Stockholm Peace Research Institute released a report telling the investment in arms and weapons has increased three times in the Middle Eastern countries in the last fifteen years. 1998 these countries spent four thousand US dollars in the field which has increased to twelve thousand US dollars. And this might be the reason of lagging behind in terms of establishing democracy in these countries. In the Middle Eastern countries the investment in buying and producing arms has been increasing continuous ignoring the necessity of advancing education. On the other hand the democratic countries have given their attention to another field. They have reduced the amount of buying arms or have gone back to the previous situation in terms of collecting arms and ammunitions.
According to World Bank and Economic Cooperation and Development Organization report, the average investment in education is five per cent of the national budget globally. And the European countries spent 5.5 per cent of their national budget in education, even Turkey uses 4.2 per cent, Egypt 3.8, Iran 3.6, Bahrain 2.6 and Lebanon 2.2 but Oman shows a little bit different picture. She uses 4.3 per cent of her national budget for education. Investment in education is the largest and biggest investment which these countries fail to understand. Though its return comes a little bit late, still it proves to be the biggest investment. In this connection I like to mention that Founder and Chairperson of BRAC, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed was once invited by the Chinese government who sought suggestions from him what they can do in present global perspective to consolidate their position and establish influence globally. Sir Abed suggested them to establish several dozen universities like Oxford and Cambridge in China. Undoubtedly a very audacious and intelligent suggestion!
One report titled 'Wanted: Trained teachers to ensure every child's right to ensure primary education' released by the Institute of Statistics of UNESCO has said that 93 countries of the world experience serious teacher crisis. It further said that in order to ensure primary education for all in the whole world more four million teachers will be needed. Along with it a big challenge lies in ensuring their quality. At present 25 crore children are taking primary education and out of them 13 crore cannot achieve the basics. Three fourths' of these children live in South Asia.
Researcher Nihan Kochlechi, one of the makers of report on the observation of world education, says, "We find problems in the quality of education, quality of teachers. If we consider teacher student ratio, it may be somewhat good in many countries but it terms of quality teachers and the ratio of students, it's extremely poor".
The latest Education for All Global Monitoring Report (GMR), launched at the end of January in Addis Ababa, warns of a 'learning crisis' and the global community should focus on it. The annual report which monitors progress towards the Education for All (EFA) goals, paints a bleak picture in the run up to 2015 - the global deadline for both the EFA and Millennium Development Goals. The report states that in sub-Saharan Africa, if trends continue, the richest boys will achieve universal primary completion in 2021, but the poorest girls will not catch up until 2086. However, more attention has been given to the so-called 'learning crises' where government money is 'wasted' on poor quality education where children do not learn despite being in school. The report rightly argues two main points. Firstly, governments across the globe are failing to meet their funding commitments to education, and where they do make investments, they benefit the privileged at the expense of the most marginalized, effectively widening inequalities. Moreover, many countries have failed to adequately invest in teacher training, recruiting unqualified teachers on temporary contracts to meet the demands of an expanding education system. Secondly, governments have not adequately developed and implemented comprehensive teacher policies.
. Children who are already in disadvantageous situation - girls, the poor, the disabled those in rural areas, are being hit the hardest. The Report, Teaching and learning: Achieving quality for all, shows that the learning crisis is costing governments $129 billion a year: 10 per cent of global spending on primary education is being lost on poor quality education that fails to ensure that children learn. In many sub-Saharan African countries, for example, only one in five of the poorest children reach the end of primary school having learnt the basics in reading and mathematics. In West Africa, where few children are learning the basics, teachers on temporary contracts with low pay and little formal training make up more than half of the teaching force.
In Great Britain as well politicians have a debate over the quality of education. The countries of Europe and America show their wonder how the students of China and India are so good in Mathematics. They at least draw a comparison with the education of outside but we do not do that. Another factor of great concern is, students show less interest to study science because of poverty, lack of quality teacher training, no incentive, lack of science laboratory in eighty per cent schools, lack of efficient science teacher. Almost the similar picture of science is seen in many countries like Bangladesh. Special training for the teachers of science, special increment for science teachers, and stipend for the students who study science can be thought of to attract the students towards science education.
Finally, as learning is central to any educational process, it would be shortsighted to consider it the only area in need of policy attention. Prioritizing, 'learning the basics' - literacy and numeracy - comes at the expense of other indispensable elements. If countries are to make further headway on education and development up to and beyond 2015, they must address access, equity and quality simultaneously. It of course requires a holistic approach to education, focusing on what goes into a system the processes of teaching and learning, and the outcomes of these processes.r
The writer is Programme Manager of BRAC Education and an individual education researcher. He can be reached at [email protected]