teachers: teachers in English Medium schools spend their school hours giving classes and copy checking; elections, no doubt will give birth to factionalism among teachers and their academic activities might be harmed.

Private schools are commercial establishments. All businesses do not require their clients to share the monetary income and expenditure; it is not understandable why these privately-owned schools will be forced to do this. What parents demand of the schools is quality education, good academic environment, professional faculty members, discipline and good results. It should be mentioned here that no private school in any other country has been forced to go through such a hassle.

For the last couple of decades, English medium students have been bringing fame and glory to their beleaguered motherland, otherwise famous for corruption and natural disasters. The development of this sector is proportional to the development of our national economy. We must not forget the contributions that English medium students have made to the nation-building process. Before enacting new rules the government should form a committee consisting of parents, owners and teachers to find out ways that will help this thriving sector to develop further. Meanwhile, it should also remove clauses that may lead to the politicisation of the campus.

Iftekhar Hassan is a teacher.

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