DHAKA, BANGLADESH - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $120 million loan in additional funding for a 6-year government-led program to improve the quality and reach of primary education in Bangladesh.

The loan will be complemented by cofinancing from the European Union, the Global Partnership for Education, the United Nations Children’s Fund, and the World Bank. The Government of Bangladesh will provide the remaining $1.7 billion for the country’s $9.8 billion Third Primary Education Development Program, launched in 2011.

ADB’s original financing was a $320 million loan, and it agreed in 2011 to make more funds available if implementation was successful. This was confirmed by a joint midterm review by the Government of Bangladesh and its development partners completed in September 2014, which called for a greater focus on results.

The additional funds are expected to raise key performance indicators relating to student achievement, access and efficiency in Bangladesh, which has one of the largest primary school systems in the world with over 19.5 million children enrolled in about 106,000 primary schools.

The midterm review notes the project has increased enrollment and reduced dropout rates across the country, but this trend is lower among disadvantaged groups such as children from small ethnic communities, children living in slums, and children living with disabilities. Disparities between schools, and between rich and poor children, still persist.

“Although the program has helped Bangladesh make considerable progress on meeting its education targets enshrined in Millennium Development Goals 2 and 3, much work remains to be done,” said ADB Senior Social Sector Specialist Rudi Van Dael. “This additional funding will help deepen ongoing reforms, scale up successful project interventions, and complete already scaled-up activities.”

To deliver an efficient, inclusive, and equitable primary education system as well as relevant child-friendly learning to Bangladeshi children through Grade 5, the projects aims to continue building the capacity of both students and teachers, reduce disparities in access to education, decentralize oversight of the primary education system, and improve program planning and management.

The loan from ADB’s Special Funds resources has a 25-year maturity. The Ministry of Primary and Mass Education is the executing agency of the project, to be completed by the end of June 2017.

ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members – 48 from the region. In 2014, ADB assistance totaled $22.9 billion, including cofinancing of $9.2 billion.

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