Primary School Years
Primary education is free and compulsory for children aged 6-10 years. The government has recently introduced a stipend programme for primary school children, from which 40 per cent of poor children in all rural schools benefit if they meet the minimum criteria for attendance (85 per cent) and achievement (marks of 45 per cent).
Stipends, including grants for books and stationery, are given to all unmarried girls from rural areas up to Grade 7 who have 75 per cent attendance and achieve marks of at least 45 per cent in the annual examinations.
There are 78,126 primary schools in Bangladesh, serving 17.6 million children. The gross enrolment at primary schools has fallen from 116 per cent in 2000 to 113.5 per cent in 2003. Net enrolment however increased from 81.8 per cent to 82.5 per cent over the same period.
The objective of 95 per cent of net enrolment will not be fully achieved by the year 2005, and much needs to be done to improve the quality of education.
The rate of children completing a five-year primary education cycle increased from 65 per cent in 1998 to 67 per cent in 2001. The dropout rate decreased from 35 per cent to 33 per cent over the same period.
The dropout rate is high mainly due to children’s need to help with farming and household chores, child-unfriendly teaching-learning methods, overcrowded classrooms and unattractive educational environment.
Gender and education
In terms of gender parity in enrolment, the gap is steadily decreasing from 52.2 per cent for boys and 47.8 per cent for girls in 1998 to 51 per cent for boys and 49 per cent for girls in 2001. In urban areas the current net enrolment of boys is 80.7 per cent and of girls 81.9 per cent, but in the urban slums the rates are over 20 per cent lower, 57.6 per cent for boys and 61.0 per cent for girls (MICS 2003).
The quality of education, however, remains the greatest concern, as there is still a large gap between expectations and achievements. Of children who have had five years of schooling, 35.6 per cent fail to acquire expected learning achievements.
The age of criminal responsibility for children is still seven years, which is amongst the lowest in the world. The government is actively considering revision of the laws to bring the age of criminal responsibility to 12 years. Child participation has also emerged as a strategy in implementing the child protection programme and the empowerment of adolescent girls.