State-run polytechnic institutes, deemed crucial for industrial growth and national development, have been in dire straits owing to an acute shortage of teachers and poor organogram.
More than 46 percent of faculty posts have been vacant at 49 government polytechnic and mono-technique institutes across the country for a long time, according to the Directorate of Technical Education.
Of the government-run polytechnics, 20 are revenue-based while the rest operate under different projects. Every year 24,000 students get enrolled at these institutes with aspirations to be diploma engineers.
Insiders say a poor hierarchy, irregular recruitment and promotion, bureaucratic tangles, and above all, the authorities' indifference to needs have accounted for the prevailing situation, which has been causing widespread resentment among teachers.
The shortage of teachers is seriously hampering academic and administrative activities and also degrading the quality of technical education, they observe.
Besides, the crisis is putting huge pressure on existing teachers as they are compelled to take extra teaching loads to make up for the shortage. Some of the departments have only one or two teachers to take all the classes. In many cases, classes cannot be taken because of this reason, they add.
"The classes are being taken by whoever is available. We have instances that a teacher had to run briskly from one classroom to another to take two classes simultaneously," said a teacher of Dhaka Polytechnic Institute, asking not to be identified.
The crisis is worse at 29 polytechnic institutes, where around 62 percent of 1,170 teaching posts are vacant. The remaining 20 such institutes financed by government revenues have around 30 percent of 1,040 posts vacant.
Moreover, 12 out of these 29 institutes are running without principals and only 13 of them have vice-principals.
The old polytechnic institutes also had a shortage in these top posts. The government promoted 16 chief instructors to vice-principal and four vice-principals to principal just before the Eid-ul-Azha.
But the latest promotion has created a vacuum in the posts of the chief instructors as no new recruitments have been made against these posts for long, said Nirmal Chandra Sikder, general secretary of Bangladesh Polytechnic Teachers Association (BPTA).
Although the government has been talking loudly about equipping the young with technical education, action on its part to resolve the problems is still largely limited to rhetoric, allege the teachers.
They say there are several departments offering lessons on emerging technologies with no teachers for the core subjects since the launch of those departments.
Introducing double shifts in these institutes came as a double blow as it increased the workload of existing faculty members, with some taking as many as 50 to 55 classes a week.
"It's inhuman to work under such stress," said Mostofa Hossain, president (in-charge) of BPTA. "But the government only gives us 30 percent of our basic salary for the double shift," he told The Daily Star.
It is impossible to ensure quality education when a teacher has to take six or seven classes a day, he said, adding, "Quality of the diploma engineers will come down alarmingly if this situation persists."
The BPTA leaders say grievances prevail among the existing teachers owing to irregular promotion. They add there are many teachers who have been working in the same post for the last 20 to 25 years.
Speaking anonymously, a junior instructor at Dhaka Polytechnic Institute said, "I have been in this post for the last 30 years. It is highly embarrassing for me when someone asks me about my designation."
Experts say while the country desperately needs more graduates in the technical field, the way technical education is being managed indicates that the system will fail to produce qualified diploma engineers in future.
Following street agitations by polytechnic teachers to press home their eight-point demand, the education ministry formed a committee that submitted its report, through acknowledging the problems, on July 5.
"But we did not see any tangible results in favour of our demands. The way the ministry is moving to solve the crisis is too slow and rather increasing resentment among the teachers further," observed Nirmal.
The teachers believe an upgradation of their posts in line with general education will bring an end to this crisis. "We want a hierarchy that works in general colleges in our polytechnic institutes with new ranks and posts so that we get promoted," added Nirmal.
Contacted, Education Secretary Kamal Abdul Naser Chowdhury said the ministry had been working to amend the organogram of the polytechnic institutes.
“We have already chalked out an integrated plan for development of polytechnic education. Since it involves money we have asked the finance ministry for an allocation," the education secretary added.