Though Bangladesh is trying hard to give access to education to all through a network of 80,401 primary institutions consisting of Government Primary Schools (GPS), Registered Non Government Primary Schools (RNGPS), experimental schools, community schools, kindergartens, NGO schools, Islamic schools etc, high dropout rates at primary, secondary, adult literacy programs and nominal access to quality learning is keeping a gaping hole in the existing system. So to give the citizen’s a full ‘Access to Education’ Bangladesh needs to follow the following:
1. Should complete a proper statistics of the illiterate citizens.
2. Understand the meaning of ‘Access’ as not only just ‘Enrollment & Attendance’ but also the progress of a student.
3. Assessment of school capacity from the root level: Both in urban and rural areas.
4. Divide the country into zones, compare spread of education/literacy level among the zones and identify differences to the access of education and possible solutions.
5. Channeling finance from Public/Private/Donor sources for the proper maintenance of educational institutions or infrastructure building of educational institutes in areas where it is mostly needed.
6. The education has to be of quality and contemporary.
7. Increase GDP expenditure on education sector by engaging more trained teachers and to keep them motivated towards teaching.
8. Presence of an effective monitoring and evaluation system.
As I have started by pointing to the fact that due to lack of access to education for whatever varied the reasons may be, every illiterate child is adding up to our future workforce creating more burden than relief. But with proper access to education, these children can help us to multiply our literacy level as well as great human resources.
Marilin Farzana Ahmed
The prevailing political culture of the country has been identified as being mainly responsible for the fact that the administration, the teachers and students body have all been thoroughly politicized. The net result is factionalism, chaos and session-jam. To get rid of this situation, we should rectify ourselves and understand the importance of education, global competition, market situation etc.
In the 1990s, the government realized the need for setting up private universities as it was clear that the public universities in Bangladesh would not be able to meet the increasing demand for higher education.
Private universities are growing fast. However, except for a handful of universities, most of these private institutions are small in size and offer rather low quality education in a narrow range of subjects. Many of them have no proper campus and are located in rented facilities and run by part-time teachers.
Offering good academic programmes is a necessary condition but not a sufficient condition to assure quality education. The degree requirements and academic programmes may be well designed in terms of both national and international standards. Transparency in grading system is also required to ensure a quality education.
This is the era of globalization. To compete with the global market we have to ensure quality education.
Government should be able to meet the current increasing demand of higher education. Proper focus should be given to the rural and low income people. Standard of education, infrastructure and adequate environment must be ensured to bring our education system to the international level.
Dr Afzalur Rahman
Adjunct Faculty, School of Business
East West University
Even after so many initiatives from the government, private sector and international organizations, why isn’t education still so widespread and prevalent among rural dwellers? Why do we still see female education as a social taboo in certain remote areas of Bangladesh? Why are parents still keener to make their children work with them in fields and other work area than educating them?
It is true it will take quite a long time to make a nation educated, since it’s a long term process. What Bangladesh needs today is to raise massive awareness and ensure even the remotest part of Bangladesh has schools to educate every citizen. In order to spread something rapidly and effectively media has a very big role to play. In Bangladesh, cell phone access is widespread. Policymakers may use telecom industry as an important tool to spread knowledge and raise awareness. Radio television and newspaper are also very popular and can be used effectively. Apart from mass media and telecom industry we need NGOs to come forward and spread awareness.
Access to education is not the end of the story; the education provided should be of good quality. Education is an important tool for transmitting culture, promoting social and political integration, maintaining social control, and serving as an agent of change. The educators should be well trained, skilled and have necessary potential to spread knowledge and awareness. There should be proper training centers for teachers, these centre may be public or private. Specific standards should be set for the teacher which they must strictly adhere. Regular monitoring should be done on the quality of education and the curriculum should be updated as required.
Currently the literacy rate of Bangladesh for both the sexes above 15 years of age is around 55.9 per cent. Bangladesh should achieve higher literacy rate in order to become a self-sufficient and a developed nation. Only then Bangladesh will experience true independence.
On weekends, I would often wake up at the sound of our ten-year-old maid scurrying across my room with her little cleaning brush. Yes, she is Mahbuba. It is quite a sight when she sits in the corner of my living room in a yellow frock and a couple of very incredibly mismatched blue clips on her barely half inch hair standing on ends on her head. Her eyes widen and light up with every little tone of music or spark of light from the television. Throughout the day her presence would be associated with the noise of shattering glass, people yelling and screaming her name, restless running and humming, as though everything around just went past
her! She continues being herself, despite not being unruly to her ‘employers’. Besides her free spirit one other aspect of her being that strikes me is her quick wit and intelligence.
A number of adolescent girls have come as maids and left my house, mostly to get married as teenagers.
I applied the ‘basic education’ training on almost all! Some shone and continued on their own once my interest died out, whilst others’ interest subsided with mine. In case of Mahbuba, my ebbing aspiration of being a teacher has been predictably inconsistent! But her interest still flourishes. I wonder whether
I would end up spoiling this urge in her to study by my own busy life and my urge to stretch out on my bed during leisure time rather than teaching her. Whether out of guilt or to get rid of my responsibility,
I have begun contemplating the idea of getting her enrolled in a school, under a special arrangement where she would study at home, but appear for exams to get regular promotions and continue with the studying momentum. I am not sure whether this idea would ‘fly’ with schools. Thinking noble about about not employing ‘child labour’ does not yet sound practical in the context of Bangladesh. If I let her go as a gesture of standing against child labour or supporting access to education, she would probably end up going back to a home with no food, and be brought back to the city, to some other house as a maid again. Mahbuba’s free spirit has taught me a lot as a person; I hope I can ensure her basic access to education in some form!
Unfortunately, after four decades of independence, the quest for equality in access and opportunities has remained elusive for the education system of Bangladesh. People from poor socio-economic and marginalized groups are not enjoying equality of educational opportunities. Truly speaking, they are excluded from the all level, primary to university, of our educational planning. A unified system of primary and secondary education has not been established. As a result, the divisions and discrimination in educational provisions, reflected in separate streams of government, non-government, private, and English medium schools and madrassahs (both quomi and aliya) exist in our education system. Gap between the standard of education in urban and rural areas is widening day by day. The results of PSC, JSC & SSC indicate that the best institutes are city/district level schools and cadet colleges with most of their students coming from well-off families. Most of the students who failed to pass these exams are from the rural institutes. According to the recently published ‘2012 UNICEF Report’, even though children in towns and urban cities are considered a step ahead from their rural counterparts with better access to educational facilities, in most urban areas in Bangladesh great opportunities and great deprivation exist side by side. Children living in low-income urban areas and slums are deprived of almost all basic rights and facilities including education enjoyed by their peers from well-off families. Dropout rate is still high among these children as their parents could hardly meet the costs of schooling, even where schooling is free of charge, families can be burdened with the costs of uniform, books and supplies.
There is also inequality in our two-year higher secondary education. Due to poverty, many students are failing to continue their study. Private owned colleges’ educational cost is beyond the reach of the lower-middle class a people. There is also a gap in the standard of education between urban and rural areas. Most of the GPA-5 achievers are from the colleges in urban areas. Higher education that is offered in our country through public universities, private universities and colleges under National University is merit based, selective and competitive.
Access to higher education is limited mostly to socio-economically advantaged families who can invest money on private tutoring and other necessary support for their children for 12 years of schooling. Usually, students from comparatively low socio-economic classes study in the colleges of National University Private universities are solely for the students of the well-off families as the tuition fees and other educational expenses are beyond the reach of our mass people. Needless to mention that these private universities are money-making ventures. Most of these universities’ quality of education is questionable. There is gender disparity in access to higher education, as many female students cannot continue their studies for various reasons.
For sustainable development, our education system must be inclusive and pro-people. Our government should remember that ‘Access to Education’ is a fundamental right recognized in many national and international documents. The Articles 17 & 28 of our Constitution tell that the State is bound to adopt effective measures to ensure education to the people of Bangladesh.
How education system of Bangladesh can be re-directed to help fight exclusion and poverty, promote human development, create the conditions for life with human dignity for all, and face the challenges of the 21st century, should, therefore, be a paramount concern of our government.
SM Rayhanul Islam
Institute of education and Research (IER)
University of Dhaka
The terminology ‘access to education’ can be defined as ‘equal opportunity to participate’ in each of the phases of learning opportunities like primary, secondary, tertiary and other forms of education. In this particular context, participation means that all sorts of people will have equal opportunity in education or training, regardless of their social or economic class, background, color, ethnicity, language, sex, religion, age or physical disabilities. This, moreover, is considered as the basic human rights. The universal declaration of human rights in article 26 states that--
(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
Moreover, there is a straightforward relationship between economic progress and education. Without ensuring equal opportunity in education for all, no sustainable development is possible. Abundant researches have already been completed in this regard and now it is so clear about crucial role of education in achieving economic and social progress.
Barriers to access to education:
Although access to primary education has substantially been increased, enrollment in secondary level has been decreased. Recent research shows that the dropout rate of male children from secondary schools is comparatively high among the landless households. These drops out students usually engage themselves with different nonfarm activities and they play vital role as wage earner in their family. Without eliminating poverty, this problem cannot be eliminated. Again without increasing quality and level of education, poverty also cannot be removed. It is because productivity largely depends on education. Here we find a circular nature of poverty and access to education.
Culture and socio-economic perspective also works as a great hindrance in accessing education, especially for girls. The Bangladesh Female Secondary Schools Assistance Programme (FSSAP) was launched in 1993. Under the program, female students receive tuition stipends. This initiative has improved the rate of female education significantly. But unnecessary bureaucracy in local education administration, negligence in management and supervision, lack of ethics among education officials, and poor knowledge of teachers are creating problems to achieve the optimum result in this regard.
Government expenditure is not sufficient to ensure every citizen’s basic education. One statistics shows that it is the lowest in south Asia region. If government expenditure on education is not increased at a significant level, the student himself or his/her family will have to bear the cost of education. As poverty is another big issue in accessing to education, people will get incentives to engage themselves to economic activities rather than going to school.
Net enrollment rate is still now around 80 per cent. This means that a significant number of 6-10 years old boys’ and girls’ do not have access to formal education at all.
Another characteristic of our education system is over-reliant on NGOs. Especially NGOs have taken initiatives for disadvantage groups. Still now there are some rural areas where there is no government-run schooling system.
Special schools for disabled people are also not sufficient. No significant initiative from government level in this regard has been taken. There are few NGOs working in this field, but there is no coordinated approach for the education of the disabled people.
Another significant point is that government run schools are concentrated in urban hubs. As a result, a significant number of school going population has been deprived of getting the opportunity to access to better education.
Another failure of our education system is that it has miserably failed to develop an overall quality education system. In urban areas, there are few good educational institution, the scenario of the rural areas, on the other hand, is miserable. Keeping such a huge gap in terms of quality, we cannot claim that we are approaching towards education for all.
Although several initiatives have been taken to ensure that all sorts of people of Bangladesh will have the opportunity to get education, Bangladesh has still been suffering in achieving its goal. Moreover, this is not our unique problem. Many countries of the world are in the same problem. To ensure access to education for all, what we need is nothing but a coordinated approach, a proper planning and whole-hearted endeavor to achieve it.
Manjurul Haque Khan
Advisor, Career Counseling Center
United International University
According to the Constitution of Bangladesh, education is the responsibility of the State but not right of the citizen. Despite numerous state interventions there are still deprivations in access to education. These deprivations can be clustered in four ‘zones of exclusion and vulnerability’ as follows:
Zone -1: Out of school and never enrolled themselves in any type of institutions at the entry level
Zone – 2: Drop-outs from Primary level institutions
Zone – 3: Virtual and silent drop-outs
Zone – 4: Non-transition to institutions beyond primary level
The first category refers to children of primary age group, who are out of school and have never been enrolled in any school. They are children from disadvantaged families like extreme poor, female headed households, working children, street children, children with special needs, ethnic linguistic minorities, and children in geographically inaccessible areas. The second category refers to dropouts/push out form the education institutions. Economic poverty, opportunity cost, and household work, etc leads to dropout of these children of the primary age cohort. Many of them enrolled in the primary education without any preparation for home to school transition programs like ECCE or pre-primary. A significant numbers of these children are actually pushed out from the system because of overcrowding and unfriendly school environment. The third category refers to students physically present but psychologically, mentally and intellectually absent or virtually excluded. By the end of the grad five, they are not learning at a desired level. They are large, and have impact on quality, poor family environment, poor teaching learning process, child labour, etc. Individual attention is essential to address such virtual exclusion. Teachers are the main driving force inside the classroom for securing education right but they lack capacity and motivation to perform the roles and responsibility. The fourth and last category of exclusion refers to small effective participation at post primary level despite of high transition rate. Survival rate is low; and lowest for girl form the poorest families. Safety net programs are more general in nature, thus many of the potential children often excluded through generalization of such programs. Government of Bangladesh has taken a Sector Wide Approach (SWAp) to address the issue in a better coordinated manner but the result is yet to be achieved at a desired level. In addition, Government has also adopted a National Education Policy in 2010 which is in the process of implementation in phases.
Recommendation and conclusion
A holistic approach is required to ensure access to quality education for all children. Enacting a Right to Education Act will contribute in reduction of discrimination and better implementation of National Education Policy 2010. Inclusiveness of learning opportunity for all children and young people, integrated and unified system for enhancing shared knowledge, equity of approach to schooling environment, and ensuring quality education are four cornerstones for providing access to quality basic education for creating an equal citizen base.
Local level planning, decentralization, result based monitoring and collaboration among the actors including school managing committee, parents-teacher association, community, teacher associations, NGOs and other civic forces will contribute in raising collective voice for realizing the Right to Education.
Adequate investment in education is essential for strengthening the system. Government is committed to spend 6 per cent of GDP for education but actual investment is about 2.21 per cent which is much below the acceptable level. Considering the current absorption capacity, the allocation can be raised phase by phase. In this regard government needs to allocate 3 per cent to 4.5 per cent of GDP by next two to three years on a priority basis towards reaching the ultimate target. To raise the resource for education government should not be dependent on external resources only. Besides increased budget allocation government should search for alternative options like tax reform, education access, community contribution, corporate social responsibilities among others.
K. M. Enamul Hoque
The poverty situation worsened especially in rural areas. In recent years, different poverty measures indicate some improvement partly due to acceleration in economic growth. However, the positive impact of economic growth on poverty reduction has remained limited.
The level of education determines the ability of households to engage in such activities. Unequal access to education has, therefore, serious implications –it perpetuates income inequality, and limits the impact of economic growth of poverty reduction. There are few studies dealing with the role of secondary education in poverty education. Bangladesh being a least developed country with high adult illiteracy, universal primary education has been the focus of researchers so far. Earlier studies on rates of returns to education in developing countries confirm higher social returns to Primary- level education compared to higher levels ( Psacharopoulos, 1994). However it is the private rate of return that has direct impact on the well-being of individuals, and research needs to focus on the relative private retunes to different levels of education and their outreach to the population.
The relationship between education and poverty is a circular one: the lack of secondary-level education may force poor households to engage in low-productivity activities, and results in poverty. On the other hand, poverty leads to low investment in education.
Md. Zakir Hossain