Bangladesh is one of the world’s most densely populated countries, with a population larger than Russia’s. It is also an extremely poor country—the GNI per capita income is $520. An estimated 4.9 million Bangladeshi children ages 5 to 15 are engaged in child labor, making it difficult to break the cycle of poverty that contributes to one of the lowest adult literacy rates in Southeast Asia. With a dropout rate by grade five of about 50%, the challenge is not just getting girls in school—it is keeping them there.
The IDA-financed Bangladesh Female Secondary School Assistance Program, launched in 1993, supported a government program to improve access to secondary education for girls by providing tuition stipends to keep them in school. It improved the quality of schools through teacher training, provision of performance incentives to schools and students, and water and sanitation facilities. The project covered 121 of Bangladesh’s 507 sub-districts.