Having championed the Gulf’s first public education system in 1932, Bahrain has guaranteed education as a basic right of its citizens since 1973.
Article 4 of the Constitution refers to education as one of the “pillars of society guaranteed by the state.”
The government hence earmarks a large annual expenditure for education and has achieved a literacy rate of more than 90 per cent.
However, we need to ask if we are looking at quantity alone or is quality of education an equally important goal?
Perhaps the proposal to start ‘two shifts’ in schools (‘Plan to start evening shifts in state schools’ GDN, February 20), apart from reducing pressure on educational expenditure, could also safeguard quality over quantity.
With rising demand for more schools to accommodate 10,000 students joining every year, it is time we set up a task force and investigate the possibility of introducing shifts in schools than throw the baby with the bathwater.
Studies have shown that ‘shift schools’ are an answer to economies facing space crunch (like Hong Kong and Singapore) and resource crunch (like Uganda and Botswana).
Countries like the US and India often have overcrowded classrooms owing to demographic reasons.
Studies have shown that shift schools can even maximise cost-effectiveness in a prosperous country like Brazil.
In a high school in Florida, US, parents found a three-shift school system as a satisfactory solution to overcrowding and preferred the system to an increase in taxes (Diwan, 2002).
However, none of the studies highlight any outstanding academic achievement resulting from introduction of ‘shift schools’. Rather, they widely and universally highlight the inherent challenges in managing these schools.
Yet on cost-effective and cost-utility analysis, shift system schools stand a better chance over single shift schools.
To conclude, given the failing oil prices and rising pressure on Gulf economies to sustain, launching shift schools as a pilot project should be worth considering.
It’s also wise to study the feasibility of running two-shift state schools in the light of the challenges delimited to geography, weather, available resources, culture, and mindsets of people in a given place.