Education is the basic right of every child regardless of the fact where they are born, whether or not their parents are educated and want their children to learn or if their country has an education system accessible for all classes of citizens or not. Lack of education systems is the plight of underdeveloped countries. Bangladesh is one of those underdeveloped countries that have illiteracy rates higher than any acceptable range. The problem is simply lack of any suitable and structured resource at all. Getting basic education is necessary for everyone for a better understanding of life and ability to strive for a standard of life higher than their predecessors. It is also the crucial element to enable them to have a future in the global structure of the world. They deserve to at least have the chance and the means to get adequate education and reform themselves the way they should instead of simply being the bottom line of unliterary statistic. A sustainable education system is all they need to find, build and secure a place for them in the rapidly developing world.
This issue is personal to me as I am of Bengali descent. I have been to Bangladesh before to know how the country is run. These include knowing how the people of the country live, what is accepted and what isn’t. Education is both affected by and contributes to the poverty that is present in the country. Education is affected by the underdevelopment of infrastructure, e.g. run-down buildings and hut houses doubling as learning environments.
- Politicians in Bangladesh tend to not provide for the public as much as they can/should. Yet there is little being done about it.
- Poverty is present in many of the families in the country; there are those who cannot afford to send their children to schools.
- Religion & Culture tend to affect education in general, from the quality of learning (for different genders) to what topics are taught. Religion has a large stronghold over the country that madrassahs (Islamic schools) are found to be the norm.
Those who do not go to school are found to be illiterate. Therefore they will end up in work at a younger age likely to earn minimal wage (or possibly less) due to the social construct of having to always look after your family directly (e.g. working then coming home and doing other chores as opposed to working from afar and sending money back). Those who do not go to school usually end up working to provide for their family, leading to an increased rate of child labor.
Bangladesh in Retrospect
Bangladesh is the part of Indian subcontinent. This predominantly Muslim country is quite densely populated which puts a huge strain on its resources. Bengal became an independent country in 1971 and its capitol is Dhaka. With the country that is barely 50 year old, there is always struggle to introduce any kind of sustainable systems. The priority of education always falls short in front of food, housing, jobs and political optics.
Being a relatively young nation its resources are limited especially when compared to its population. In 2010, one-third of Bangladesh’s population consists of children under the age of 15 with the literacy rates of barely above 50%. Can you imagine how many kids here are not being educated? Imagine the potential that is being wasted here.
Education in Bangladesh
The countries education system is subsidize and divided into 3 tiers; Primary, Secondary and Higher Secondary levels. With the much needed education reforms Bangladesh conforms to Education For ALL (EFA) objective which made free primary education a constitutional right of every kid between the ages of 6 to 10.
The current education levels are further divided into 5 parts.
- Junior Secondary
- Higher Secondary
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English and Arabic are the most commonly taught language courses in schools and otherwise.
Quality of Education of education is also of grave importance. Bangladesh has a bunch of universities for providing professional education. But the rate of students that pass out of HSE level and that end up in universities is drastically different. This is not even counting the ones that fall out in primary and secondary levels.
The question is with so many institutes and all the free education at state’s expense why are children in Bangladesh not getting proper education?
Vulnerabilities of Educational Plans
With all the governmental attempts to educate the children in Bangladesh, The results are nowhere near to favorable. The failure to get the literacy level to some acknowledgeable high is mostly attributed to inefficiency of the services and the inadequate politics. In addition to these issues children’s basic rights are not realized very much. Here is a list of factors that are continuous contributors in illiteracy of Bengali children.
About half of the children in Bengal grow up in the most abject poverty. They suffer the lack of most basic necessities of life like food, housing etc. The subject of education is simple too farfetched for them. There are more than 60 million children live in Bangladesh, and only half of them are able to afford education. According to a survey conducted in 2010 the poverty in Bangladesh was 31.5. A latest survey revealed poverty rate of rural areas was 26.4% and for urban areas 18.9%. Then there are those suffering from extreme poverty with a rate of 12.9%.
Poverty is the biggest factor affecting majority of young Bengali children. Among the major reasons for poverty, there is high unemployment rate, absolute scarcity of access to a healthy diet, health services, and an education. Insufficient financial resources to overcome this poverty are making the matter worse day by day.
A troubling number of children in Bangladesh are malnourished. This mainly hits the poor families where food is scarce and the prospects to feed themselves easily are nonexistent. 41% of the kids under the age of 5 years are malnourished. Though this rate has come down, but is not enough to make a consequential difference so far.
Then there are floods and natural disasters making their day to day life a challenge. The families of rural areas of Bangladesh are the ones that are most affected by these severe conditions which has completely compromised their food security.
Access to clean and drinkable water is also a huge issue especially when combined with inappropriate sanitation facilities, the lack of these propagates waterborne diseases such as Diarrhea.
Vaccination is also a sore topic for the health condition s of children in rural area. This is mainly due to the absences of medical services. Parents with difficult or no access to medical centers have simple stopped vaccinating their young kids. Only 0.6% of kids suffering from malaria get anti-malarial drugs.
The 41% mortality rate (as per UNICEF survey) for the kids aged less than five is very troubling in Bangladesh. 44% of these children are males and 38% are females. These rates have been diminished greatly but still remain at an unacceptable high. The parents of sick children have no idea what to do and where to turn in case of a medical emergency. The infant mortality rate of 2012 was 33%. The country suffers drastic lacks in pediatrics services and qualified personnel to dispense the facilities where they are available. These are the kind of problems that can be easily resolved if the local authorities promote health services and focus on training more hospital personnel.
A lot of Bangladeshi children are denied their right of identity at the time of their births as their parents neglects to report the birth of their child to authorities. If there is no birth certificate, a child’s right to identity is not acknowledged or respected. Therefore they are not even recognized as full citizens and cannot even cast a vote or any other right. They are basically invisible in their own community.
According to UNICEF only 30.5% of child births got registered during 2005 -2012.
Unregistered children make good fodder for abuse, such as forced child labor, prostitution, early marriage, smuggling and trafficking, etc.
In Bangladesh, education is free and appointed mandatory for children between 6 and 10. However, there is a huge range of children unable to avail this facility due to problems like child laborer, handicapped children, native children, etc. Their right to education is generally violated. The boys from poor families are the pinnacle of this injustice as they have to abandon education to bare the financial responsibilities of their families. This is the biggest drawback in poor communities.
A third of professors teaching without diplomas speak about the quality of education these already under-privileged students are getting. The schools lack proper infrastructures, separate sanitary facilities for girls, adequate ventilation and lighting, book and stationary supplies etc. Children being physically abused by their teacher and girls are often sexually harassed at school or on their way to school are also contributing in their avoiding the issue at all.
Here are some stats on education from 2008 to 2012 in Bangladesh by UNICEF:
Pre-primary school participation and gross enrolment: male 26.8%
Pre-primary school participation and gross enrolment: female 26.1%
Primary school participation & survival rate to complete: admin data 66.2%
Secondary school participation and net enrollment ratio: male 42.8%
Secondary school participation and net attendance ratio: male 42.9%
Secondary school participation and net enrollment ratio: female 50.6%
Secondary school participation and net attendance ratio: female 47.0%
Mobile phone users per 100 population 63.8
Internet users per 100 population 6.3
According to these only half of the students enrolled in primary and secondary schools are even attending schools. No access to internet is definitely hindering their ability to connect, learn and compete with the world.
Children in Bangladesh, whether they belong to public or private establishments and rich or poor families, undergo violence and negligence. In schools, they are mistreated by teachers. Even people in authority like Police are using excessive force towards juvenile offenders. Bangladesh has the norm of corporal punishment and degrading treatments allowed by both law and society.
Among all the girls under the age of 15, one-third is married away as a usual practice in Bangladesh. Suffice it to say the girls under 15 are the most vulnerable. Bangladeshi custom requires dowry, which is paid in installments in poor families. Until it is paid in full these young girls are at risk of physical and mental abuse. There are cases of girls being murdered in case of non-payment or paying inadequate sums.
2008 to 2012 stats by UNICEF for child marriage rate:
Child marriage: male 17.5%
Child marriage: female 8.1%
Child marriages also have repercussions on these girls health, development, and their rights. Married at such a young and innocent age, they have limited social interaction and capabilities. The strain of pregnancy at this age puts their health and the health of the child at mortal risk.
With gross abundance of poverty, parents are forced to put their children to work at an age when they are not even able to understand financial responsibility. They are generally employed in hard works are often underpaid. Their labor includes working in construction, battery recycling, road transport, car repair shops, and tobacco factories.
2008 to 2012 stats by UNICEF for child labor rate:
Child labor: male 17.5%
Child labor: female 8.1%
No education added with miserable health conditions, long work hours, low salary, no food, etc. has made survival a challenge. Additionally, they risk being subjected to prostitution, discrimination and physical or sexual abuse.
In Bangladesh, juvenile offenders are treated very poorly while they are in custody. A lot of them never even get to juvenile courts and are sentenced by ordinary courts which are not able to care for their minor status. Children serving time along with adults are generally at the mercy of their adult fellows and their young impressionable minds suffer big time.
Bangladesh law delivers harsh ruling which is a huge setback for kids as children less than 15 years old are being sentenced to life behind bars and less than 18 are being sentenced to death.
Children from Bangladeshi communities that are poor and under-privileged are at high risk of being sold by their very own parents. The reason behind is that they are convinced of migration benefits: secure wages, better living conditions, etc. Yet the reality is not always so giving. These children are exploited, sold to middle-east as boy-jockeys, girls are generally employed as domestic servants yet subjected to prostitutes. So many children under the influence of traffickers work in the streets.
Freedom of Opinion
In Bangladeshi culture, children rarely have the chance to voice they opinion of even concerns. The pattern is that their parent or guardian commands full authority over their life and future. The children cannot participate in any household decisions to the extent that they don’t even get a say in whether or not they should go to school. Similarly, these mi ors are giving no legal standing and their voices are never the part of legal and administrative proceedings even when they are about them.
The political disarray in the country is the huge contributor towards the fact that there is barely any infrastructure to make it even possible to attempt educating these kids. A lot of schools are either established in reclaimed building or kids are taught under a tree or in a hut. They never have enough books and writing supplies between them to practice and learn properly.
Education is supposed to be a priority especially in the underdeveloped countries because it is the most direct way to bring in house sources to constitute in building a country’s future. But the political adaptation of ignorance has failed to acknowledge the potential in the country. The people with power to make a difference do not see the need of proper and sustainable education as a priority.
With all these factors working against any attempts to educated and alleviate their living standards and life prospects it will be in vain. What do you think are the chance of a child born in a poor family how has not been vaccinated against the abundance of diseases all around them and suffer a variety of abuses all the while being denied any education and forced to support their family financially.
We know that kids in Bengal need education just like any other kids in developed countries. It is understandable that they are going to have to cover a huge gap to match up to the level of western children. It is a fact that educating a generation of today’s children is going to directly influence the prospects of their country in global scales. Let us see if the kids in Bangladesh actually want to get education.
Let’s compare the education of a child in Bangladesh with Western, Scandinavian, Nordic and Asian countries:
Kids in USA or UK have proper access to school and are provided with competent education guidance through professional counselors. Their teachers are highly qualified and there is abundance of learning materials along with easy access to internet. They have everything needed to excel in any field of education they choose because they not only have facilities; they have choices and the freedom to exercise their will. USA has the 5th largest literacy rate and UK is 8th position.
There are no fields of education that these kids cannot pursue. There are even special camps to give them a leg up in competitive exams. The education standard is exemplary and extracurricular are carefully designed to assist with future job prospects.
The universities are spread far and wide and competition is high to get in especially in Ivy League. The education at this level is expensive but there are a bunch of scholarships. The vocational institutes are amazing the diplomas are earned with proper experience and training. There is no lack of awareness in the access of education and there are open communication channels between parents, students and teachers.
Children in Finland start schooling from the age of 6 in pre-schools which is basically a practice run for real school. The attendance is 2 to 3 times a week at this stage.
At the age of 7 they start primary school for six years and learn basic skills like maths, mother tongue, some sciences, physical education, music and arts. They learn foreign languages generally English, German or French in 3rd grade. From 5th grade children choose one or more foreign languages to study further, Swedish or German usually.
At the age of 13 after primary school kids start lower secondary school for 3 years. At this stage children study maths, mother tongue, English as first foreign language, Swedish or German as second foreign language, religion, history, social studies, biology, geography, chemistry, physics, arts, music, domestic science and needlework. They can choose to study additional foreign languages like German, French or Russian. This is Finnish basic schooling.
Basic school leads to secondary school or vocational school as per student’s preferences. Secondary school duration is 3 to 4 years. The education model is mainly theoretical. Added subjects include philosophy or psychology. At the end of the school year students take matriculation examination and proceed to university or polytechnic institutes. Vocational schools also have 3 to 4 year duration. After that students are ready to work professionally. Some of the popular professions are teacher, engineer, psychologist, designer and artist.
Children in Sweden attend school at 6 years old. The schools are mostly government operated and but there are a few private ones too. Students are in same class till 6th grade and then they go to another school for secondary education.
Students don’t get any marks for their work till 8th grade as the mode of education is “personal development dialogues”. The reason for not having a grading system at this stage is to avoid competition and stress among students. From 8th form to 9th form the students are tested and graded twice a year.
The secondary schools in Sweden allow the students to choose their own professional learning field. There are 17 national programs available for students: Child and Recreation, Construction, Electrical, Vehicle engineering, Energy, Arts, Business, Administration, Handicrafts, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Industry, Foods, Media, Use of Natural resources, Natural Science, Medicine, Health Care, Social Science and Technology.
Secondary school students do not pay for bus tickets, lunch or books but they have to pay for notebooks and pencils and you also receive a stipend per month. After graduating, the grades are added and divided to calculate overall value, which is used when applying for higher education or the students have to take a national university aptitude test to gain an admission. The Folk High School is unique in Sweden, which has more freedom to form any kind of courses.
Higher education is considered imperative in Sweden which is why it is free. The expense of books and accommodation etc for every Swede are bore by a special study loan, which is a lot better than usual bank loans. Due to this style people with not enough income can still educate themselves.
Sweden has beautiful infrastructure for schools with single-storey schoolhouses. The environment is friendly and there is no bullying among the students.
Children in Norway start going to school when they are 6 years old and study in mother tongue Norwegian till primary school and in the lower secondary. English learning is compulsory from the primary level they must take second foreign languages like German or French. The teaching method also includes practical project work which is an effective way of learning. The teachers are competent, qualified and passionate. Primary and lower secondary education works as unified school system. A single national curriculum is followed throughout the country to promote same standard of education, knowledge, culture and values.
In the secondary school children can choose to study in any field they like:
Arts, Crafts, Design, Agriculture, Fishing, Forestry, Hotel Management, Food-Processing Trades, Sales and Service, Health Care, Social Care, Mass Communication, Music, Dance, Drama, Sport Sciences, Physical Education, Building, Construction, Woodworking, Engineering, General or Business Studies
Students can also go to vocational training centers and learn any trade. Vocational training is offered both at school and at the workplaces. The certification for which can be gained by one-year apprenticeship, followed by one year of productive work experience.
There are 6 universities in Norway offering higher education. They are special because they give freedom to students to make their own course.
In Norway exchange are welcomed. Norwegian students take part in international projects and organizations to stay in competition with the world.
The education at the levels Primary and Middle (lower primary (Standards I to V) and upper primary (Standards VI to VIII)) is free in India. Children start Primary education at the age of 6 and by the age of 14 they end Middle/Upper Primary education. Schooling is available at state-run facilities as well as at private schools. Depending on the financial status the selection is made between the 2. The standard of education and facilities at governmental schools are few and far between. The infrastructure is also lacking. The multiple regional languages are the instruction medium for most primary schools and English as learned as a secondary language beginning by 3rd grade.
The secondary education is a two year cycle referred to as General/Lower Secondary School, or ‘Standard X’, and Upper/Senior Secondary School, or ‘Standard XII’. Education at this stage is also free but private schools are preferred at this level. Public examinations system is in place to promote children to grade 11 and university level studies General curriculum mainly consists of three languages (including the regional language, an elective, and English language), Mathematics, Science and Technology, Social Sciences, Work/Pre-Vocational Education, Art, and Physical Education. Secondary schools are affiliated with State boards which administer the Secondary School Certification.
Depending upon the SSC results, students are granted access to Senior/Upper Secondary School. Upper Secondary Schools offers a choice in preferred fields like science, commerce, and arts/humanities.
Young people whom do not pursue tertiary education, or fail to finish secondary school can get admissions in vocational instituted to get professional education. These institutes are privately-owned vocational schools. The standard of education is not as well specialized as it is in United States institutes rather it is a broad overview employment application.
The Education system in Bangladesh consists of three systems which are; General Education, Madrassah Education and Technical (Vocational) Education.
Each of these Education systems are divided into four levels
- Primary level (up to 5 years in length, from ages 6 to 10)
- Secondary (up to 6 years in length, from ages 11 to 17)
- Tertiary (Varies in length from person to person, from all ages post-secondary)
Bangladesh Education diagram
This diagram shows the structure of Bangladesh education system, it displays three types of education: General (Primary, Secondary), Madrassah/Islamic Studies (shown by the rankings on the left ‘Ebtadayee’, ‘Dakhil’, ‘Alim’, ‘Fazil’, ‘Kamil’) and also Tertiary education (post-secondary).
The general education system is shown to be following the norm of most education systems. When compared to a country in the first-world e.g. England, both countries’ education system structure is very similar from ages that the system is catering for to the level of education granted. While no structure is deemed to be flawless, it can be suggested, even acceptable to say, that Bangladesh’s youth learning achievements are not simply due to its countries system structure. To evidence this, it is common knowledge that other countries with a similar or the same structure are achieving better results (particularly in the first-world).
When looking at Madrassah/Islamic studies, the diagram does not give much information away as to what it can lead to in terms of qualifications, but it is interesting to note that the first rank (Ebtadayee) can be studied alongside Primary Education but after both have been passed, students can no longer pursue both goals, as shown by the splitting of the education structure and the rankings from Junior-Secondary and Dakhil onwards. This leads to the suggestion that data obtained of student success rates in Bangladesh are not as in depth due to students choosing to leave secondary education for Islamic studies. However obtaining accurate data on the number of students with respective Islamic rankings can be near-impossible due to the informality of obtaining these ranks as the ranking system is not seen as an ‘official’ education system ranking but rather a ‘popular’ one to be enrolled into. (Note: some students will feel that enrolling onto Madrassah studies is required as a way to bring honor to the family as well as to become a more pious individual, thus making them feel it is not their choice but they must still do it.)
Availability and access to proper education has to be a compulsory part of literary reform. In fact it should be made a part of constitution with punishment for making kids do anything else then study in order to bring about some real change that actually matters more than just the statistics. Till such a time comes we need to call on the people with resources, ability and willingness to be our partners in support the future of these underprivileged children by providing them a sustainable education system. Just an education system is not going to cut it. There are some basic necessities of delivering education to this underprivileged nation:
- School supplies like boards, chairs etc
- Qualified teachers
- A standardize course outline
- Books and learning material
- Access to internet
- School uniform
- Stationary supplies
- Commute expense and stipend
- Guidance counselors
- Talent and need based scholarships
In addition to these basic requirements, the government has to take a few steps too. Some of these are necessary to reduce the vulnerabilities affecting the access of education for both girls and boys.
- A health reform is needed to reduce infant mortality, malnourishment etc. A serious undertaking of developing and imposing an automated birth registration system has to be the highest priority. But until that miracle a qualified doctor visiting schools established by the efforts of our partners could at least ensure that the kids who make it of the school get medical attention.
- Children rights have to be established and imposed. The guidance counselors could also play the part of guiding the youth with their constitutional right. Since all change comes with the spreading of awareness, change here is definitely possible. It would be in the best interest of all the children in Bangladesh if the country adhered to International Convention on the Rights of the Child.
- Involving local citizen as point person to communicate to the parents that education is in their best interest. The information campaigns have to be about what can be made out of the worst situations.
- We need to bring the future that is currently happening in the west to the people of Bangladesh so they can see and compare for themselves how bad their life standard and expectations are compared to where they could so if only they chose to educate their kids instead of binding them in tradition and lifestyle of their forefathers.
- Progress has to be made in the area of participation. The country drowned in poverty cannot allocate too many resources to improve the rate of education. Which is why, it falls to us people with resources and a little bit of willingness to help our fellow human being out at least of have their own standing in their country. All of this is possible with a simple but thoroughly implemented education system.
SMM, I. (2012). The flow diagram of education structure of Bangladesh. [online] E-varsityadmission.blogspot.com. Available at: http://e-varsityadmission.blogspot.com/2012/01/flow-diagram-of-education-structure-of.html [Accessed 26 Nov. 2018].