Bangladesh experienced one of the longest full school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic. The secondary school stipend program helped out-of-school children bring back to school and impact evaluation also found that initial female secondary school stipend program started in 1994 had increased female school attendance and completion including their siblings, delayed early marriage, and reduced total fertility rate. The stipend program evolved over time with the use of mobile banking. This is an exemplary case of innovation, interdisciplinary collaboration, and transformational impacts.


Female Secondary School Stipend Program in Bangladesh

Bangladesh experienced one of the longest school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Educational institutions remained fully closed for more than 500 days.

It is important to bring out-of-school children, especially girls, back to school to prevent early marriage and child labor.

Fortunately, Bangladesh developed secondary school stipend program over three decades and it was instrumental in school reopening.

Sarmin Sultana,

Stipend Recipient

Gazipur, Bangladesh

When the school reopened after the COVID-19 period, I might not have been able to convince my family if I had not received this scholarship.

And if I didn’t get this scholarship, maybe I had to work to earn money. So I am very blessed and grateful to get this scholarship.

Professor Dr. AQM Shafiul Azam

Director (Planning & Development)

Ministry of Education, Bangladesh

After small pilots in 1980s and early 1990s, the Ministry of Education in Bangladesh began female secondary school stipend program from 1994.

The girls have to satisfy three conditions to receive cash stipend. First, girls have to attend 75% of school days. Second, girls have to attain 45% in class-level test scores. Third, girls need to remain unmarried until completion of secondary school certification examination.

Professor Dr. Shamsun Naher

Joint Program Director

ADB-funded Secondary Education Sector Investment Program

It was pioneering conditional cash transfer program in the world at that time.

Edimon Ginting

Country Director

Bangladesh Resident Mission

Asian Development Bank

Since then, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), together with other development partners, has been supporting this female secondary school stipend program through a series of secondary education sector projects and programs.

Professor Nehal Ahmed

Director General

Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education

Ministry of Education in Bangladesh

I think it’s true that scholarships that are given in Bangladesh, especially women’s scholarships, have changed the overall situation of our country. Our girls are now surpassing the boys.

Initial stipend delivery was cash which later became bank transfer and mobile banking.

Kamal Quadir

Chief Executive Officer

bKash, Bangladesh

By giving millions of students and their parents access to regulated financial services, bKash is allowing students now to get stipends in their hands without any hassle.

ADB conducted quasi-experimental impact evaluation research comparing girls who received stipend after 1994 and girls who could not receive stipend before 1994.

The girls were followed up after 24 years to see the long-term impacts.

As intended, the stipend program caused 2.5 additional years of schooling, 10.2 percentage point increase in secondary school completion and 1.4 years of delayed marriage.

Surprisingly, in addition to benefiting girls, the brothers in the same household also increased access to school.

Moreover, the stipend recipient girls got married with better educated and employed husbands.

They were more likely to use contraceptives and had lower total fertility rate. The stipend had truly transformational impacts and helped COVID-19 recovery.