DHAKA, Bangladesh 

Families in Bangladesh are struggling to meet the growing expenditure on education of their children.

Hasanul Kutub, 43, works at a private hospital as a senior executive in the capital Dhaka. His two sons — in grade three and five — study at a private school.

Despite having a two-income family, he says, he hardly makes any savings.

“I earn about 50,000 taka ($585) a month, while my wife draws a salary of 20,000 taka ($335) as a school teacher. We hardly save anything after paying monthly school fees and tuition fees.”

The share of urban households paying for private tuition increased from 48% in 2000 to 67% in 2010 in Bangladesh, according to UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report.

The same report said the share of rural households on paying for private tuition doubled from 27% to 54%.

Two-thirds of the total cost of education is picked up by households in Bangladesh, it added, which falls under the bracket of out-of-pocket expenditure.

The government allocates around 12-13% of its national budget for education, while the UN suggests that the rate should be at least 20%.

Budget constraints

A lion’s share of the budget goes to paying salaries of the teachers and infrastructure development, said Rasheda K Choudhury, an educationalist, leaving little for curriculum development.

According to the World Bank, Bangladesh has close to one million teachers.

“The demand for education has increased ever more than before among all income groups and genders in Bangladesh. It is fairly a good sign: from a marginalized farmer to a decision-maker who wants their child to be educated. But there is a huge gap between the supply and demand,” Choudhury said.

“And the supply side of education, the state investment in education has been stagnant over the last 10 years,” she added.

Quoting an example, she said, less than 10% of secondary schools in the country are run by the government.

Moreover the quality of education in government schools is substandard, many parents believe.

According to a USAID report, 44% of students in Bangladesh who attend public schools finish first grade unable to read their first word, which contributes to grade repetition, dropout and obstacles to a knowledge-based economy.

In such a situation, private schools in the country are charging exorbitant amounts in fee.

Checks and balance

“We should have a central system to monitor the expenses in schools, including to set the upper ceiling of tuition fees in private schools,” said Mohammad Ali Zinnah, a professor at the Dhaka University.

The salary teachers draw in Bangladesh is among the lowest in the world, he added.

Last year, the Education Ministry decided to adopt a competency-based education system to be enacted in 2025 to ensure quality education.

Golam Faruk, a senior official of the Education Ministry, said household expenditure on education rises due to private tuition, travel costs and others.

“We don’t ask anyone to go for private tuition or coaching centers,” he added.

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