DHAKA, August 10, 2010: Bangladesh has a history of pragmatic reforms of madrasa sector that sets it apart from other countries in South Asia, and elsewhere, says a World Bank report launched today. The innovative reforms have encouraged registered madrasas to broaden their curriculums and become coeducational. However, the quality of learning remains a major issue.
The World Bank study “Secondary School Madrasa in Bangladesh: Incidence, Quality, and Implications for Reform”, the first ever comprehensive study, fills the gap in knowledge about the size, structure and quality of secondary madrasa education in Bangladesh. This data can help the government make informed policy decisions about secondary education.
“Learning outcomes for English and Mathematics were lower in registered madrasas than in other non-government schools," said Ellen Goldstein, Country Director, World Bank Bangladesh. "This raises a concern for madrasas, but it is also important to recognize that scores were low across all types of schools, suggesting a need to focus on improving the quality of the overall secondary education sector in Bangladesh. Our joint efforts going forward need to focus on improving learning outcomes for boys and girls in all types of schools."
Following innovative reforms, the registered Aliyah madrasas now offer coeducation and follow state-approved curriculum where along with Islamic studies, students learn Mathematics, English, Science and other subjects to receive public funding. Female students constitute almost half of the enrolment in registered madrasas. However, little is known about the quality of the independent Quomi madrasas.
Despite the increase in girls’ enrolment in secondary madrasa, the report finds a persistent gender gap in the quality of learning outcomes. Both the boys and girls scored lower in Mathematics and English tests than the students of publicly funded non government schools. However, the performance of all rural schools in English and Mathematics is also low. Therefore, there is a need to improve the quality of learning outcomes across the sector. While madrasas have played an important role in Bangladesh in achieving gender parity in school enrollments, the report highlights that the challenge now is to enhance the quality of outcomes for girls in particular.
While children from poor households and poorer regions are more likely to enroll in madrasas, the study reveals that there are other major factors than income that shape household decision to send children to religious schooling.
At secondary level education, nearly one out of five children attends madrasa, mostly registered madrasas. Around 19% of the total secondary level students are in registered Aliyah madrasa, with only 2.2% in unregistered Qoumi madrasas. Interestingly, the physical presence of the Quomi madrasas is quite high compared to the enrolment it draws.
“By providing empirical data on madrasa and other secondary schools, this study helps to anchor the debate about reform of secondary education in the metrics of learning outcomes” said Nazmul Choudhury, Syed Rashed Al-Zayed and Niaz Asadullah, authors of the report “Secondary School Madrasa in Bangladesh: Incidence, Quality, and Implications for Reform”.
The survey included over 400 secondary schools and madrasas. The research team interviewed over 9000 students and their teachers and also visited a large number of households to gather information on reasons for household school choice and cognitive outcomes of children from different educational systems.