Improving the quality of education at primary level is top on the development agenda of Bangladesh.
With a population of 130 million Bangladesh has around 19 million children of primary school age (ages 6-10). Almost half are girls. Tremendous efforts in the past decade have been successful in getting more girls into school, resulting in gender parity in enrolments in primary and lower secondary schools, but the percentage of girls begins to decline in the later secondary years. When the girl dropouts are added to the number of girls who have never enrolled, there are still approximately 1.5 million primary school age girls out of school. The poor quality of education results in low achievement levels for girls and boys, and limited options for girls and women within the greater society exacerbate the problems of inadequate schooling for girls.
During the 1990s Bangladesh recorded a remarkable achievement in primary education with net and gross enrolments and completion rates all increasing by over 20 per cent. Girls’ enrolments increased by over 30 per cent during the period. Girls’ net enrolment in 2003 is 84 per cent (compared to 81 per cent for boys) However, 10 per cent of girls and 15 per cent of boys of the primary school age group have never been enrolled in school, and the poor quality of education is reflected in poor attendance, high repetition rates, high drop-out rates (37 per cent for girls and 38 per cent for boys) and low achievement. This results in just over a quarter of girls of the age group completing primary education with a minimum level of the expected competencies. Of the total cohort, 10 per cent never enroll, 34 per cent drop out, 28 per cent complete but do not achieve the minimum expected learning outcomes and only 28 per cent complete with satisfactory achievement. (The corresponding pattern for boys is 15 per cent, 32 per cent, 25 per cent and 28 per cent respectively.)
Sources of primary education statistics:
- Never enrolled and NER: Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2003 (preliminary findings), Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics and UNICEF.
Dropout rate: Child Education and Literacy Survey 2002, Compulsory Primary Education Implementation and Monitoring Unit, Ministry of Primary and Mass Education, Government of Bangladesh.
- Low achievement: EFA 2000 Assessment Bangladesh Country Report, Ministry of Primary and Mass Education, Government of Bangladesh. (Of the children still enrolled by the last year of primary school, only 50 per cent of girls and 53 per cent of boys achieved acceptable national curriculum levels according to an evaluation of a sample group.)