Bangladesh spends less than S Asian average on education | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 28, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:01 AM, February 28, 2019

Bangladesh spends less than S Asian average on education

Says World Bank country director; calls for bigger, effective investment

Despite Bangladesh's remarkable success in ensuring education for almost every child, the country needs to invest more to make sure that they receive quality education, said Robert J Saum, World Bank (WB) country director for Bangladesh yesterday.

He was speaking at the launching of “World Development Report 2018 (WDR 2018): learning to realise education's promise” at a hotel in Dhaka.

“Learning assessments show that primary and lower-secondary level students often do not have the reading, writing or mathematical skills that are expected in their respective grade level,” said the WB country director.

Referring to the report, Saum said many young students in Bangladesh, as in other low and middle-income countries, find it hard to get good jobs because they leave the education system without the required skills in language and mathematics. 

The government should address this learning crisis by making effective investment in education, the WB report said.

However, Md Shahriar Alam, state minister for foreign affairs, said the government achieved a number of milestones in primary education in the last 10 years.

“Providing quality education in primary and high school level is a prime agenda of the government and we have taken a number of initiatives to improve the quality already,” he said, adding that the government increased budgetary allocation for education fivefold in last 10 years.

The report shows that schooling is not the same as learning. In Bangladesh, children can expect to get around 11 years of schooling, but they lose about four-and-a-half of those due to its poor quality.

 For example, 35 percent of third graders scored too low to even be tested on reading comprehension in Bangla, and only 25 percent of fifth graders in the country passed the minimum threshold in math. Learning outcomes are worse for students from poor and vulnerable backgrounds.

The key factors behind this are: lack of access to early childhood development programmes, low quality of teaching practices, challenges related to poor school management, and low levels of overall spending on public education, said the report.

“Bangladesh is among the few countries to achieve gender parity in school enrolment with more girls in school than boys. The country has the potential to create a globally competitive workforce by investing in education,” said Saum.

“Bangladesh's share of public spending on education is lower than the South Asian average. But it's not just about overall spending, it's also about how money is being used. Systematically measuring whether schooling is translating into learning is critical for ensuring that education spending is effective,” he said.

The bank organised the event in collaboration with Lego Foundation.

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