Primary Education in Rural Bangladesh - Degrees of Access, Choice, and Participation of the Poorest

Sommers, ChristineOpen Society FoundationsPERI Global2013

This paper examines the quality and access dimensions of primary education providers in a poor rural area of northwest Bangladesh, with a focus on the social justice implications of a multi-tiered and poorly regulated system. Government, registered non-government, community, private, and non-formal schools, as well as madrassas, comprise the schooling options at the primary level. Based on an in-depth ethnographic study examining a small sample of each type of school from one particularly resource-poor sub-district, the research shows what factors affect education quality and how familial, financial, social, and institutional difficulties limit students’ access and participation in primary school.

Through an examination of strategies, policies, and shortcomings among the various kinds of schools, the paper aims to illuminate how the government’s lack of regulatory and accountability mechanisms among primary education providers affects quality and social justice in a significant way. The quality and relevance of madrassa education is called into question, private fee-charging schools serve only those with ample financial resources, and non-formal schools fill but a small niche. The research concludes that while other providers can help to meet demand and generate innovation, the responsibility ultimately falls on the government to ensure quality education for all children among these providers and in its own government-funded schools.

Education FinancingBangladeshOriginal researchPolicy & Analysis

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