Female Secondary Stipend Program in Bangladesh: An Analysis of its Cost Effectiveness
Md. Mizanur Rahman*
Bangladesh as one of the South Asian countries has been striving to develop a comprehensive education policy since its independence but failed to formulate such policy that could contribute to the development of the economy. The basic problem of primary and secondary level is poor enrolment and low retention rate in the school. To combat with this problem government of Bangladesh has been undertaking myriad policies and programs. Among such policies Female Secondary Stipend Program (FSSP), Food For Education Program (FFEP) and Free Text Book Distribution Program to the students of primary and secondary level are some innovative and better contributing policy interventions in the field of female education in Bangladesh. All these policy interventions are purported with the pivotal motto of reducing drop rate and increasing enrollment rate in the secondary education. All these policies are currently in operation except the Food for Education Program which has transformed into a cash transfer program very recently. Based on the policy problem of reducing dropout rate of the secondary female students in the school, the above policies on FFEP, FTBDP and FSSP were chosen as three policy alternatives taking FSSP as status quo with a view to measuring efficacy of these policies employing the cost effectiveness analysis method apprising their relative worth in reducing dropout of female students in the secondary level calculating the base year 1994 and analyzing up to 2015 years data and thereafter to suggest the best policy option for the government of Bangladesh. Data were generated and gathered from the available literatures on the above-mentioned alternatives. Primarily FSSP populations were used as baseline population and compare it with dropout and enrolment rate achieved of all the relevant alternatives and based on the unit cost and retained student CEA of all the policy alternatives were calculated on excel sheets first and all data were manually transformed into word format. The findings of the policy analysis unearthed the fact that in considering CEA of all the policy alternatives it was found that by using $1 it is possible to achieve a non-drop out sustained of 219 females in case of status quo (FSSP). In case of FTBDP by using 1$ it will be possible to retain 970 female students. In relation to FFEP it will cost the same $1 to achieve a non-drop out sustained of 14371 females enrolled. Therefore, the best policy alternative will be to implement FFEP for attaining the maximum benefit using the minimum resources. Analysis of data represents that at the current enrolment rate of the FTBDP, Status Quo (FSSP) and FFEP will be able to achieve enrolment of 10688 students, 18940 students and 59526 students in the year 2015 respectively. This data also suggest that the policy alternative on FFEP will be best option for the government. From the same data sheet it is observed that FTBDP will be able to retain a total of 9116 numbers of non-dropout female students in the year 2015. And Status Quo (FSSP) and FFEP will be able to sustain 18277 and 55954 female students in the year 2015 respectively. This data also suggest that the policy alternative on FFEP will be best option for the government.
Female Secondary Stipend Program in Bangladesh: An Analysis of its Cost Effectiveness
Over the last 20 years, Bangladesh has achieved tremendous success in its macro-economic management with an average growth of 6 per cent and the country is on track to become a middle income country by 2021 when it celebrates its 50 years of independence. The percentage of people living in poverty declined from 59% to 40% and the country's human development index improved from 0.347 in 1975 to 0.547 in 2005. Child mortality has fallen substantially and gender parity in primary education has been achieved (UNDP, 2007). Despite these successes, more than 50 million of the people still live in poverty. The current literacy rate is 49.1% (2011) and life expectancy is 67 years (GOB, 2011).
Bangladesh has made impressive strides in a relatively short time in terms of achieving gender parity at both primary and secondary levels. Educational attainment for women in Bangladesh was once among the lowest in the world. The 1991 census indicated that only 20% of women were literate, with a rate of 14% in rural areas. The enrollment rate in primary schools for girls was 64% in 1990 compared to 74% for boys. The gender disparity was even starker in secondary education, in which only 33% of enrolled students and 29% of graduates were girls. The number of children enrolled in primary school has almost doubled, from 8.9 million in 1985 to 16 million in 2005, with enrollments of girls now slightly exceeding those of boys. Despite all its tremendous success the dropout rate in female education is still one of the highest in relation to global scene.
To combat with the problem of low dropout Government of Bangladesh has been undertaking myriad interventions in the education sector with a multi-prong attack from all fronts. In its wake, Bangladesh has undertaken some of the longest-running education transfer programs in the world, beginning with the Food for Education Program (FFEP), implemented in 1993, and followed by the more ambitious Female Secondary Stipend Program (FSSP), implemented in 2002/03 and onwards. The Female Secondary Stipend Program (FSSP) program aims to increase school enrollments and attainments by providing cash incentives for poor parents to send their children to school. Likewise another program is in operation to reduce drop out is Free Text Book Distribution Program for the primary and secondary level school going children. In this policy analysis report an attempts was made to assess the relative worth of FSSP and measure efficacy of the program in term of cost effectiveness analysis comparing with other two interventions.
1.1 A Brief Overview of Educational System in Bangladesh
This policy analysis is related to secondary school education for Bangladesh that necessitates an understanding of the structure of the education system as well as the state of the art knowledge of secondary education in Bangladesh. This section is intended to spell out the structure and some cardinal facts of the secondary education in Bangladesh.
The present education system of Bangladesh can be broadly divided into three major stages, viz. primary, secondary and tertiary education. The education system is operationally categorized into two streams: primary education (Grade I-V) managed by the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education (MOPME) and the other system is the post-primary education which covers all other levels from junior secondary to higher education under the administration of the Ministry of Education (MOE). The post-primary stream of education is further classified into four types in terms of curriculum: general education, madrasah education, technical-vocational education and professional education.
Figure 1: Educational Structure in Bangladesh
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Source: Ministry of Primary and Mass Education Website, 2011
In both general and madrasah education system primary education is comprised of 5 years of formal schooling (class/grades I-V), which normally begins at 6+ years and ends at 11 years. The secondary level of education is comprised of 7 (3+2+2) years of formal schooling. The first 3 years (grades VI-VIII) is referred to as junior secondary; the next 2 years (grades IX-X) is secondary while the last 2 years (grades XI-XII) is called higher secondary. In secondary and higher secondary education, there are three streams of courses such as, Humanities, Science and Business Education, which start at class IX. The students are free to choose their course(s) of studies. The academic program terminates at the end of class X when students are to appear at the public examination called S.S.C. (Secondary School Certificate). There are seven Boards to manage the secondary and higher secondary exams. The secondary education is designed to prepare the students to enter into the higher secondary stage.
The third stage of education is comprised of 2-6 years of formal schooling. After passing of HSC examination students needs to enroll either in 3-year degree pass courses, while for honours, they may enroll in 4-year bachelors' degree honours courses in degree level colleges or in the universities. After successful completion of a pass/honours bachelors' degree course, one can enroll in the master's degree course. Master degree courses are of one year for honours bachelor degree holders and 2 years for pass bachelor degree holders. For those aspiring to take up M.Phil and Ph.D courses in selected disciplines or areas of specialization, the duration is of 2 years for M.Phil and 3-4 years for Ph.Ds after completion of master's degree. Higher education is being offered in the universities and post HSC level colleges and institutes of diversified studies in professional, technical, technological and other special types of education. In Bangladesh there are 73 universities at present. Out of these, 21 universities are in the public sector, while the other 52 are in the private sector. Out of 21 public sector universities, 19 universities provide regular classroom instruction facilities and services. Bangladesh Open University (BOU) conducts non-campus distance education programs especially in the field of teachers’ education and offers Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) and Master of Education (M.Ed) degrees. Students who want to take vocational or technical education they need to start it at the secondary level. The professional courses like medical, engineering, dental, leather technology etc. are taught at the specialized institutions.
1.2 The Status of Primary and Secondary in Education in Bangladesh
Education is a human right and an essential tool for achieving equality, development and peace. Bangladesh as one of the South Asian countries in the world has been performing well in its educational achievement. The Government of Bangladesh places great importance on education and in this regard the Government has been trying to transform its huge population into human resource. Education for All (EFA) is the constitutional responsibility of the government. The constitution affirms equal rights in education for all. Considering this, the government has emphasised on providing education to the backward population and its female citizens. The government is providing free education up to HSC (Class- 12) for the female along with stipend. It is expected that this will contribute to enhancing the enrollment rate of the female students, decreasing the rate of dropouts and enriching the country with an educated mass.
Primary Education: Independence (1971) gave a big boost to primary education in Bangladesh. The number of schools sharply increased to 36,537 in 1972; 39,914 in 1975; and 43,472 in 1983. Student enrollment also increased, to 8,349,834 (34% girls) in 1975 and 8,808,028 (37% girls) in 1983. In the late eighties Bangladesh made rapid progress in expansion of her primary education. In 1990/91, the net enrollment ratio in Bangladesh was 71. By 2004, it increased to 94.1 (95.8 for females and 92.6 for males) (http://www.uis.unesco.org). Table 1 presents a picture on access to primary education in Bangladesh and other South Asian countries, and the averages for developed and developing countries. According to the Report of the Household Income and Expenditure Survey, 2000, of all children attending schools at the primary level, 70.70% were enrolled in the government primary schools, 13.43% in Govt. subsidized schools, 5.39% in private schools, while 4.43% attended NGO-run schools: all the above belonging to the mainstream of education. The madrasahs accounted for 4.04% of total primary enrolment while only 1.40% studied in the English Medium schools (BBS, 2003).
Table 1: Participation in primary education
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Source: UNESCO (2005)
Secondary Education: In Bangladesh, in 1973, at the secondary level, gross enrollment rate (for the age group 10-14 years) stood at 25 (37 male and 13 for females). In 1980, the above rate (for the age group 10-16 years) was 18 (26 for males and 9 for females). In 1983, gross enrollment rate at the secondary level (for the age group 11-17 years) was 18 (26 for males and 10 for females). The marked increase in enrollment at the primary level, and introduction of stipends for all female students contributed not only to a significant increase in the enrollment rate but also in ensuring a greater participation of girls at the secondary level. Table 2 and 3 represents the retention rate and participation of students in secondary level of the SAARC countries.
Table 2: Internal Efficiency: Survival in Primary Education and Transition to Secondary Education in Bangladesh and other South Asian Countries
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Source: UNESCO (2005)
Compared to only 19% in 1990/1991, net enrolment rate increased to 40.3% in 1998/99, and further to 44.5% in 2002/2003, with the Gender Parity Index (Female/ Male) moving up from 0.95 in 1998/1999 to 1.11 in 2002/2003(Table 2 & 3) (World Bank, 2005, and UNESCO, 2005).
Table 3: Participation in Secondary Education
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Source: UNESCO (2005)
2. Statement of the Policy Problem
It is estimated that approximately 1 billion adults are illiterate worldwide. The surprising fact is that two-thirds of the world's illiterate adults are female. The lion's share of this figure is held by the third world countries where population growth is another burning issue. Each year, 1 in every 16 woman without secondary education gives birth; for women with secondary education, the rate is only 1 in 100 (USAID, 1999). South Asia is one of the few areas in the world where gender discrimination is so severe that aggregate population statistics reveal skewed gender ratios suggesting differential life expectancies between women and men resulting from social, economic and cultural factors (Sen, 1990). Asia, as a whole, has a relatively good record on education but this is greatly influenced by the high educational levels in some East Asian countries. In several East Asian countries (Philippines, Mongolia, Malaysia), female enrolment ratios exceed those of males at secondary and even tertiary levels whereas some countries (China, Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand) have quite poor records at secondary and tertiary levels. When South Asia is considered separately, it fares worst of any third world region, on gender parity, particularly at secondary level. Most worryingly, progress in increasing enrolments and gender parity in South Asia appears to be particularly slow at secondary level and to have slowed over the 1980s (Baden and Green, 1994).
Bangladesh is one of the world's most densely populated countries with a population of 147.4 million. Presently, adult literacy rate for male is 52%, whereas it is 29% for female. The highest allocations for development budget have always been for education sector. But one of the challenges that faces Bangladesh education system is persistently low enrollment and school attainment among girls. Interrelated economic, social and cultural factors constrain schooling opportunities for girls, particularly at the secondary level. In rural Bangladesh, although there have been rapid changes in recent years, girls unlike boys have often been seen as a liability rather than an asset with lower level of education, low participation in productive economic activities, early marriages and high fertility. In rural Bangladesh, the literacy rate was about 35%, and among women it was only 22%, as of early 1990s (World Bank, 2003). At the secondary education level, 33% of the total enrolled was female and only 5% of them completed up to grade X.
Bangladesh has been striving to develop a comprehensive education policy since its independence but failed to formulate such policy that could contribute to the development of the economy. This failure is partly because of either a faulty policy or international policy influence or weak implementation process and procedures (Alam, Hoque, Rout et al., 2010: 770, quoted in Talukder, 2011). Research shows that besides domestic institutional weakness, the international pressure in the form of policies and technologies imposed by developed countries or donor agencies makes the education policy in developing countries very difficult - surrounded by a complicated structure, and with a large deviation from the reality (Alam, Hoque, Rout , et al., 2010: 770; Asadullah and Chaudhury, 2008: 2). Alam, Hoque, Rout et a.l (2010) argued that international education policy, particularly, education for all (EFA), influenced domestic education policy significantly in the form of rapid institutional change – an increase in the number of both student and education providers. However, government education policy only increased the quantitative benefit in terms of an increase in the number of enrolment but failed to achieve qualitative gains from expansion of education resulting in a high drop-out at all levels of education (Alam, Hoque, Rout , et al., 2010: 770; Alam, Khalifa, and Shahjamal, 2009: 570, 571). Due to lack of sound education policy in Bangladesh, the drop-out rate is high including at the level of secondary education.
To combat with the high drop-out problem of students in secondary school education, Bangladesh government has undertaken lots of policy interventions/programs but the situation is yet to improve. Against this backdrop it will be highly relevant to take an attempt to measure the efficacy of one of the recent policies on education, Female Education Stipend Program (FESP) in comparing with two other policy alternatives such as Free Text Book Distribution Program (FTBDP) and Food for Education (FFEP). This policy analysis has been undertaken with the following policy objectives.
2.1 Policy Objectives
The general objective of this policy analysis seeks to examine and understand the effect of three principal policies in the domain of education sector, such as Free Text Book Distribution Program (FTBDP), Female Secondary Stipend Program (FSSP) and Food for Education Program (FFEP) in the achieving the prime objective of reducing female drop out in secondary schools.
The specific objectives of the policy analysis are:
i) To understand the cost effectiveness of reducing drop out of the females of secondary school going age by implementing FTBDP;
ii) To understand the cost effectiveness of reducing drop out of the females of secondary school going age by implementing FSSP;
iii) To understand the cost effectiveness of reducing drop out of the females of secondary school going age under FFEP;
iv) To apprise which of the three policy interventions (FTBDP, FSSP and FFEP) is cost-effective for reducing female drop out and recommend for policy makers for consideration.
2.2 Policy Analysis Type
Policy analysis is a rigorous and painstaking intellectual exercise that requires sound understanding of the policy problem and sufficient information and data. Such analysis also necessitates enough skill, sagacity and prudency in the relevant issues. There are lots of approaches and types of policy analysis. In the policy literatures, Weimer and Vining (1999:270) suggest five basic approaches to policy analysis, such as formal benefit-cost analysis, qualitative benefit-cost analysis, modified benefit-cost analysis, cost effectiveness analysis, and multi goal policy analysis. All these approaches are different from each other in terms of their contextual dimensions, socio-economic implications, availability of data, time and resources, scope and usefulness. Among the approaches it is deemed to me that the cost effectiveness analysis will be useful in guiding government allocation of scarce resources to deal with female drop out in secondary schools in Bangladesh. Therefore, in consonance with the scope, relevance, suitability and the usefulness of the policy analysis, the study employs cost-effectiveness analysis as the principal approach.
2.3 Objective of Policy Analysis
The objectives of the policy analysis will be to measure effectiveness and to suggest the best alternative among the three major policies i.e. FTBDP, FSSP and FFEP in the field of secondary education in Bangladesh in reducing dropout of the female students. Employing of cost effectiveness method will be highly significant to convince the policy planners of Bangladesh in selecting and implementing the best policy option in secondary education.
2.4 Policy Alternatives
Policy alternative is sine qua non requirement of policy analysis. There are a variety of sources for developing policy alternatives such as existing policy proposals, policies implemented in other jurisdictions, generic policy solutions and custom designed alternatives (Weimer and Vining, 1999:278). Bangladesh government is pledge-bound to improve the existing condition of its education. In order to reduce drop out and increase enrolment rate government of Bangladesh have been implementing lots of projects, programs and strategies in education sector. In this term paper three policy alternatives have been chosen among many policy proposals/interventions to reduce dropout in the secondary education which are being implemented by the Bangladesh government at present.
Policy Alternative One (PA1): The policy alternative one (PA1) represents Free Text Book Distribution Program (FTBDP) for the Primary and Secondary Students. The objective of this program is to enhance enrolment rate and reduce dropout rate in the primary and secondary level.
Policy Alternative Two (PA2): The policy alternative two (PA2) is the Female Secondary Stipend Program (FSSP) which is being currently implemented by the government of Bangladesh. Therefore, Female Secondary Stipend Program (FSSP) will be treated as the status quo policy in this analysis. The objective of this program is to enhance enrolment rate, reduce dropout rate and retain more students in the junior and higher secondary level.
Policy Alternative Three (PA3): Policy alternatives three (PA3) is the Food For Education Program (FFEP) for the female students at the primary level. The objective of FFEP is to retain poor students in the primary education.
2.5 Review of Literature
In this literature review section some more details regarding the three alternatives namely FTBDP; Status Quo (FSSP) and FFEP have been discussed with a view to providing some basic facts and figures of the three policy interventions. Based on these literature review most of the tables were primarily prepared in the excel sheet, which were latter transformed in to word documents in order to use those in the text.
Policy Alternative One (PA1): Free Text Book Distribution Program (FTBDP) for the Students from the Government
Providing uniform and universal education to the school children is one of the foremost conditions for establishing democracy in any country. It is evident that investment in education is the best investment for developing the future leaders of the nation and Bangladesh as well. Based on such a premise Bangladesh government started an initiative for distributing free textbooks to primary level students in 2004 with a view to keeping more students in the primary schools. Initially, government could provide only 30% to 40% books and the rest demand were met up by the old books obtained from the students of previous year who already promoted to higher class. The intellectuals, educationist, principals, teachers and parents were unhappy with supply of old books to the school students and they opined that proving old books to the beauty lover small school children/students may cause bad impression about education in their minds. Thereafter, the present government decided to provide 100% students with new books and government became virtually successful due to having a very potential education minister. The major objective of this policy is to increase enrolment and reduce the drop rate of the poor students in the country.
Since inception of this program, the free book distribution program is inaugurated amid a festive extravaganza by the honourable prime minister that is followed by education ministers, members of parliament, deputy commissioners, district education and primary education officers through handing over the books to students, elsewhere in the country. This year while inaugurating the occasion the prime minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina informed the public that “Bangladesh is the only country in the world that has printed 23 crore copies of textbooks for free distribution for the 2011”. Around 90 percent textbooks are sent to the educational institute directly for distribution of free text books to the students and most of these institutions distributed the books within one or two days after receiving. Though free textbooks are given at primary level every year but from the year 2010, for the first time the government has started giving free textbooks to students of secondary school level.
The education minister while inaugurating the book distribution program in the city told reporters that this initiative would reduce drop-out rate and bring qualitative changes in students' lives. This year (2011) in a book distribution ceremony, the education minister informed that the cost of a book printed abroad was Tk. 54 whereas the government had to spend Tk. 65 for a book printed in Bangladesh last year. The table 4 given below shows the distribution of free Text Books and different educational year. Alam, Khalifa and Shahjamal (2009) found that after introducing this FTBDP program enrolment has been increased to 7.9% and dropout rate reduced to 15%. The same research found that rather than urban areas, students’ enrolment in the primary and secondary level are increasing day by day.
* The author is one of the Joint Directors of the Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development (BARD), Comilla, Bangladesh. At present he is doing his Ph.D. in the Graduate School of Public Administration (GSPA) of the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA), Bangkok, Thailand.
The views expressed here in this paper are those of the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of both BARD and NIDA. The errors and omissions, if any, in the paper, lie with the author.