Education Policy

Educational Crisis in Bangladesh

Bangladesh Education Article
Bangladesh Education Article
Written by Goutam Roy


It is admirable that the enrolment rate is rising along with gender parity in the primary schools of Bangladesh. Moreover, public expenditure for education is also increasing. However, there remain several problems in education. This paper is going to deal with three specific concerns about educational crisis of Bangladesh:

I. Low per capita expenditure on education
II. The Inequity: focused on Gender and Poverty.
III. The Quality crisis.

In addition, at the end of this paper, there is a brief discussion on cost of corruption in education system.

I. Low per capita expenditure on education

Over the last three decades the percentage of budget allocation in education is increasing continuously and it has shown that there remains an upward trend on the share of budget allocation for education over the fiscal years. Moreover, education is the biggest recipient of public spending in Bangladesh. (Table 1.1) But among the South Asian Countries Bangladesh has the lowest per capita expenditure on education. (Table 1.2) Moreover, the National Education Policy 2000 recommended for spending 3 % of GDP for education with 6% annual growth rate. However, during 2003-04 the GDP growth rate is 5.52% and for the last decade this rate remains between 5 to 5.5%. So, the annual GDP growth rate of Bangladesh has not yet steadily achieved 6% annual growth rate. In addition, the public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP is 2.3%, which is even lower than the recommend 3% GDP expenditure. Therefore, the finance on education in Bangladesh is not fulfilling the recommendation given in National Education Policy 2000. (GOB 2000)

Table 1.1: Bangladesh- total expenditure by ministry or division, FY2001 (% of GDP)

Ministry or Division Share
General Public Services/ Interest 3.3
Public Order / Defence 2.0
Education 2.3
Health 1.0
Social Security and Welfare 0.7
Agriculture/Rural Development/Housing 2.8
Fuel and Energy 1.0
Transport and Communications 1.8
Total expenditure 15.3

Source: Public Expenditure Review, World Bank 2003

Table: 1.2  Per capita Spending on Education and Health in South Asian Countries(US dollars)

Country 1997 1998 1999 2000
India 15 16 15 19
Pakistan 15 14 13 12
Sri Lanka 32 34 33 35
Bangladesh 11 11 11 12

Source: Osmani, et al 2004

Table1.2 A: GDP, Average growth rate and public expenditure on education

GDP Millions $2001 Avg. annual growth rate %1999-2001 Public expenditure on Education
As% of GDP 1999-2001 As % of total govt. expenditure 1999-2001
Bangladesh 46652 4.9 2.3 15.8
India 477555 5.9 4.1 12.7
Pakistan 59605 3.7 1.8 7.8
Sri Lanka 16346 5.1 1.3

Source:  row 1-3:World Bank, 2003a, row 4,5: UNDP 2004

The share of education budget increases but the absolute amount resources devoted to education is still not very high. Among the South Asian countries per capita spending on education and health is one of the lowest in Bangladesh. (Table 1.2A) In addition, the absolute amount of GDP in Bangladesh is lower than GDP of India and Bangladesh. Thus, table 1.2A shows that both the volume of GDP and public expenditure share of GDP on Education in Bangladesh is lower than India. Though the Public expenditure share on education in Bangladesh is greater than Pakistan but the volume of GDP in Pakistan is higher than Bangladesh.

II. The Inequity
The Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh states (in15a),
“The state shall adopt effective measures for the purpose of –
(a) establishing a uniform, mass-oriented and universal system of education and extending free and compulsory education to all children to such stage as may be determined by law;” (GOB1998)

Thus, the constitution ensures that every citizen of Bangladesh would get the same type of education. And ‘compulsory education to all children’ entails that according to caste, sex, income level, ethnic community there would not remain any discrimination in order to get education opportunity. In reality, there remains serious gender disparity in education sector.

Gender Disparity

In Bangladesh, for the last 3 /4 decades the female enrolment rate increases in primary education. GOB also initiated FSS (Female Secondary Stipend) programme to support secondary education for the girls. Nonetheless, there remains serious gender disparity for female education.

The attitude of the household to spend less for girl’s education and early marriage of girls play a vital role behind high drop rate of female students. Moreover, girls face both supply and demand constraints, such as:

Composition of Household Education Expenditure: There exists some discrimination to finance between boys and girls. Average per capita expenditure through education level according to sex is not equal. Both in rural and urban area the attitude on educational expenditure is biased towards male. Moreover, table: 1.4 illustrates that with the lower level of education the earnings of the female are higher then their male counterparts.  Until the graduation level the average income of the female is higher but then the relative income between male and female changes and male earns more than female. These sorts of wage differentials may intend many households to spend less on their female children (Table 1.3).

Table 1.3 Per household and Per capita expenditure on Education, 2000

Per hh expenditure on Education(TK.) % of expenditure incurred by sex
Male Female
National 198.4 57.2 42.8
Rural 132.45 40.9 40.9
Urban 457.8 55.1 44.9

Source: BBS, 2003c

Table 1.4: Average Per Capita Income (TK) by Education level of Head

Education Attainment Male Female
Illiterate 747 935
I-V 998 1516
VI-IX 1217 2259
SSC/HSC Equivalent 2154 2345
Graduate Equivalent 3611 3166
Post Graduate Equivalent 4602
Doctor, Engineer 5178 3287
Diploma 3312 2738
Other 2938 2724

Source: BBS, 2003a

Table: 1.5 Persons Completed Different Educational level and their percentage, 2001

Total I-V VI-IX SSC&HSC Degree& above
Num. (000) % Num. (000) % Num. (000) % Num. (000) % Num. (000) %
Male 34275 100 17891 52.19 9529 27.8 5429 18.84 1426 4.16
Female 27685 100 16011 57.83 8439 30.48 2848 10.29 387 1.4

Source: BBS, 2003c

General observation from the above discussion is that drop out rate is generally high, but it is higher for girls, particularly at upper secondary and tertiary level female participation is very lower than male students. (table 1.5)


There remain two fundamental causes for poor students to have less opportunity for completing any given educational cycle than the affluent students. (Toadro, 1997)

Firstly, for poor students the private cost of getting education (direct cost + indirect cost, e.g., opportunity cost of a child’s labour to poor family) is higher than for affluent students.

– Sometimes the direct costs of education become a heavy burden for education. In the previous chapter, table 1.6 showed that households have to share a heavy portion of education cost especially for secondary and tertiary level of education. Moreover, to ensure a quality of education they have to spend for private tuition and sometimes pay extra money to get admission.

Table 1.6:  Bangladesh- Education expenditure per student, 2000 (US $per year)

Public Private
Primary 13 13
Secondary 27 73
Tertiary 155 151

Source: World Bank2000

– Even if government provides free education for the first few years, this free education is not without cost for the poor families. Children of primary school age are typically required to involve on family farms, household activities (for girls). It often coincides with the school time. Thus, if a child (either boy or girl) cannot work because of attending school, the family would either suffer a loss of valuable subsistence output or pay extra wage to replace the absent child by hiring more labour.

Secondly, for poor students the expected benefits are lower than the affluent pupils. Even after complete the education; poor students face many obstacles to enter in the job markets.  For example, from 11th to 17th BCS (Bangladesh Civil Service) 7671 people were recommended for employment and out of them only 44 (0.58%) came from the poor families whose parents yearly income is 5000 taka or below. (Rahman 2002)

Thus, the combination of higher costs and lower expected benefits of education means that a poor family’s rate of return from investment in a child’s education is lower than it is for rich families.  And it causes higher drop out rate during the years of schooling for the poor students. (Toadro, 1997)

Human Poverty Index and Literacy rate: In spite of a very small country, there are 64 districts in Bangladesh. The human poverty situation is not same at all, rather in 2000 the human poverty index (HPI) of Sherpur (42.98) was more than 1.5 times higher than HPI of Jhalokahtti.  At the same time, the literacy rate of Jhalokathi (65.85) is more than double than that of Sherpur. Table 1.7 illustrates the top 5 highest and lowest HPI districts. In addition, their respective literacy rate is also presented. No need to say that the districts with higher HPI rate of literacy have lower literacy rate and vice versa.

Table 1.7:Human Poverty Index (HPI) and Literacy Rate, 2000

5 Districts with lowest HPI 5 Districts with Highest HPI
HPI Literacy rate HPI Literacy rate
Jhalokathi 25,4 65.85 Sherpur 42.98 31.15
Pirojpur 25.82 63.3 Jamalpur 41.87 31.02
Dhaka 26.51 64.26 Bandarban 39.77 28.07
Comilla 26.72 45.35 Sunamganj 39.44 33.79
Jessore 28.2 51.2 Kurigram 39.42 32.46

Source: BBS, 2003c

Poverty and Enrolment rate: In every level of education the enrolment rate of the poor students are lower than the non- poor students. In primary level the enrolment rate difference is moderate The enrolment rate for students is almost same for rural and urban poor. Enrolment rate of poor girls is higher than the poor boys. But in junior secondary, secondary and high secondary level the enrolment rates of the non-poor children are two, four and six times higher than the enrolment rates of the poor children. Moreover, in junior secondary and secondary level the enrolment rates of the poor girls were higher than their male counterparts. But in high secondary level the enrolment rate of the male students (16.7%) is significantly higher than female enrolment rate.

Table1.8: Bangladesh- gross enrolment rates by gender and poverty status,2000 (children enrolled in grade as a % of all children in target age)

Urban Rural Overall
Boys Girls Total Boys Girls Total Boys Girls Total
Poor 81.2 88.8 84.9 82.1 87.3 84.6 82.0 87.5 84.6
Non-poor 104.8 97.3 101.1 99.1 101.8 100.4 100.3 100.8 100.5
Total 93.5 93.3 93.4 88.6 92.7 90.6 89.4 92.8 91.1
Poor 26.1 37.2 31.1 29.3 42.6 35.6 28.8 41.8 35.1
Non-poor 75.8 75.2 75.5 60.5 79.5 70.0 64.1 78.4 71.4
Total 53.2 61.1 57.2 43.3 59.3 51.2 45.3 59.7 52.4
Secondary (IX-X)
Poor 11.3 30.2 21 19.3 21.9 20.5 18.1 23.4 20.6
Non-poor 88.8 83.3 85.9 72.7 77.9 75 76.5 79.5 77.9
Total 61.7 64.9 63.3 47.4 49.4 48.3 50.3 51.3 51.6
High Secondary (XI-XII)
Poor 21 9.6 15.3 15.9 8.6 13.4 16.7 8.9 13.8
Non-poor 118.5 107.6 113.6 72 56.1 65.8 83.4 70.9 78.4
Total 90.3 74.7 83.1 48.3 38.3 44.6 57 48.4 53.6

Source:. World Bank, 2003

Status of poverty and share of education expenditure

It is widely known that education for all is a fundamental human right and it means that in spite of income level, everyone must get access to education. But at the same time to achieve basic education incurs some costs. Thus, poverty sometimes can become an impediment for one to achieve education. Table 1.9 illustrates that in primary level of education the poor students get the more percentage of government subsidy (56%) than the non-poor students (44%). But portion of per capita subsidy for very poor is lower than the non-poor students. Moreover, the pattern of public subsidy on education changes drastically for secondary and tertiary education. From public education expenditure for secondary and tertiary education poor students get the benefits of only 24% and 17% respectively.

Table 1.9: Distribution of per capita expenditure, population, private education expenditures and public subsidies across expenditure poor and non-poor (in percent)

Poor Non-Poor
Per capita expenditure 26.1 73.9
6-10 years old 58.9 41.1
11-13 years old 52.0 48.0
14-15 years old 45.7 54.3
16-17 years old 38.1 61.9
All Individuals 49.7 50.3
Private education spending
Primary education 25.3 74.7
Junior secondary 18.9 81.1
Secondary 9.9 90.1
High secondary 5.9 94.1
Tertiary 5.3 94.3
All Education 14.5 85.5
Public  education Spending
Primary education 56 44
Secondary 24 76
Tertiary 17 83
All education 35 65

Source: Bangladesh  Public Expenditure Review 2000. World Bank2003

III. The Quality of Education

From the previous chapters it is visible that during last 3/ 4 decades, the number of schools, enrolment rate, public expenditure in education and so on have been increased in Bangladesh, but the quality of education has failed to keep pace with this quantitative expansion. The quality of education is reflected on achievement of competencies of a student and it depends on various factors, e.g., environment of the educational institutions, teacher-pupil ratio, teachers experience, teacher education, teacher absenteeism, teacher-pupil interactions, teacher’s responsiveness, teacher’s responsiveness to pupil’s requests, teacher’s treatment towards weaker students, availability of textbooks and supplementary materials, curriculum, school (or college) hours, attendance and completion rates  of students and so on.

Moreover, the existing practices of irregularities (force to appoint private tutor, charging extra fees etc) impede the poor students to do better performance in the schools. In primary and secondary education the accountability and incentive mechanisms are absent. The checks and balances methods for teachers and administrators are extremely weak. The centralized administrations of the government and the lack of involvement of local communities obstruct the effective use of resources devoted to education. (World Bank 2003)

Beside this, teaching materials, training and maintenance play a vital role to ensure better quality of education. But in Bangladesh a high share of government education expenditure is directed to teacher’s salaries and salary –related subsidies (almost most 90% of the revenue budget of primary education and 80% of secondary level). (World Bank 2000,)Thus, a very little funding is left available for other those inputs.

Table 2.1: Composition of Public Current Expenditures in Primary Education (% of total current spending on primary education)

1992 1998
Staff Compensation 96.4 87.4
Operations & Maintenance 1.1 3.3
Grants for salary subventions 2.5 9.3

Source: Bangladesh Education Sector Review Vol.3, World Bank2000

Library, laboratory, computer services are very important for research activities, which ensure the quality of higher education. But in Bangladesh little resources are available for research. Within a university resources are allocated among departments by following historical pattern, which is based on the number of staffs of the department instead of the respond to the needs of the students. In addition, rapid politicisation of the University and College campuses sometimes harm the academic atmosphere. (World Bank 2003)

To keep links with the job markets is very essential for Technical and Vocational Training (TVET) system. Since in centralized training system no incentives are given to managers or instructors to consult with the employers, thus the employers often complain that TVET training programs of Bangladesh have failed to produce the needed skills. Moreover, in most public institutions the equipments and consumable supplies are under financed. (World Bank, 2003)

The Status of competency at Primary Level: The nation wide survey report `Education watch 2000’  illustrates that there remains a great failure to ensure a satisfactory level of competency of a primary school student. The survey was done in both rural and urban area and in both areas three sorts of schools (government, private and non-formal schools). They selected 92 and 94 numbers of schools and 1251 and 1258 numbers of students from rural and urban areas, respectively.

Table 2.2: The Study sample selected for achievement test

Rural Urban All
Types of schools No of schools No of students No of schools No of students No of schools No of students
Government 30 412 30 420 60 832
Private 31 417 33 414 64 831
Non-Formal 31 422 31 424 62 846
All 92 1251 94 1258 186 2509

Source: Education Watch, CAMPE 2001

Table 2.3: Percentage of students achieved competencies by school type, area of residence and sex

Rural Bangladesh Urban Bangladesh
Types of schools Girls Boys Both Girls Boys Both
Government 0.5 0.5 0.5 3.4 2.8 3.1
Private 0.0 0.0 0.0 4.0 4.7 4.3
Non-Formal 7.1 7.1 7.1 1.4 2.4 1.8
All 1.4 1.0 0.7 1.7 3.1 3.2

Source: Education Watch, CAMPE 2001

Among them, only 0.7% of the rural and 3.2% of the urban students achieved the satisfaction level of competency. Moreover, table 5.8 demonstrates that in rural area, the performance of the students of government and private schools are very poor. Only 0.5% students of the rural government schools passed the competency test and surprisingly, no student of the rural private schools passed the test. Comparatively the students of rural non-formal schools did perform better, but it was only 7.1% students who were accepted as competent. In rural areas there remained no gender disparity on achievement of competency. On the other hand, in urban areas the performance of the boys (3.1%) is higher than the performance of girls (1.7%). More students of urban private schools (4.3%) achieved competencies than the students of government (3.1%) and non-formal (1.8%) schools. However, the absolute numbers of competent students were very low.

Thus, from above discussion, it is found that in spite of FFE (Food for Education) and FSS initiatives poverty and gender hinder for children to continue their education. Moreover, per capita subsidy for non-poor students is higher than poor students. At the same time, the existing practice on education has done a serious failure to ensure quality of education for all.

IV. Cost of Corruption

For the last 3/ 4 years Bangladesh is reported as the most corrupt state by Transparency International, and they ranked education sector as the third most corrupt sector in Bangladesh. They viewed that

(i) To ensure admission in primary school the 21% household has to involve private tutor. 5% household had to expend extra payments for admission.(table 3.1)

Table: 3.1 Household Illegal expenditure to get admission of their children

Locality Number of Household % of hh to pay extra expenditure to get admission % of expenditure to private tutor
Total 448 4.6 21.2
Rural 398 4.7 21.6
Urban 50 3.8 18.0

source: Alam(2000)

(ii) There is a provision of free textbook distribution for primary education. But about 76% urban households have to purchase the primary text books, which were supposed to be distributed free of cost.(table 3.2)

Table:3.2 Expenditure to collect free Primary text book

Locality Number of Household Purchasers (%)
Total 329 29.7
Rural 299 29.2
Urban 30 75.9

source: TIB,1999

(iii) Different sorts of corruption are practised in Female Secondary stipend (FSS) programme. To realize the impact of existing practice in our educational system, a small focus group discussion (FGD) was done at Narsingdi. The students told that they don’t get the full amount of money. They have to share the money with their teachers and other committee members of the schools. There is a rule that to get FSS one institute has to enrol at least 40% girls and 45% marks are the prerequisite to get stipend. for The students reported that during the day of inspection the schools collect female students from different institutions to show a higher rate of enrolment. They also said that the school maintains two grade sheets, one, the true grade sheets that the students obtain; two, the false grade sheet to show a higher level of grade (above 45%).

This article attempts to draw the attention of the policymakers, education professionals and all walks of people of Bangladesh to provide the optimal support in order to get rid of from these immense crises.


BBS (2003a), Report of the Household Income & Expenditure Survey, 2000, Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, Ministry of Planning, and Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Dhaka.
BBS (2003c), Population Census Report, 2001, Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, Ministry of Planning, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Dhaka.
CAMPE (2001), Education Watch 2000, A Question of Quality: State of Education in Bangladesh, Vol.I. Campaign for Popular Education and University Press Limited. Dhaka
GOB (1998), The Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. (Revised), Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Dhaka.
GOB (2000), National Education Policy 2000. Ministry of Education, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Dhaka.
Osmani,S.R., et al (2004), Implementing The Right to Development: The Bangladesh Experience. The Right to Development Project, Boston, U.S.A.
Rahman, Atiur (2002), Bangladesher Shikhay Boishomya, Durniti o Osthirota: A Biporjoy Rukhte Chai Samajik Protirodh, Jounral of Bangladesh Economic Association 2002. (in Bangla)
Todaro, P. Michael  (2003), Economic Development. (6th Edition)  Pearson Education Asia, India
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World Bank (2003), Bangladesh Public Expenditure Review. Washington DC
World Bank (2003a),World Development Report 2003. Washington DC

Authors: Education Professional, Institute of Educational Development, BRAC University, Dhaka, Bangladesh and Chairperson, Prenatal Education Program, Jaagoron Rupanator Protoyee Andolon, Bangladesh

Authors: Education Professional, Institute of Educational Development, BRAC University, Dhaka, Bangladesh and Chairperson, Prenatal Education Program, Jaagoron Rupanator Protoyee Andolon, Bangladesh

About the author

Goutam Roy

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