Stipends help boost students enrolment


UNB, Dhaka :
The Bangladesh Primary Education Stipend programme has increased geographical coverage, enrolment, attendance and gender parity in primary education, said a new study.
However, reducing dropout rates and improving class performance require immediate attention by policymakers.
The findings of the study, titled ‘Bangladesh Primary Education Stipends: Achievements and Challenges’ was released on Thursday jointly by the Directorate of Primary Education, Ministry of Primary and Mass Education, Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC), and UNICEF.
“Bangladesh has made impressive progress in increasing enrolment in primary education and achieving gender parity in both primary and secondary education. More effort now needs to be made to address persistent inequalities in achieving education for all children. Out of school children; children dropping out before completing primary education; children from urban poor areas and ethnic minority groups; and the quality of education are interlinked and remain critical concerns,” says UNICEF Representative Pascal Villeneuve.
“Investment in the stipend programme needs to be increased and made more effective for ensuring child sensitive social protection and in bridging the divide in primary education,” he added.
While sustaining the Primary Education Stipend Programme (PESP), the study called for increasing
the stipend amount for children in higher grades to cover increasing education costs and reduce dropout rates.
The report recommended reviewing the policy of providing partial stipend to a second child within the family enrolled in primary education as the cost burden applies for all children.
It also highlighted the need to review policy to consider how best the stipend programme could ensure access to schooling for urban poor children.
In Bangladesh, primary education is free; however, families spend Tk 4,788 (USD61 approx.) excluding snacks annually for a primary student of grade four and five. The cost burden for schooling remains a challenge for children from disadvantaged families.
Usually, the dropout rate increases at grades four and five as the opportunity cost for children involved in education from poor households is much higher than the stipend money provided by the government.
The study was conducted with the aim of taking a broader look at the efficacy of PESP in relation to its goals of enhanced educational participation by poorer children and its related reduction in child labour.
Primary and Mass Education Minister Mostafizur Rahman was present as chief guest while State Minister for Finance MA Mannan and State Minister for Women and Children Affairs Meher Afroze Chumki spoke as special guests at the launching ceremony.
Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman, economist and executive director of PPRC, made a presentation on the study findings while UNICEF Representative Pascal Villeneuve and Rasheda K Chowdhury, executive director, CAMPE, also spoke at the launch.
Introduced in 2002-2003, the initiative (PESP) is fully financed by the Government of Bangladesh.
The PESP reached 7.8 million children and covers six categories of schools: government primary schools; registered non-government primary schools; community schools; satellite schools; non-government organisation run primary schools approved by the government; and madrashas (religious schools) recognized by the government with a minimum of 100 students.