Education in Bangladesh
Published by UNESCO "UNION NACIONAL DE EDUCACION SUPERIOR CONTINUA ORGANIZADA"
"NATIONAL UNION OF CONTINUOUS ORGANIZED HIGHER EDUCATION"
© UNICEF Bangladesh/2008/Naser Siddique
Girls participate in the classroom at Shibram Government Primary School, Rajshahi division.
Primary education is free for all children in Bangladesh, from grades one through five. By law, children between the ages of six and ten must attend school. However, the quality of education remains a barrier for education levels.
The Government of Bangladesh has made significant progress in recent years to increase primary-school-age enrollment rates to cover 89 per cent of boys and 94 per cent of girls. However, access to education remains a challenge for vulnerable groups, particularly working children, disabled children, indigenous children and those in remote areas or living in extreme poverty. Only half of all children living in slums attend school, a rate 18 percentage points lower than the national average.
Drop-out rates have made substantial progress where in 2006 the proportion of pupils starting grade one who reach grade 5 was 63.6 per cent, in 2009 this has increased to 79.8 per cent. However, progress is still required in this area. Absenteeism is also a significant problem. Parents often withdraw their children from school as a strategy for coping with natural disasters or economic difficulties, such as rising food prices. Recent studies show that boys are more likely to drop out of school than girls, or not enroll at all, pointing to an emerging gender imbalance.
At least ten per cent of primary school teaching posts are vacant. To compensate for the lack of teachers, high-school graduates can apply for teaching positions. One third of staff at government schools teach without a Certificate in Education.
Promoting interactive and inclusive learning is difficult in face of traditional teaching methods that require students to memorise facts. Students regularly fail to meet required curriculum competencies, so repetition rates are high. It currently takes an average of 8.5 years for a child to complete grades one through five. 10 per cent of primary school students are above primary school age (11+).
Primary schools often do not have enough space to accommodate all local children. To combat the problem, 90 per cent of government schools run a ‘double shift’: half the students attend school in the morning and the other half attend in the afternoon. A child in a double-shift school is typically in the classroom for between three and four hours a day. Regular school closures further reduce class time.
The Government is working to improve learning environments, building 17,277 new classrooms between 2005 and 2007, improving ventilation and lighting, and increasing access for disabled children. In those schools that are still waiting for these improvements, dark and cramped classrooms continue to hamper learning.
Challenges – Enabling children to learn and thrive
Bangladesh has made remarkable gains over the past two decades by ensuring access to education, especially at the primary level and for girls. The country’s net enrollment rate at the primary school level increased from 80 percent in 2000 to 98 percent in 2015, and secondary school net enrollment is now around 54 percent, up from 45 percent in 2000. Furthermore, the percentage of children completing primary school is close to 80 percent, and Bangladesh has achieved gender parity in access, in addition to dramatic decreases in disparities between the highest and lowest consumption quintiles at both the primary and secondary levels.
Despite these and other achievements, however, a number of challenges remain:
relevance. Bangladesh’s workforce of 87 million is largely undereducated
(only 4 percent of workers have higher than secondary education), and the
overall quality of the country’s human capital is low. National learning
assessments conducted by the Government of Bangladesh show poor literacy and
numeracy skills among students – only 25 percent to 44 percent of the students
in grades 5 through 8 have mastery over Bangla, English and math, and
performance on these measures is especially low among poor students. In
general, students have weak reading skills, and curricula, teaching approaches,
and examination systems at all levels focus more on rote learning than on
competencies, critical thinking, and analytical skills.
Low relevance of tertiary education and skills training is another issue of concern. The World Bank Enterprise Skills Survey 2012, for example, showed that employers believe graduates of Bangladesh’s higher education and training programs are inadequate for today’s and tomorrow’s labor market.
Equitable access. Repetition (the number of times students repeat grades) and dropout rates are still significant in Bangladesh, and only 50 percent of the students who enroll in first grade reach grade 10. Around five million Bangladeshi children between the ages of six and 13 – mostly from poor families, urban slums, and hard-to-reach areas – remain out of school. Women continue to lag behind men in higher secondary and tertiary education. In addition, student enrollment is progressively lower for the poor from the secondary to the tertiary levels.
Governance and management. Bangladesh’s Ministry of Primary and Mass Education (MoPME) is responsible for primary education (grades 1 to 5), and the Ministry of Education (MoE) oversees secondary and post-secondary education. The Government of Bangladesh recently announced that it will extend free and compulsory primary education to all students through grade 8, a policy that will require close collaboration between MoPME and MoE. Financing. Government spending on education as a share of the gross domestic product is around 2 percent, the second lowest in South Asia, and lower than in most other countries at similar levels of development.
Financing. Government spending on education as a share of the gross domestic product is around 2 percent, the second lowest in South Asia, and lower than in most other countries at similar levels of development.
Solutions – Investments in early and lifelong learning
Bank support of Bangladesh’s education sector is based on the principle that investing early for all is investing smartly, and investing in lifelong learning is investing for the future. The Bank is therefore engaged in the entire range of Bangladesh’s education sector – from primary to TVET (technical training) and tertiary education (see Table 1). Currently, the Bank is also providing the Government of Bangladesh with technical assistance to prepare a new Secondary Education Program and a Primary Education Program, which are expected to receive the Bank’s lending support in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
Primary Education Development Program III
· The primary enrolment and completion rates have reached 97.9 percent and 79.6 percent, respectively.
· Around 127,000 schools received more than 110 million textbooks within the first month of the school year in 2016.
· More than 90 percent of the schools have received textbooks within the first month of the academic year.
· 22,444 additional classrooms have been constructed in remote and underprivileged areas to reduce overcrowding in schools.
Reaching Out of School Children II
· 690,000 out-of-school children enrolled in 20,400 Ananda Schools in 148 most disadvantaged rural upazilas, covering about one-third of the country.
· More than 90 percent pass rate in the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examinations.
· 46 percent students enrolled in grade six appeared in these examinations.
Secondary Education Quality and Access Enhancement Project
· More than 11 million student-years and 40,000 school-years have benefitted from project interventions.
· Annually, 1,500 institutions and their teachers receive top institutional incentives · More than 50,000 students receive best student awards
· More than 77,000 “economically poor” students receive SSC pass incentive awards.
· 144,615 diploma students from 100 polytechnic institutions have received stipends
· 73,753 trainees (27 percent women) have received short-course training,
· 1,173 full-time contractual teachers have been deployed in 50 public polytechnics, filling up 95 percent of vacant teaching posts, and around 1,200 polytechnic teachers have been trained · Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) has been operationalized, and around 9,000 individuals have been assessed through RPL.
Quality Enhancement Project
· 345 academic innovation grants have been awarded to 27 public and 9 private universities
· 10 university-industry collaboration grants to spur innovation have been awarded
· The Bangladesh Research and Education Network – a dedicated high-speed internet connectivity for education and research - is fully functional at the University Grants Commission (UGC) and in 35 public and private universities.
· UGC Digital Library is fully operational, providing 42 member universities and two research institutions access to over 30,000 e-resources
· A quality assurance mechanism has been introduced through the establishment of Institutional Quality Assurance Cells in 61 public and private universities