To persuade more parents to let their daughters to attend secondary school, the Bangladeshi government set up a scheme with the World Bank in 1993. The project covers the costs of secondary school education for all girls who apply and qualify. Is this the way to solve the educational problem for girls?
Girls Lacking Money to Go to School in Bangladesh Host: To persuade more parents to let their daughters attend secondary school, the Bangladeshi government set up a scheme with the World Bank in 1993. The project covers the costs of secondary school education for all girls who apply and qualify. Dr. Osman Farruk: We impose some quality restrictions. In order to get the stipend and the benefit, you have to obtain at least 45% marks in a regime where 33% is the passing mark and you have to attend 75% of the classes. That’s the way we try to make sure that it’s simply not a question of attending school you see in lieu of stipend and other things. We are trying to more rigorously impose this. Dr. Mushtaq Khan: These kinds of stipend based programs where you give people an incentive to go and get an education by giving them a subsidy, is in a sense, bribing people to get an education on the assumption that the policy-maker knows what is good for the people. The people are stupid, they can’t see the benefits of education, therefore, need an incentive, or there is some short-term hurdle which can be overcome by the stipend or the subsidy. Host: In 1980, 600,000 girls enrolled in secondary school. Twenty years later in 2000, the figure had risen to four million. But the enrolment figures don’t tell the full story because not everyone completes the course, there’s a high drop-out rate. In 1999, just over half the year, girls dropped out before taking their final exam. It’s a situation Dulalli’s currently facing. She has received government funding and wants to finish her education but she won’t be able to. Dulalli: I can’t take the exam because we don’t have enough money and somebody is ill in my family. My father has realized he can’t pay and that’s why I have to stop going to school. Dr. Osman Farruk: I’m very surprised to hear this because this has never come to our notice because we pay also for the examination fees and others. Maybe these girls are just planning to go, they still don’t know but this is a point I think we should really look at very carefully. Host: Even participants in the scheme are confused about what the stipends cover. World Bank staff when visiting Shilmondi village were surprised to hear about Dulalli’s case. Subrata Khan: Many of the girls can’t appear in their SSA exams because this of exorbitant fee that is charged for the exams. The stipend program supports until 10th grade and the exam fee is exorbitant which is not covered by the stipend program. Fatema Khan: I’m not sure if all stipend programs just go up to 10th grade. There may be certain programs -- I mean it might cover the 11th and 12th grade too. In fact, some of them do but actually I’ve never heard about this one before that fees are so exorbitant. Subrata Khan: There might be differences. Fatema Khan: They don’t provide-- I just heard that it’s about a 1500 taka? Subrata Khan: 1500 taka. Fatema Khan: I don’t think any of the stipend programs provide that much. Subrata Khan: That definitely is a problem and the fact that some 90% of the higher schools are private schools and they decide on the fees. I mean there might be certain fees which are perhaps common to all schools but then there are other fees which would be different from school to school. So, I mean if it is 1500, it will all be consistently 1500 for all schools. Host: Given the confusion, what impact has the project had on girls’ education in Bangladesh? Christine Wallich 54% of all girls are in school at the secondary level. At the primary level of course, there is very close to gender parity. So, it’s been very, very successful in that sense. Dr Mushtaq Khan: So, simple observation suggests more girls are going to school but this could be for many different types of reasons. It could be because of relaxation of social norms. It could be because there are more jobs for women in all parts of Bangladesh as job opportunities improve. Host: The quality of teaching is another issue for parents. Minara: I don’t think the schools around here are very good. I do want to send my children to those schools that they show on TV, good schools but we can’t afford it. Christine Wallich: I think it’s fair to say that the quality of education in the country has declined as it’s broadened. So, you have more people exposed to education but perhaps exposed to a lower level of education than 20 years ago. Dr. Osman Farruk: If you look at the resource requirements, if you look at the schools at the secondary and primary level, you won’t be able to conceive of any facilities like this. It is so far backward. I don’t want to call it poor compared to any school in the West that you or anybody else have gone to. The basic materials for education, the basic facilities are far too lower than it is expected. It’s also expensive. Someone used to tell me that at the elementary level and also the secondary level, the school has to be an attractive place for the kid, so the first thing in the morning, he feels like going to the school. Dr. Mashtuq Khan: A country like Bangladesh must have a strategy for industrialization, it must have identified what are the new areas it wants to expand into, where investments will happen, where jobs will be created, and it needs to tie in skills training and skills expansion for those sectors. That is the most direct way in which education, skills and poverty are connected.