MANILA, PHILIPPINES (27 September 2018) — The Board of Directors of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $500 million loan to support Bangladesh’s Fourth Primary Education Development Program that aims to provide quality education to all children from pre-primary to grade 5.
“Despite a series of investments, Bangladesh’s primary education system has not been able to keep pace with the rapid increase in student enrollment,” said ADB Senior Social Sector Specialist Ms. Xin Long. “ADB’s results-based lending program supports the government’s initiatives—in coordination with other development partners—to tackle the challenges and lift the overall performance of primary education.”
Rapid expansion of primary education has been at the heart of the country’s economic development, which has seen poverty halved since 2000 to 24.3% and Bangladesh reach lower middle-income status. Bangladesh achieved almost universal access to primary education by 2016 with a 98% net enrollment rate. The efficiency of primary education has also improved.
Despite this progress, Bangladesh still has to improve the quality and equity of primary education. For example, a 2015 national student assessment indicated that 35% of students at grade 3 had yet to achieve the grade-level competencies for Bangla and even 61% for mathematics. The assessment results were even worse for grade 5 students. Moreover, many school-age children are still out of school (about 2.5 million). This is more prevalent in poor families and in disadvantaged locations such as city slums.
More than three-quarters of schools are running double shifts, therefore limiting teacher-student contact hours, which results in a lower level of learning. Teachers lack adequate skills and mostly focus on rote learning, while there is also a shortage of teaching and learning material. Moreover, frequent disasters triggered by natural hazards curtail student attendance in affected schools.
ADB will help the government to improve the quality and equity of primary education through the Fourth Primary Education Development Program. The program aims to reduce double-shift operations at schools by recruiting more teachers and building more classrooms, step up teacher education and provide needs-based training for teachers and teacher educators, reform examinations and assessments, as well as enrich teaching and learning resources such as with digital materials. It will also expand education services for out-of-school children through learning centers, bring more children with special education needs and disabilities to schools, improve school-level performance and management, and strengthen institutions. To improve the learning environment, the program will provide gender-segregated and disability-accessible sanitation and safe water in almost all schools. New construction and major retrofitting will meet disaster risk resilience requirements, especially in disaster-prone areas.
To support decentralization, the program will strengthen the capacities of institutions at all levels of primary education offices and increase the support for schools and upazilas with more resources linked to their needs and performance.
The program is expected to directly benefit 18.6 million students, about 340,000 teachers, and more than 65,000 schools that are under the management of the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education.
The government will provide $13.2 billion of the total $14.7 billion program cost, while joint financing development partners, who, besides ADB, include the World Bank, United Nations Children’s Fund, and European Union, will contribute $1.38 billion. ADB’s loan will be disbursed over 5 years to 2023.
ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2017, ADB operations totaled $32.2 billion, including $11.9 billion in cofinancing.