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Re-claiming professional collaboration for teachers in Bangladesh

9 August 2021

Students listen to their school teacher, Shuma Das during class at the Sahabatpur Daspara Ananda school in Sahabatpur village, Bangladesh on October 12, 2016

This blog is written by Dr Md Shajedur Rahman from The Open University. Dr Rahman is based in the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies. In this blog, he outlines his research and shares his exciting news, having just been awarded a £118,000 ESRC Fellowship.

Teachers’ collaboration is considered to be a supportive practice for their professional development, school improvement and students’ achievement. However, the existing Euro-centric understanding of collaboration often pays little attention to everyday informal practices by primary school teachers and focuses predominantly on institutional and formal forms of engagement.

The findings from my my PhD at The Open University draw on original empirical evidence from rural Bangladesh to theorise collaboration as diverse forms of engagements that often take the form of informal social contacts. My study establishes collaboration as a relational and generative process. It suggests that teachers’ understanding of collaboration and the nature of their collaborative activities are very much shaped by the wider culture and organisational norms and regulations. 

Nevertheless, the work that I have conducted indicates that the current collaborative activities, which are mostly informal, in Bangladeshi primary schools seemed to have little impact on teachers’ professional learning (as outlined in a paper I published in 2020). Although the way teachers perceive collaboration and the cultural norms and values in the society offer them a potential platform for collaborative productive professional development, the platform is not being utilised effectively for productive professional learning. 

Many interventions work to change the perception of collaboration among teachers and promote formal collaboration but make a trivial change in teachers’ professional collaborative practices and classroom teaching. The study suggests that this is because teachers’ agency is not being harnessed to create a collaborative culture which can be conducive to teachers’ professional learning. Engaging teachers in deciding how they want to collaborate for their professional development would impact much more than driving them towards some defined collaborative activities which are often generated in the Global North. To do this across more than 130,000 primary schools in Bangladesh demands a framework for professional collaboration which utilises teacher agency from the development process of the framework.

In order to initiate the development of this framework, I am very pleased to advise that I have just been awarded an ESRC fellowship worth £118,000. It will enable me to build on my findings and work to develop this framework for school-based professional collaboration (F4PC) for teachers and the head teachers in Bangladesh. I have already suggested that the framework needs to take teachers’ perspective into account and I will be organising a series of workshops with teachers, headteachers and policymakers in order to achieve this. I look forward to updating you on my progress.

You can keep up to date with my work by following me on social media. Or feel free to email me using

Photo credit: Students listen to their school teacher, Shuma Das during class at the Sahabatpur Daspara Ananda school in Sahabatpur village, Bangladesh on October 12, 2016. Photo: © Dominic Chavez/World Bank.

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To find out more about our work, or to discuss a potential project, please contact:

International Development Research Office
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
The Open University
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