The number of Primary Education Completion Examination (PECE) candidates is on the decline for last five years while equivalent Ebtedayee Education Completion Examination candidates is on the rise.
According to Directorate of Primary Education (DPE) data, the number of PECE examinees has dropped by 13.47 percent since 2015 while Ebtedayee candidates increased by 14.42 percent in the same period.
Asked about the rise and fall of the numbers, Akram-Al-Hossain, secretary at the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education, said “steep drop in population” was the reason for which the number of PECE candidates was on the decline.
He, however, could not answer how the number of Ebtedayee candidates were on the rise if the population had a steep drop.
“We will look into the matter and try to find the reason behind the rise and fall,” he said.
On the other hand, teachers of different educational institutions told The Daily Star that the downtrend in the number of PECE candidates was because of urban parents’ preference to English-medium schools over Bangla-medium ones.
The number of students taking part in the Ebtedayee exam is on the rise as parents in rural areas prefer madrasas over mainstream primary schools, they added.
According to DPE statistics, 2,950,764 students sat for PECE in 2015 and 2,553,267 sat in 2018.
On the other hand, 306,196 student sat for Ebtedayee exam in 2015 and 350,371 sat in 2018.
This year, PECE exam had its lowest number of candidates in the last eight years whereas Ebtedayee exam had the highest in the last nine years.
PECE was introduced in 2009 while Ebtedayee exam in 2010.
Recent trend shows that not only the high-income section but also the middle-income people in urban areas opt to send their children to English-medium schools, said DPE sources.
Both the number of English-medium schools and their students have been on the rise in recent time, according to Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics.
There were 53,000 students at 78 registered English-medium schools in 2013. The number of students rose to 80,511 and the number of schools to 147 in 2018.
However, sources said there were about 350 such schools in the country and many were not registered.
“We have seen that number of students at masjid-based primary education is increasing and they are going to Ebtedayee madrassas. It was prime reason of decreasing candidates at primary schools,” said Bangladesh Prathomik Shikkhak Oikya Parishad Member Secretary Samsuddin Masud.
Bangladesh Swatantra Ebtedayee Madrassa Shikkhak Oikya Parishad Secretary General Shamsul Alam said that students from 2000 independent madrassas participated in Ebtedayee exam in 2010.
The number of madrasas were 4000 this year, he said. However, he could not provide the number of this year’s Ebtedayee candidates immediately.
“In the recent years, we also noticed that many students of Qawmi madrasas are enrolling at Ebtedayee madrassas to take part in PECE and other exams. This could be a reason behind the rise,” Shamsul said.
The exact number of students in Qawmi madrasas is not available as these institutions are not registered with any government agency.
Asked, Secretary Akram said some of the urban guardian could prefer English-medium schools.
“I will take steps to know the reason of whether students are shifting to English-medium schools.”