Educational Trends in Bangladesh

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By Dr. Sevinç Tunalı

As a scholar in the field of education, my area of research has mainly focused on “Futures of Education”. This quest has taken me to various parts of the world from South Asia to East Africa to conduct projects on futures of education. A recent unique experience was in Bangladesh, where I had the opportunity to work on a trend analysis for education in Bangladesh.  The research project, a 2018 Fellowship on the “Futures of Education” was awarded by the Centre for Genocide Studies (CGS), University of Dhaka, and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) to explore the  futures of education in Bangladesh.

Before my arrival in Dhaka I conducted some interviews with a few Bangladeshi researchers, who temporarily study or work in Istanbul. I also did a document review beforehand to gather information on economic, social, politic and educational conditions of Bangladesh. I spent nearly one week in Bangladesh to observe schools in Dhaka area and conducted interviews with scholars and teachers with the guidance of Masud ur Rahman. Masud ur Rahman is a brilliant sociologist at Centre for Genocide Studies (CGS), University of Dhaka. His company helped me to understand an insiders’ perspective while providing relevant information on social context of the country. As a qualitative researcher, I have always valued the ethnographic eye of view on context.

Some of the highlights of my research are below;

  • According to OECD reports, birth rates in Bangladesh are one of the highest and the number of students in primary and secondary level is higher than 25 million. Many people consider the high density of population as one of the main problems in education because of inadequate number of schools and large class size. Unfortunately, lack of good health conditions for students and malnutrition is as important as number of schools and provided facilities. Because according to The World Bank[1] “Chronic malnutrition pervades all socioeconomic strata in Bangladesh, affecting 56 percent of children among the poorest and 32% among the wealthiest quintiles”. Poor students have higher repetition and dropout rates, in addition to lower achievement.
  • Bangladesh has a very complex education structure with a number of different educational institutions. For primary education Bangladesh, there are 25 types of schools – including various types of government, community, non-government, and non-government organization (NGO) schools and religious schools (madrasahs)[2].Some of the schools (Quomi Madrasahs and some NGO schools) are not registered but operating freely. This is the one of the main problem for unity of education. Bangladesh needs to unify education system while setting standards for a wide variety of schools.
  • The main purpose of education is to create equal opportunities, but the inequalities of socio-economic level (SES) are being used as a means of justification. In other words, children of lower income families only attend public schools and nearly all public schools are running double shifts so, the teacher–student interaction time is almost 50% lower than the international standard of hours (900–1,000) per year[3]. This is one of the main reasons of learning gap.
  • Education is the most influential tool against poverty but high proportion of illiteracy rates and shortage of teachers are making this situation even harder in Bangladesh. In terms of teacher quality, Ministry of Mass Education in Bangladesh states that 40 percent of public primary school teachers are not university graduates.
  • There is a negative social impression of vocational and technical education among Bangladeshi families, and the youth do not want to choose this particular path. In addition to that, there is a lack of career guidance for technical professions. This situation is increasing the demand for private universities for the ones who can afford it. On the other hand, there is a high proportion of migration to Malaysia and Middle East (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, etc) due to unemployment.Last but not the least, the educational system is not only related with organization of institutions but also there is an intimate connection with economic and socio-demographic features of the country. Although the economic growth of Bangladesh (7%) is one of the highest in the world, the OECD reports state that nearly 80% of the population is extremely poor (lives under less than $2 a day). Bangladesh has a great potential with high population of youth but it needs to improve the competencies of the young people through the educational policies including skill courses and smooth transitions into the labor market. In current conditions, there is a skill mismatch between schools and work life. On the other hand, the future of work is mostly based on digitalization and artificial intelligence. If policy makers will not consider this skill mismatch, unskilled masses and unemployed youth would be more problematic than ever.

Correspondence

Dr. Sevinç Tunalı is the Director of Education Industry and Technology Institute (ESTEN) based in Istanbul, Turkey

References:

[1]World Bank. (2011) Project Appraisal Document on a Proposed Credit of SDR 187.5 Million (US$300 Million Equivalent) to the People’s Republic of Bangladesh for a Third Primary Education Development Programme, World Bank Report No: 60321-B. Available at http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/WDSP/IB/2011/06/17/000370910_20110617094050/Rendered/PDF/603210P1134350IDA0R20110023901.pdf

[2]Asia Development Bank, ADB (2018) Supporting Fourth Primary Education Development Program. SUMMARY SECTOR ASSESSMENT: EDUCATION. Available at https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/linked-documents/50192-002-ssa.pdf

[3]Asia Development Bank, ADB (2018) Supporting Fourth Primary Education Development Program. SUMMARY SECTOR ASSESSMENT: EDUCATION. Available at https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/linked-documents/50192-002-ssa.pdf

 

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