Despite the government effort to improve the overall standard of education in the country, schools in the rural areas still lag far behind their urban counterparts in terms of results in public examinations.
The trend is evident in the results of this year's Junior School Certificate (JSC) examination, which show that the traditionally renowned schools, particularly in metropolitan areas, remain the best performers.
Educationists observe that most urban students fare better than the rural learners as they have access to better teachers and extensive classroom activities. But many rural students from poor families struggle to obtain pass marks as their schools cannot provide them with quality education.
They stressed the need for making education a national priority and changing the piecemeal approach to problems.
The pass rate in the JSC exams has hit a record high at 86.11 percent this year. Of the 15.07 lakh class-VIII students under the eight education boards, 44,158 secured the highest grade GPA-5.
Urban schools dominated the list of top 20 institutions under each board. Most of the 2,09,487 unsuccessful students are from rural institutions, sources in the boards said.
In Dhaka board, only eight schools of the top 20 are outside of the capital. However, all of them are either in metropolitan or municipality area.
Of the top 160 institutions in the country, 79 are public schools in districts. They have quality teachers and most of their students are from well-off families.
Most of the remaining institutions are either cadet colleges or run by a specific defence force such as the army.
In Jessore board, 13 of the top 20 institutions are public schools, while the rest are either cadet colleges or specialised schools. The pattern is almost similar in the other education boards.
More than one third of the total GPA-5 achievers are from Dhaka board. A total of 17,595 students obtained the highest grade in this board. Of them, 10,231 are from Dhaka metropolitan area.
Under this board, pass percentage in the capital is 94.80, while it is 69.23 in Shariatpur, 74.48 in Netrokona, 74.32 in Manikganj, 76.11 in Faridpur, and 76.75 in Madaripur districts.
Talking about the trend, educationist Prof Syed Manzoorul Islam said as rural Bangladesh is the main focus area for the country's development, the standard of education must be improved at rural levels.
"We need to intensify our training programmes for rural teachers and modernise those schools, as has been done by Sri Lanka. Besides, we need to update our training systems as well," he observed.
The parents also have to be reminded of their responsibility, mentioned the Dhaka University teacher. "If parents take the responsibility of rural schools and lend due support, the scenario might change."
He stressed the need for allocating more from the GDP for education to improve the situation.
"We should focus more on enhancing quality education rather than the pass rate. For that, we have to build libraries in rural schools, encourage children to read and increase teachers' salary and status," added Prof Manzoorul.