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PRESS RELEASE February 27, 2019

More Focus on Learning Key to Skilled Bangladesh Workforce

DHAKA, February 27, 2019 – Despite Bangladesh’s remarkable success in bringing nearly all children to primary school, the education quality remains a critical concern. Many young students in Bangladesh, as in other low and middle-income countries, find it hard to get good jobs because they leave the education system without required skills to read, write or do basic math.  The country should address this learning crisis by investing more in education and investing more effectively, a World Bank report said.

The World Development Report 2018:Learning to Realize Education’s Promise, presented today in Dhaka, shows that schooling is not the same as learning. In Bangladesh, children can expect to get around 11 years of schooling, but they lose about 4.5 of these due to the poor quality of schooling. For example, 35 percent of grade 3 students scored too low to even be tested on reading comprehension in Bangla, and only 25 percent of grade 5 students in the country passed the minimum threshold in math. The key factors behind this are: lack of access to early childhood development programs, low quality of teaching practices, challenges related to poor school management, and low levels of overall spending on public education.

Bangladesh is among the few countries to achieve gender parity in school enrollment with more girls in school than boys. The country has the potential to create a globally competitive workforce by investing in education,” said Bob Saum, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh and Bhutan. “Bangladesh’s share of public spending on education is lower than the South Asian average and about half of Malaysia’s share of spending on education. But it’s not just about the overall spending, it’s also about how spending is being used. Systematically measuring whether schooling is translating into learning is critical for ensuring that education spending is effective.”

Learning outcomes are worse for students from poor and vulnerable backgrounds. But, success is possible. For example, Vietnam’s 2012 results from a worldwide test for high school students in math, science, and reading called PISA, showed that its 15-year-olds performed at the same level as those in Germany — even though Vietnam is a much poorer country.

“A big reason why schooling does not translate into learning is because in many countries there is a need for continued strengthening of investment in young children,” said Jaime Saavedra, World Bank Senior Director for Education. “Children from poor and vulnerable groups are left behind as early as 6 months of age as they do not have the right nutrition and the right stimulation. These shortcomings have a large impact as children grow older. Quality early childhood development programs are fundamental and vital investments for Bangladesh to tackle the learning crisis.”

The report gives three recommendations: assess learning to keep track of progress; improve school systems by attracting high-quality teachers, improving the teaching and learning process and motivating children to come to school; and use data on learning to mobilize all stakeholders – from the private sector to policymakers and parents – to improve quality of learning for a more vibrant and skilled workforce in the future.

The launch event, which was organized in collaboration with the Lego Foundation, was attended by Honorable State Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr. Md. Shahriar Alam, policymakers, officials and other education experts.

The World Bank was among the first development partners to support Bangladesh following its independence. Since then, the World Bank has committed more than $30 billion in grants and interest-free credits to the country.


Elena Karaban
(202) 473-9277
Mehrin Ahmed Mahbub
(880-2) 8159001