In Dhaka: Zita Lichtenberg (880-2) 966-9301 Ext. 111
In Washington: Kruti Kapadia (1-202) 458-9031
WASHINGTON, March 12, 2002--The World Bank today announced the approval of a US$120.9 million credit to help improve both the quality and accessibility of girls' secondary education in rural Bangladesh. The project will expand on a successful stipend program currently active in the country, which gives girls from poor, rural families financial assistance to attend school. The new project will support the Government of Bangladesh's ongoing primary and secondary education reform efforts, which are bulit on the understanding that improved education reaches beyond individuals to create multiple benefits in health and productivity that may impact the entire country's well being. Despite its status as a low-income country, Bangladesh has made significant progress towards providing access to education for all in a relatively short time.
The World Bank-financed Female Secondary School Assistance Project II (FSSAP II) will work to increase girls' enrollments, as well as to improve the quality of education, in secondary schools. Project incentives are also aimed at addressing gender inequities still present in the rural areas, improving management capacity at central government levels, and monitoring and accountability within communities.
FSSAP II builds on the ground-breaking success of an earlier project, launched in 1993, which helped the government initiate the girls secondary school stipend program. That initiative, which received a US$68 million credit from the World Bank, yielded highly impressive results, including a substantial increase in girls' enrollments; delays in the age of marriage; a higher number of single-child families; and, more females employed with higher incomes. The headmaster of a school in the Narshingdi district remarked that at the beginning of his career nearly three decades earlier he could not have imagined so many girls attending school. "The stipend has worked magic," he said.
Stipend programs have been enormously popular in Bangladesh. The girls enrolled in the program, mainly from poor rural families, receive a small cash stipend which helps to ease the financial burden of their education. To further encourage schools to enroll girls, a tuition assistance payment is also provided to the participating schools. The growth in girls' secondary school enrollment in stipend programs is far above the most optimistic projections. In project areas, enrollment more than doubled from 462,000 in 1994 to slightly above one million in 20001. The overall proportion of females who married in project areas declined between 1992 and 1995, from 29 to 14 percent for 13-15 year-olds, and from 72 to 64 percent for 16-19 year-olds. Up to 1.45 million girls are expected to participate in schools covered under the second project (FSSAP II).
"The benefits of educating girls reach far beyond increasing individual opportunity," says Ana Maria Jeria, the World Bank task leader for the project. "Higher education levels for girls have been shown to alleviate problems such as high birth rates, poor health practices, high infant mortality rates and the inability of a large percentage of the labor market to function effectively. This project will provide continued support to a very effective and worthwhile effort of the Government of Bangladesh to enable poor rural girls to improve not only their own lives, but the well-being of the country."
In addition to expanding the stipend program, FSSAP II will include components designed to improve not only access, but the quality of education available to all students in 5,000 schools in the project areas. It will work to improve teacher education, training and support, and provide incentives focusing on learning outcomes at the school level.increase the number of female secondary teachers, and decentralize education by encouraging broader participation in the affairs of local schools. This aspect is expected to increase transparency and improve accountability in school administration. At the central level, the project will help the government improve efficiency, effectiveness and management, monitoring and accountability of the Ministry of Education's DirectoryDirectorate of Secondary and Higher Education, the responsible implementing agency. The project will also encourage participants and communities to take a more active role in ensuring better educational results and improved management of schools.
The total cost of the project, which will be implemented over a five-year period, is US$144.62 million. The World Bank will provide a credit of US$120.9 million, while the Government of Bangladesh will provide US$23.49 million and local communities US$240,000. The World Bank credit, which is being provided by its concessionary lending arm, the International Development Association, carries no interest.
For more information on the World Bank's work in Bangladesh, please visit: http://www.worldbank-bangladesh.org