With roughly 57,000 square miles and over 150 million people, Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. It is also firmly entrenched in the rising power narrative that characterizes much of the south Asian region it occupies. For this reason, it is in the context of slow development where education in Bangladesh must be considered.
In 1990, the Primary Education Compulsory Act came into law and primary education became free and compulsory for all children up to grade five. Today in Bangladesh, there are approximately 56,867,000 people under the age of 18, 15 million of which are under the age of 5. There are currently 16 million children enrolled in grades one through five, and only 55 percent of children in Bangladesh who begin primary education make it to grade five. Only 50.7 percent complete all five years. The effects of this low rate of formal education are clear. In the young adult age range of 15 to 24, only 77.1 percent of male and 80.4 percent of females can read.
The many problems of education in Bangladesh can be linked to resources. As of 2009 Bangladesh spent 2.2 percent of its GDP on public education. In that same year the United States spent 5.2 percent. Despite government efforts to prove the contrary, education in Bangladesh remains an area in need of drastic reform. A total of 24 percent of primary school teachers are untrained and the average student-teacher ratio is 49 to one. These figures prove to be debilitating realities for the formative years of youth education.
To right the ship of education in Bangladesh, many private enterprises have lent their assistance. One such organization is BRAC. Formerly known as the Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee, BRAC is now the world’s largest non-governmental organization. BRAC concentrates on impoverished rural areas. It also actively seeks female inclusion, often recruiting local women as teachers for their schools. These women receive extensive training and regular organizational evaluations. BRAC provides its education services free of charge and focuses on a unique curriculum that steers clear of the rote memorization techniques utilized in government schools. This innovative approach has proven beneficial, as BRAC students regularly outperform their government school counterparts. According to the New York Times, BRAC now administers “the largest secular non-governmental education system in the world.”
However, education in Bangladesh is still a concern. With high dropout rates and little access available to children in rural areas, the compulsory part of primary education in Bangladesh has not taken hold in the two decades since its legal codification. Potential resources remain untapped and a country of millions remains affected.
– Taylor Dow