We in Light of Hope have a very simple way of solving problems. Since we work with education and improving future skills of children, we knew from the very beginning of our journey, that there are a lot of things to be done in Bangladesh. But being a startup, we had to prioritize. For any new initiative in Light of Hope, we prioritize based on some indicators: financial, impact, sustainability.
If we invest $100, where should we invest in our education system and from where we will get the highest return in terms of long-term impact and the quality of education?
According to our calculation, the highest return on investment for our education system is the investment in improving the skills of the teachers. And we all know, no school is better than its teachers; no education system is better than its teacher community. Yet we fail to act on that.
Bangladesh runs one of the largest primary education systems in the world. Govt. Primary Schools, Kindergarten Schools, Madrasa, English Medium Schools and NGO-run schools – these are 5 types of primary schools in Bangladesh. There are over 1 million school teachers in Bangladesh. And surprisingly, there is no independent institution or organization that provides any professional skill development training to our teachers.
When we were thinking of starting ‘Teachers Time’ – a platform for school teachers and young parents (we consider them as ‘first teachers’ for children), we looked for any other independent service provider in Bangladesh. Government Primary School teachers get training and professional development courses from various Govt.-run Teachers Training Institutes. Yet, they are not sufficient.
Moreover, there are 2-3 times more non-government school teachers in Bangladesh compared to Government Primary School teachers. So, from where these teachers are getting any professional development?
When we surveyed in non-government schools, we found only around 10% of teachers are properly trained and skilled to teach children in schools. Most of the teachers working for over 3-4 years, didn’t get any training at all. But there is an urge and need from the teachers themselves to get training. Interestingly, schools don’t have any budget allocation for teacher skill development. Despite not knowing who will pay for the service (teachers, schools or organizations), we started Teachers Time. Because we realized that it’s important.
After almost one and a half year later of that decision (January 2017), as of today, we provided training to over a thousand school teachers on a range of courses – Classroom Management, Critical Thinking, Creative Content Development, Classroom Leadership are the top of them. We are building an online platform for teachers and parents. School Teachers will get access to our courses and upon completion will receive an international certificate. We are now working with a number of partners including Access to Information (A2I) to develop online courses for teachers. So that we can bring high quality and low-cost accessible skill development opportunity for hundreds of teachers in Bangladesh.
And it all started with a very simple question: If I want to invest $100 in our education system, where should I invest?
We believe, Government of Bangladesh (Ministry of Education) and other large NGOs can take learning from this type of simple analogy and logical thinking. We have limited resources (both financial and human). What percentage of the education budget should go in which segment to make the largest impact?
We’ve made our education system complicated enough. Maybe its time we go for simplicity. And ask basic questions.
written by Waliullah Bhuiyan, CEO, Light of Hope. He can be reached at [email protected]