While Bangladesh has made impressive gains in access to education, governance constraints have contributed to the poor quality of education at all levels. Recognizing the importance of improving quality in the education sector to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Bangladesh’s Education for All (EFA) targets, the Government has launched several reform measures to address this issue.
The World Bank has supported the implementation of substantive policy reforms through a series of development support credits – Education Sector Development Support Credit I and II (ESDSC I and ESDSC II). Key reforms have focused on: (i) increasing accountability of secondary schools both to the government and to the community (strengthening school management committees to give them a greater role in school management for example); (ii) monitoring, evaluation and dissemination (strengthening Ministry of Education’s capacity to conduct public-expenditure tracking surveys, undertake the impact evaluation of programs and policies, and disseminate information on standardized examination outcomes, school performance, and program effectiveness); (iii) improving teacher’s quality with an emphasis on teacher recruitment and training; (iv) and enhancing transparency in textbook production.
There has been an appreciable improvement in quality of the secondary education system, with 80,000 more children passing grade 12 (as the pass rates increased from 40 percent in 2001 to 48 percent in 2004), and improved governance and transparency in the system, including a fall in teacher absenteeism.
- Pass rates in Grade 10 examinations rose to 50 percent in 2005 from a baseline of 37 percent in 2003. Pass rates in Grade 12 examinations rose to 48 percent in 2004 from a baseline of 40 percent. These rates had been fairly stagnant between 2000 and 2003.
- 1,962 schools which showed a significant improvement in performance in SSC (grade 10) examinations (compared to performance in 2003), received financial incentive awards which were introduced under the project.
- New funding formula for schools designed and introduced under project being implemented. In 2004, 1300 institutions poorly performing served notice regarding suspension of subventions. Subventions of 226 of worse performing institutions suspended in 2005.
Improved Governance and Transparency:
- Teacher absenteeism fell to 11 percent in 2005 from a baseline of 17 percent in 2002.
- Competitively selected private contractors hired since 2005 to transparently evaluate schools being established and registered.
- NTRCA established in 2005. 61,000 applicants took the first standardized NTRCA teacher certification examination in December 2005, with close to 50 percent receiving certification to become teachers.
- Close to 25 percent of girls receiving stipends were ineligible prior to 2003. This proportion has now been reduced to less than 15 percent.
- Under the project, competitive process followed for production and publication of 40 textbooks at secondary level and all textbooks at the higher secondary (grades 11-12) level.
- Textbooks delivered to students on time in 2005 academic year. This compares to frequent delays of 4-6 weeks in the past.
- The IDA credits were $100 million each. This constitutes about 5 percent of the annual government budget at the secondary level.
- Improving governance has repeatedly been identified as the biggest development challenge facing Bangladesh and the greatest impediment to achieving its growth potential and thus achieving the poverty reduction MDG.
- IDA resources have: (i) played an important role in shaping government policy initiatives, and technical assistance was provided to the government to help them develop their medium-term framework for the secondary education sub-sector; (ii) bought to bear lessons of international good practice on the design and implementation of reforms; and (iii) assisted in accelerating the pace of reforms, e.g. in establishing NTRCA, textbook privatizing, and contracting out process of evaluating the establishment and registration of schools.
- Overall, by altering the incentives for the financing and provision of education, and building greater accountability, these reforms have reduced rent-seeking opportunities and enhance cost-effectiveness.
Several factors point to the long-term sustainability of these reforms. Successive governments have continued to implement ongoing education programs and policies, and this trend is likely to continue. Second, the government has done a very sound job of communicating these reforms and the potential benefits they entail to stakeholders. It will thus be difficult for vested interest groups to renege on these reforms without meeting significant resistance from stakeholders. Third, the capacity of the key implementing agency, the Ministry of Education, has been strengthened – both at the central as well as at the local levels - to ensure that implementation of reforms take place in a timely manner. The strategy also relies on strengthening school management committees to give them greater responsibility to supervise schools. Given this and the success of ESDSC I and II – the Bank is assisting the Government in undertaking the third phase of the reform agenda aimed at addressing systemic governance issues in order to raise the quality and cost-effectiveness of service delivery, and improve equity of access to secondary education. ESDSC III is currently under preparation.