DHAKA, Bangladesh — There are an estimated 16.4 million children between the ages of six and 10 in Bangladesh. With such a high number of primary school aged children, the country is bound to face challenges in its education system. Although education’s accessibility has improved during the last decade, issues still exist for children attending school in Bangladesh.
Primary education is available to all children in Bangladesh. It is free and compulsory until the fifth grade. To make this possible, the Ministry of Education and outside supporters have established more physical learning spaces. In the last 10 years, over 30,000 classrooms have been built in Bangladesh. Many children attend school during these years because accessibility has improved so much.
Once the children attend these schools, however, they experience difficulties. The average student completes the five years of primary education in eight or nine years. Only 55 percent of students complete the full five years.
Like many developing countries, Bangladesh suffers from a severe lack of qualified teachers. The current number of teachers cannot accommodate the country’s successes in improving accessibility for children. The current teacher-to-student ratio is one to 49.
High student-to-teacher ratios make learning in a classroom difficult, especially when it is not the only challenge that the students face. Language is often another obstacle.
Students enroll in school at a young age, often only knowing the specific language of their area of upbringing. There are many native dialects in Bangladesh that teachers cannot accommodate in the classroom. However, conditions are improving thanks to the United Nations Development Programme.
The UNDP recognizes the importance of children’s education in developing countries and the value of preserving native languages. With funding from the European Union, the UNDP has made multilingual education possible in many schools in rural areas of Bangladesh. This makes education more possible for the children, as well as the teachers who no longer have to compete with such significant language barriers.
Compared to many other countries, Bangladesh’s primary education system is doing well. The number of students that receive some form of education is relatively high. Gender inequality is not a problem at the primary level. There are actually more girls enrolled at the primary level than boys.
Bangladesh’s secondary education level has more problems. Because it takes children so long to complete the five years of primary education, drop-out rates are very high at the secondary level, especially for females. The smaller number of secondary pupils is comprised of mostly males.
The UNDP is working to make secondary education in Bangladesh more appealing. One of its initiatives is to make vocational education more common at this level so that students will be more enticed to stay in school and earn proper training for a job after graduation.
Like primary education, tertiary education in Bangladesh is more successful than other countries in the area. The country has 11 government-run universities and 20 private institutions for higher learning. Specialized education options are available at the tertiary level for those interested in agriculture, engineering and technology, medicine and, most recently, maritime education.
Though there are many present obstacles within the infrastructure of Bangladeshi education, significant improvements have already been made and continue to take shape. Evidence of the government’s desire to promote education as a tool to alleviate poverty is apparent. With the help of the UN and other programs and organizations, education in Bangladesh should improve greatly with the completion of the Millennium Development Goals and the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
– Emily Walthouse