Bangladesh predominantly bears the testimony of Bengal civilization with an amalgamation of educational and cultural heritage. Bengal had its own indigenous system of education that had been existed from a very ancient period. Basic education was then provided informally before the inception of any formal or non-formal. The education system of Bengal in ancient and middle age was primarily theological and philosophical by nature. The learning system gradually changed over the centuries due to religio-political transformation and shifting culturally from caste based Hinduism to pragmatic Buddhism and then again going back to orthodox Hinduism, and afterward relatively opened Islamic values. The education system then experienced some dramatic changes during the regime of pre-colonial, colonial and Pakistani administration.
6.2 Pre-colonial Learning to MDGs
The pre-colonial era emerged with the Pala Dynasty and continued up to the Muslim rule from 6th to mid-18th century. The early education activities in the region now comprising Bangladesh started centering Buddhist monasteries, temples, stupas and ‘most probably other establishments erected on the crests, slopes, and feet of the hills’ (Alam & Miah, 1999) .
The system of basic education led by the Buddhist Monks was then largely based on humanism and tolerance, and religious principles of ‘Nirbana’ as Buddha said ‘the ultimate destiny of human soul’ (Barua, 2004:13) . In addition to religious education, the Buddhist teachers committed to devising and teaching signs of early Bengali alphabets to provide to their knowledge hungry pupils (Vikkho, 1969) .
As the Orthodox Sena ruler emerged during 12th century, the caste based Sanskrit education system was replaced with Buddhist education system. In this period, Pathsalas, a kind of indigenous elementary education schools emerged and were scattered all over the country. The vernacular elementary education system was catered in Pathsalas by the knowledgeable persons of that age know as Pandits. Basic reading, writing, arithmetic, accounts, and some religious literature were taught there existed at least in most of larger villages (Basu, 1941) . The Pathsalas was predominantly caste-based with its religious character; most of pupils there were Hindus, but few Muslims were also taught there. Due to socio-cultural barriers, female students and the low caste people had barely any access in the education. Education was then not state run and therefore, learners had to pay. So learning was then only an opportunity for the privileged to prepare them for manipulating further job field.
According to William Ward, a contemporary British observer, Pathsalas were gradually turned into ‘a mere shop’, in which the pupils were prepared to act as a copying machine by a certain process, termed as a lithographic process (Laird, 1972) . Teachers of the Pathsalas were simple minded ‘poor and ignorant’ as William found (Basu, 1941) . Teachers had little aspirations as they were paid poorly, and therefore, the process of learning was very slow.
Another parallel elementary religious education guided by Ulemas was prevalent in Bengal in Turkish (Sultani period) and Mughal era (Islamic Scholar). the main Islamic educational institutions were then Mosques, Maktabs and Madrasahs. Simultaneously, the Hindu temples were also manifested through Tols, a kind of elementary education providers. Persian, Arabic, and Urdu were three important languages used as the medium of instruction for Muslims community following the language of the then rulers (Sanaullah, 1995) . The curricula were mainly centered on Islamic values.
6.2.1 Colonial experience of education
In the early years of its control over Bengal, the East India Company was mostly indifferent to education. From 1757 to 1800, the British tried to commercialize the power to fulfill its accumulation of wealth motive, and therefore, were absolutely reluctant on the educational matter. Education was not the concerns of government. Almost during the British colonial rule in India, a kind of indifference was found on the part of ruling class. In a study paper of 1872, an English expert known as A. Howell mentioned that education in Indian subcontinent was first ignored by the British government, and then violently and successfully opposed. In the later years of British era, the ruler conducted education in a system now universally admitted to be erroneous and finally the education system was placed on pre-independent footing (Cited in Basu, 1941).
However, a group of missionaries had started to press the government to replace the existing educational system with introducing Western learning before the end of the 18th century. But it was firmly opposed by the Board of Directors when a proposal was made to the government of East India Company to take up the initiative for bringing in ‘schoolmasters and missionaries’ from England (cited in Basu, 1941).
With the enactment of the Charter Act of 1813, the basic concept of state education was first introduced in the Indian Subcontinent. The Company government undertook the responsibility of education and moral improvement of the Indian people. Under Charter 1813, the Governor General in Council was obliged to direct that ‘a sum not less than one lakh of rupees in each year shall be set apart and applied to the revival and improvement of the learned native Indians’, and also for the introduction and promotion of knowledge of sciences among the people of India (Laird, 1972) . But allocation of sum of one lakh rupees for education was not obligatory. Hence, the end result was nothing substantial for the improvement of basic education in India (Khatun, 1992) .
Three reports on the state of education in Bengal were placed to the colonial government within 1835-38 by the British observer William Adam. The first report was made on the basis of country’s need for basic education, the second report dealt with the nature of education in Rajshahi district, and the third report carried a complete statistics of several districts in Bengal and Bihar as cited in Basu (1941). Some valuable recommendations as Adam says in his reports were — collection of district-wise information on education; introducing textbooks in mother tongues; execution of the education plan, inspectors for each district; forming the Normal school system; allocation of land as incentive to encourage teaching profession; and finally, scholarships for learners through competitive examinations.
Unfortunately, these were only the lip services of the British Raj. However, some private individuals and societies like missionaries, Zamindars and British officials came forward, with their personal capacity to provide basic education to the young Indians. Even some individual officers of the company, in some cases, contributed enough for education using government fund. Simultaneously, some private initiatives came into the view to introduce a new type of education in Bengal at the early years of the 19th century. Christian missionaries and privileged individuals, both Indian and European, were such enterprises.
The European Missionaries established some educational institutions in Bengal by 1800. A Bengali elementary school was opened with 40 boys at Serampore and by September 1804, there were three elementary schools in villages of Jessore and another in Dinajpur. The Serampore missionaries sent Owen Leonard to Dhaka in 1816 where he founded a Persian school and 15 Bengali elementary schools by 1823 as cited by Laird (1972). The local committees financially supported schools. Few other Bengali schools were established in Chittagong, Dinajpur and Jessore districts during the period. The missionaries, however, evaluated the education must start with mother tongue to teach the pupils effectively to read and write (cited in Laird, 1972). Along with the experiments on elementary education, some measures were also taken in regard to the medium of instruction, the curriculum, and method of teaching, text books and girls’ education. A majority of conservative Muslims in Bengal was first refrained from participating in the new education system and it gradually led the entire Muslim community to be ‘virtually caught in a quagmire’ (Non-formal Education, 1999).
Subsequently, the colonial British government perceived the need of cooperation from the indigenous English educated people who would help them in administrative and clerical functions. Wood’s Education Dispatch (Islam, NM 2001) first traced the ideological shifting from opposition to encouragement, which formed the basis of East India Company’s education policy since 1854. To create a properly articulated system of education, the Dispatch recommended due attention of the government to develop primary education than higher education. It also suggests for active measures of the government directed towards the education of the mass people. Establishment of a separate department of education, institutions for training of teachers, establishment of new middle schools with higher attention to vernacular and indigenous ones were also recommended by the Dispatch. To support a rising number of privately managed educational institutions, it advised expansion of elementary education and introduction of a system of grants-in- aid. The dispatch drew special attention of the government ‘to the importance of placing the means of acquiring useful and practical knowledge within reach of the great mass of the people (Islam S. 2003) . English was recommended as the vernacular language at the primary level and the medium of instruction for higher education, the Dispatch suggests.
Though Wood’s Education Dispatch primarily aimed to provide elementary education to all regardless of caste, race, color, religion or region, but in fact, the elementary schools emerged as a privilege for children of the upper classes only as most of the schools were established in cities, towns and important commercial places, as Basu cited (1941). The government, in principle, opposed any attempts to provide education for the whole community.
However, the attempt of involving local bodies in the education process was first introduced in India in 1910. A member of the then Imperial Legislative Council, Gopal Krishna Gokhale placed a bill in the Law Council in 1910 to introduce the principle of compulsory schooling by local bodies. But unfortunately two years later, Gokhale’s motion was defeated by 38 votes to 13 after examination by the Viceroy’s Council. Thus a democratic attempt to make primary education for the Indian mass faced a setback. Yet in a positive gesture in 1919, another bill regarding primary education in the municipal areas was passed, though aimed at serving the purpose of the rich and high-class people.
As there was no uniformity in education, a variety of elementary educational institutions emerged under British rule. William Adam classified the elementary education under British rule as indigenous schools, non-indigenous schools, Bengali schools, Persian schools, Arabic schools, Persian and Bengali schools, female schools and English schools. Such disparity in British education system in India ultimately destroyed social values and bondage, uniformity in the society and divided the social portfolio into different segments based on wealth, caste, race, region and religion, narrated by Laird (1972).
Primary education in Bengal suffered a lot of handicaps throughout the 19th century for a number of reasons. The government education policy was influenced by the so-called ‘down-ward filtration theory’, assumed educating a selected groups through the medium of English (Sharafuddin, 1968) .
However, this approach did not come true in full scale. Though compulsory elementary education was introduced in England in 1876, but the English rulers of India considered the provision of primary education on a universal scale in a subject country must wait longer on financial and other grounds. Besides, there were some other government policies responsible partially for the retarded growth of primary education in the sub-continent. Especially, the vast rural Bengal was neglected. Moreover, public allocations for primary education were meager and disappointing.
Despite some controversial policies, the British Government in its Indian education policy created a Department of Education in 1910 giving entire authority of education in the hands of Provincial Government which was before under the control of Home Department. Bengal (Rural) Primary education Act was enacted in 1930. District School Boards were assigned to control, direct and manage the dissemination of education. It was due to reach ultimately the goal of universal, compulsory and free education. The administrative responsibility placed solely with the District School Boards, though primary education was controlled, directed and managed by the Director of Public Instruction. School inspection was decided to be done by the District, Subdivision or Circle officers.
Later on in 1927, a Central Advisory Board was established recommended by the Hertz committee to coordinate aspects of newly formed education policy. A separate education department was established in 1945 under the central government entrusted the responsibility to a member of Central Executive. At the last segment of British rule in India after Second World War, the government recognized the Sergeant Commission Report putting emphasis on the need of pre-primary education for the first time. But the report could not be implemented as the British Raj of India ended in 1947.
6.2.2 The Pakistan Administration
Education policy of the newly established Pakistan was a manufacture of Islamic identity. Since the independence of Pakistan, the government was more inclined to formulate education policies in line with its religious philosophy of the state. A lot of controversies were emerged in the newly born Pakistan regarding question of national identity. Debate over State Language and the imposition of Urdu as a medium of instruction created mass upsurge in the eastern part of the country. Though the then East Bengal introduced compulsory primary education in the province in 1947 in line with the central government policy, but the scheme was suspended in 1953 and finally abandoned in 1957 (Khatun, 1992) . District School Boards were abolished and management, control, and administration of primary education became the responsibility of District Primary Education Offices. But the initiatives were not proved beneficial for provincial primary education. The government later on in 1951 amended the Bengal (Rural) Primary Education Act. 5000 primary schools were selected in the rural areas to be run as ‘Compulsory Primary Schools’, and the rest were decided to be operated as ‘Non-compulsory Primary Schools’. But due to teachers’ infliction, the government in 1957 renamed the compulsory primary schools as ‘Model Primary Schools’. The Headmasters of the Model Primary Schools were given the authority to inspect and supervise the Non-Model Primary Schools. These initiatives were also not proved sustainable for non-co-operation of the teachers of Non-Model Primary Schools. However in 1965, both model and non-model primary schools were renamed as ‘Managed Free Primary Schools’. Both were brought under one administration. Teachers were paid remuneration and allowances as per qualifications.
The Pakistan government nevertheless in its First Five-year Plan put emphasis on the universal access to primary education. The Second and Third Five-year Plans of the then government enhanced educational facilities and increased allocations for the development of primary education. It aimed to increase student’s enrollment. Some national conferences were arranged and various education commissions were formed. The government organized First Education Conference in Karachi from 27th November to 1st December in 1947 and similarly, the Second Education Congress was also held in Karachi from 4th to 6th December in 1951. In 1952, primary education was declared a 5-year program instead of earlier 4-year term. Four Education Commissions were simultaneously formed named after Maulana Akram Khan, S M Sharif, Justice Hamidur Rahman and Air Marshal Noor Khan in 1949, 1958, 1964 and 1969 respectively.
Maulana Akram Khan Commission recommended primary education to be an ‘eight-year course within the next 15 years. Sharif Commission set a realistic aim for a five-year primary education course emphasizing on the proper learning of the national language. Hamoodur Rahman commission gave emphasis on the importance of religious and moral education.
However, a serious inequality emerged regarding primary education between the then East Pakistan and West Pakistan. Between 1947 and 1948, there were 29633 primary in East Bengal and 8413 schools in West Pakistan (Ahmed, n.d.:168-170) . But by 1960, there were 18000 primary schools in West Pakistan against 26300 in East Pakistan.
In the Second Five-Year Plan of the then Pakistan government, 15200 new primary schools were proposed to be built in the West Pakistan whereas the government decided only to improve quality of 13300 primary schools in East Pakistan without any new establishment. The government aimed to increase the percentage of primary school enrolment in both wings roughly 63 percent .
The East Pakistan provincial authority introduced compulsory primary education scheme in 1950, but it could not sustain due to lack of financial support from the central government. Besides, the government’s policy of teaching Urdu as a mendatory language in schools increased bitter controversy in the eastern part of the then Pakistan.
6.2.3 Post independent reality
One of the basic priority agenda of the newly formed government of independent Bangladesh was primary education. The political thrust of the government set a commitment of facilitating easy access to basic education for the masses with an emphasis on better opportunities for the rural poor and females. Such ideology and philosophy have been reflected in the first Constitution, adopted by Mujib government in 1972, wherein Article 17 pronounced providing primary education as a constitutional obligation of the government (Article 17, The Constitution of Bangladesh).
6.2.4 Nationalizing Primary Education (1972-75)
The first Constitution introduced by the Government of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1972 clearly clarified that the State should adopt effective measures for the purpose of establishing a uniform and universal mass education by extending free and compulsory education to all children to such stage as may be determined by law . Primary education was recognized as a national responsibility of the government, and as the fundamental rights of the people.
An Ordinance was passed on October 26, 1973 aiming nationalizing of a large number of primary schools. Consequently, the Primary Schools (Taking Over) bill, 1974 was introduced in the national parliament so as to impose upon the government bringing the primary school system under a centralized administration from the previous district based management. But surprisingly, the policy in guise had some loopholes in the overall management of the primary education system and failed to provide expected outcomes.
The First Five Year Plan (1973-78) of the Mujib government included some projects of reconstructing primary schools, establishment of some 5000 new schools, increase enrollment in the primary schools from 58 percent to 73 percent, reduce dropout rate from 63 percent to 52 percent, development of PTIs, revision of curriculum, introduction of staggered system of existing schools etc (First Five Year Plan, 1973). Under the First Five Year Plan (1973-78) the education budget were allocated with 18.8 percent to primary education but less than one-half of the total amount had been actually utilized and funds were diverted to other projects (Gustavsson, 1990) . As a result, the main objectives of the first five-year plan were not achieved, the dropout rate was not reduced, and less than 50 percent construction work of primary schools was completed.
But a major achievement of the Mujib government in education was the formation of an Education Commission led by scientist Kudrat-e-Khuda in 1972. Considering the needs of an independent nation, Kudrat-e-Khuda commission recommended the basic objectives of education, its strategies and action plans suitable and compatible with the systems of the neighboring countries. As per the report of Kudrat-e-Khuda commission published in 1974, some objectives of primary education were outlined as follows: developing child’s moral, mental and social personality; bringing up the children as a patriotic, responsible, inquiring and law-abiding citizen through nurturing their love for justice, dignity, labor, proper conduct and uprightness; making them able to read and write in the mother tongue, and to be able to count and calculate; to be able to obtain the fundamental knowledge and skills as a future citizen; and preparing the students for higher education .
Most significant recommendation of the Commission was introduction of universal primary education up to class VIII by 1983. Other suggestions included in the Kudrat-e-Khuda commission were adoption of effective measures to reduce dropouts, developing attractive curriculum and appropriate textbooks and building proper educational environment in schools. The report suggested a uniform system of education compatible with social conditions and environmental needs that would be scientific and sensible. Other recommendations included the introduction of pre-primary education, setting up primary education academy and a national Primary Education Board. However, these recommendations were basically ‘no more than pious wishes’, and frustrated largely in reality (Grieve, 1995) .
6.2.5 Major policy shift (1976-81)
Major policy reforms in primary education had been done during General Zia regime. The Zia government took a notable initiative under its Two Year Plan (1978-80) that included establishment of NAPE and development and reconstruction of 52 PTIs. Universal Primary Education was regarded as a goal of education (Sattar, 1982) .
Major basic goals of the government policy regarding education included universal primary education and eradication of illiteracy. It emphasized on every child to complete education up to class V who enrolled in class-I. The Second Five-Year Plan (SFYP) (1980-85) was marked as the beginning of a potential plan for Universal Primary Education (UPE) in Bangladesh with a goal of enrolling 91 percent of the primary age group by 2000. The target included a compulsion of about 75 percent of the primary school age population enrolled by 1990, and its subsequent increasing to 91 percent by 2000. The government vigilantly went ahead with UPE project with financial and technical assistance from IDA, UNDP and UNESCO. The project required additional 49000 teachers, 128000 classrooms and about 45 million textbooks to be produced and distributed by 1990. This era is significantly marked with the establishment of Directorate of Primary Education (DPE) in 1981, creation of 1834 posts of Assistant Upazila Education Officer (AUEO) for effective field level supervision, ensuring free supply and distribution of textbooks among all students by 1985, recruiting 500 female teachers and providing more infrastructural facilities for schools (Second Five Year Plan, 1983).
Necessity of decentralizing the administration of education, especially for primary education was one of the major recognitions of the Second Five Year Plan. In a major policy drive, the policy intended to decentralize the primary education structure. In line with this policy, management of primary schools was almost entirely shifted to local management committees (Sattar, 1982) . Primary Education Act 1981 made the provisions for establishment of local education authorities at subdivision level presently district. A separate Directorate of Primary Education was created in 1981 with structures at Thana (now Upazila) level. Present structure of school based management and formation of School Management Committees (SMCs) was first conceptualized with this Act of 1981.
6.2.6 Universal Primary Education Strategy (1982-’90)
The policy regarding education was essentially same under the Ershad regime, in addition, to give emphasis on strengthening school capacities, ensuring community participation, and providing low-cost solutions to education opportunities. The Ninth Regional Consultation Meeting of Asia and the Pacific Program of Educational Innovation for Development (APEID) in 1984 largely influenced the then education policies. UNESCO gave some recommendations for equity of educational opportunity and proposed specific programs for countries to promote the education of girls whereby low female enrollment is a major obstacle to universal education. A UNESCO panel visited different countries of Asia- Pacific region including Bangladesh and exchanged views with different key persons on problems regarding girls’ literacy and national policies and programs on education (UNESCO, 1985) . During the Third Five Year Plan (1985-90), the government education policy aimed at raising students’ enrollment from 60 percent to 70 percent, retention of the enrolled students, reconstruction of 9,285 schools, repair of 16,257 schools, supplying adequate quantity of furniture and educational materials, reviewing, revising and restructuring of curricula and syllabuses and establishing management Information system. Strengthening institutional capacities, increased community participation and evolving low-cost solutions were given priority to provide educational opportunities .
Education was valued as a vehicle for the development of human resources in the Fourth Five-Year Plan (1990-95) underscoring much importance on primary and mass education. A significant policy was undertaken in the this plan to make primary education compulsory. The other important goals were as follows:
Efficient use of existing facilities and safeguarding regional parity were the major evaluations on the 4th Five-Year Plan while for creating new opportunities in primary education. It valued most on increasing participation of girls in primary education, more in-service training for school teachers, reforming education curriculum, effective academic supervision and administrative inspection, filling up 60 percent vacant teacher’s position from women candidates and relaxation of qualification for women aspirants.
Three major projects were undertaken in the Fourth Five Year Plan for development of primary education in Dhaka, Rajshahi, and Khulna Divisions; development of primary education in Chittagong, Barisal, and Sylhet division with fund from Asian Development Bank. About 1,134 low-cost schools were constructed, 7,675 government primary schools were reconstructed and 9,335 government primary schools were repaired, 7,812 registered non-government primary schools were developed and 77,290,000 text books were distributed to the students free of costs under the General Education Project (GEP) and other projects of the Plan. Community participation was encouraged highly under this plan to build up low-cost schools in areas where no school remained.
6.2.7 Global Obligations and Bangladesh (1991-’96)
During the period of early 1990s, the Khaleda regime launched the Universal Primary Education Program in accordance with international obligations as well as the implementation of the constitutional provision for free, universal and compulsory education. Compulsory primary education is revitalized with a full coverage by the year 2000 (Hossain, 1992) . Primary education was made free for all children in government run schools in this period. Increasing donor support for primary education in Bangladesh is reflected with a substantial grant of $310 million by this period. The government added new policy of food-for education with a food ration to 20 percent of the poor primary school children in rural areas. The provision declared that ‘no child be deprived of education due to lack of teacher or learning materials or adequate space; no child be subject to disparities in access to primary education regardless to gender, income, family, cultural or ethnic differences and geographic remoteness’ in accordance with EFA, 2000. The whole country was brought under compulsory primary education program by 1993 with legal and administrative measures on the basis of compulsory primary education Act.
Teachers’ guidebooks along with a new series of text books was prepared and introduced in phases from 1992 to 1996. A separate ministry-level division namely Primary and Mass Education Division (PMED) was established in 1992. Competency based life skills oriented curriculum regarding 53 competencies had been introduced in 1999 (Latif, 2004) . The PMED later on uplifted to the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education (MOPME) in 2003. Commitment of international bodies and donor’s contribution played an important role in this regard for development of primary education in Bangladesh. Bangladesh became an enthusiastic signatory to the WCEFA Framework at Jomtien, Thailand in March 1990. The world community strongly backed the goal of “Education for All” at this global gathering (Monzoor, 2008) . The WCEFA Conference was more concerned with qualitative and quantitative aspects of primary education. Jomtien’s Conference made it clear that merely placing a child in school does not guarantee effective learning (Wahiduzzaman, 2001) . This conference more potentially marked the emergence of an international consensus that ‘education is the single most vital element in combating poverty, empowering women, promoting human rights and democracy, protecting the environment and controlling the population growth’ (Bellamy, 1999) . The Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989 endorsed by 191 governments specified primary education as a basic individual right (Johnson, 2003) . Bangladesh as a signatory of that convention reiterated its commitment of universal primary education in the ‘World Summit for Children’ held in New York in September 1990.
Commitment for the policy of ‘Education for All’ was also pronounced at a ministerial review meeting held in Indonesia in September 1995, Pakistan in September 1997, and China in August 2001. Bangladesh attended the meeting of World Educational Forum held in Senegal in April 2000 along with 182 UNESCO member countries. Thus, the major international obligations of primary education raised by the donor countries in early 1990s were instrumental in bringing about major policy shifts in primary education of Bangladesh.
6.2.8 More Compliance during 1996-2000
The Hasina government (1996-2000) extended various development works up to the Fifth Five Year Plan (FFYP) of 1997-2002. The notable achievements in this Five-year Plan were the establishment of 1046 satellite schools, construction, reconstruction, repair of schools and offices etc. The government took a comprehensive Primary Education Development Program (PEDP) in 1997 with a total investment of US$ 1600 million over a period of five years from 1997 to 2002. The government formulated PEDP –I to increase gross enrollment to around 110 percent putting more emphasis on girl enrollment, and increase primary education completion rate to at least 75 percent .
The other objectives of PEDP-I included teachers’ training, supervision, management, and monitoring system, development of curricula with a view to making them relevant with grass root demands. PEDP-I also targeted setting up of information resource centers at Upazila level, undertaking innovative programs and conducting research and evaluation, strengthening capacity of NAPE, DPE, and PMED, mitigating gender gap and regional discrepancy and inculcating social values among the children about their duties and responsibilities as good citizens. One of the strategies of the then education policy was decentralization of the management of primary education. It highlighted initiation of child centered teaching methods and introduction of appropriate education system for the disabled and retarded. The Fifth Five-Year Plan constructed 354 schools in unschooled areas, made reconstruction and repair works of 4420 satellite schools, arranged C-in-Ed training for 30000 school teachers. Besides, social mobilization activities were encouraged through training of SMC members and PTA for developing awareness of their duties and responsibilities. Supervision and monitoring the primary education had been strengthened, home visit program for teachers and AUEOs had been made compulsory as a part of social mobilization drive . This sort of social mobilization activities incorporated the NGO personnel and local government representatives.
One-year pre-primary schooling for children of 5 years and above was introduced under a new National Education Policy (2000) to be available in all primary schools by 2005. The policy suggested extension of five-year primary education to eight-year primary education by 2010. It also recommended introduction of a uniform curriculum for all educational institutions at the primary level, implementation of universal, equitable and quality education through mother tongue and reduction of disparities .
6.3 MDG Obligations
The Government of Bangladesh in the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal in April 2000 reiterates its commitment of Education for All policies to be fulfilled by the year 2015. There were six major goals for education in the Education Forum of Senegal, of which two were later included in the Millennium Development Goals. The Dakar goals resonates the attainment of Universal Primary Education through gender parity, improving literacy and quality of educational, and developing life-skills and early childhood education programs, and these were to be achieved within 15 years duration .
The UN Millennium Declaration was adopted on 8 September 2000 by all its member states in the Millennium Summit. The Declaration promised to implement eight goals to be achieved by 2015 (UN, 2005) . There are 18 targets and 48 indicators in the MDGs to combat poverty, hunger, illiteracy, diseases, inequality to woman, infant and maternal mortality, environmental degradation and promoting global partnership for development. The second Millennium Development Goal had been designated as universal primary education putting emphasis on the implicit objective of equal education for boys and girls alike and to be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.
In line with the MDGs, the Bangladesh government developed its national strategy for accelerated poverty reduction program which is mostly known as PRSP. PRSP in its rights-based approach, identifies four strategic objectives that include creating opportunity towards realizing the full potential of children i.e. access to health, nutrition, education, water and sanitation; ensuring the best interests of children in national, social, family and personal situations i.e. empowerment of children; ensuring safety and security at home and in the public space i.e. protection against abuse, exploitation and violence and establishing and protecting children’s rights i.e. social inclusion, decent work and livelihood. Regarding education, PRSP facilitated scope to introduce and strengthen early childhood and pre-school education; a unified and common primary education opportunity for all children; improvement of quality of primary education; 100 percent enrollment, and encourage other targets of completion of primary education for every children; reaching the literacy rate to 80 percent and expand the scope of NFE for the extreme poor in remote areas (PRSP, 2005).
6.4 Contemporary Context
Bangladesh prepared a national action plan in 2003 as the basis of Dakar Framework of Action, 2000 for policy of ‘Education for All’ with some specific goals to be achieved by 2015. The plan embraces all the goals of EFA to ensure access to education for all. ‘Primary Education Development Program-II’ (PEDP-II) were set on the basis of National Plan of Action. The objectives of PEDP-II (2004-2011) included more primary school access, participation and completion in accordance with government policy of Education for All and other commitments and to improve the quality of student learning and performance outcomes.
PEDP-III (July 2011 – December 2017) is the third series of the large investment program in primary education sub-sector encompassing total budget of the primary education (both non-development and development). PEDP-III incorporates additional features of a sector-wide approach in the matters of financial management, donor harmonization, program management and program scope in the primary education sector. It has four major components: Teaching and Learning, Participation and Disparities, Decentralization and Effectiveness, and Planning and Management. PEDP –III will basically be implemented through a result-based management approach.
6.4.1 SDG Undergoing
In compliance with UN resolution of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set for 2015–’30 education (SDG-4) deserves to be a prominent cornerstone in the post-2015 development framework. The political and financial commitments to education by countries and donors need to be secured and renewed as regarded by SDGs. There is a pressing need for every nation of the world including Bangladesh to integrate a closer collaboration across sectors to enable these synergies to take shape and take root .
6.5 Statistical Overview of Primary Education in Bangladesh (2005-’15)
The Directorate of Primary Education (DPE) conducted its last Annual Primary School Census (APSC) in 2015. The primary education system in Bangladesh is large, catering to 19.067 million students in 2015 to 28 types of providers. Among them, the government primary school alone covered 13.79 million (75 percent) students. The number of girl students was 7128053 (51percent). The GPI was more than 1.00 (1.02percent). In 2015, total teachers were 5.277 lacs. Female teachers were 60 percent of all teachers. Variation was observed between types of primary education institutions.
Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) and Net Enrolment Rate (NER) in primary education have been increasing during the past decades. GER was 94 percent in 2005 and reached 109 percent in 2015. GER of girls (113.4 percent) was higher than that of boys. NER in primary education was 87percent in 2005 and increased to 97.7 percent in 2015. The growth was spectacular and confirms the continuous increase of access of school age children to education.
Drop-out rates have been continuously decreasing from 47percent in 2005 to 20.4 percent in 2015. Compared to boys, girls’ dropout rate was lower. District wise variation was remarkable. Repetition rate ranged between 2.4 percent and 7.9 percent between grades, highest in grade 1 (7.9 percent). Survival rates have shown a continuous growth trend from 54 percent in 2005 to 81.3 percent in 2015.
As a result of increasing growth of access, retention, and survival of students the primary education coefficient of efficiency rate has been increased from 63 percent in 2005 and rose to 80.1 percent in 2015. In 2009 pass rate in primary completion examination was 89 percent (88 percent for girls). The pass rate increased to nearly 98 percent (for both boys and girls) in 2015. ‘Education for All (EFA)’ was set in the National Plan for Action-II for establishing a knowledge-based and technologically-oriented learning society through enhancing and sustaining access, retention and provision of quality basic education to meet the learning needs of all children, young persons and adults. It appreciates both formal and non-formal sub-sectors of basic education without any discrimination so as to people can survive in a competitive world. The following tables here indicate the targets of EFA National Plan for Action-II, 2003-2015 set for primary education:
Table 5: Targets of EFA, NPA II, 2003-’15 for Primary Education
Indicators of primary education Benchmark2000 Targets for the selected years
2005 2010 2015
Gross Enrolment rate (Total) 96.5 103 108 110
Gross Enrolment rate (Boys) 96.0 102 108 110
Gross Enrolment rate (Girls) 97 104 108 110
Net Enrolment rate (Total) 81 83 92 95
Net Enrolment rate (Boys) 82 87 91 95
Net Enrolment rate (Girls) 85 89 93 95
Dropout rate 35 25 21 10
Completion rate 65 75 85 95
Quality achievement in Pry. Education 05 30 65 90
Source: National Plan for Action-II, p-32
Considering the benchmark year 2000, a strategic planning has made for the next 15 years. The vision was to raise Gross enrollment rate from 96.5 percent to 110 percent, Net enrollment rate from 81 percent to 95 percent, Completion rate from 65 percent to 95 percent and to decrease dropout rate from 35 percent to 10 percent.
Table 6: Institutions, Students, and Teachers by Types of Primary Education, 2015
PrimaryEducationManagement No. of Institution No. of Teacher No. of Student Indicators
Total Female % ofFemale Total Girl % ofGirl TSR SPI TPI
Public 63546 322487 199297 62 13793653 7128053 52 43 217 5
Private 58630 205311 115002 56 5274108 2570629 49 26 90 3.5
Total 122176 527798 314299 60 19067761 9698682 51 36 156 4
TSR-Teacher Student Ratio, SPI- Students per Institution, TPI-Teacher per Institution
Source: Bangladesh Education Statistics 2015, BANBEIS
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