Bangladesh's successes in education reviewed
The country's achievements in education received mixed reviews as education ministers from nine countries representing about 60 percent of the world population began E-9 ministerial meeting in the Indonesian island of Bali yesterday.
The E-9 groups Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, and Pakistan, who are among the most populous middle-income and low-income countries in the world.
The annual EFA Global Monitoring Report, released at the start of the conference, recognised Bangladesh's success in universal primary-education enrolment and establishing gender parity but pointed to low literacy and high dropout rates.
The country was placed in the lowest rung of the EFA Development Index along with 24 other countries, three of them from E-9, who are 'far away from achieving EFA' or education-for-all goals.
The biennial meeting, hosted by Unesco and the Indonesian government, was inaugurated by Indonesia's Vice president Jusuf Kalla who urged leaders to pledge greater political commitment and finances to achieve 'education for all' by 2015.
Unesco's Director General Koichiro Matsura said at the conference that 67 percent of the world's 771 million illiterates live in the E-9 countries, adding that the prospect of meeting the EFA goals by 2015 would be reflected in the progress of these nine countries.
The conference is a two-day brainstorming session to share best practices and learn from each other's mistakes in implementing education policy in countries with large population.
Addressing the theme of "Improvement of Teacher Education and Training", Matsura said global teacher shortage is a major barrier to achieving the EFA, noting that 18 million new teachers will be required in the world by 2015, seven million of them in the E-9 countries alone.
Matsura identified vigorous teacher recruitment, continuing teacher training and overall systemic reform as key areas that need to be addressed.
"Quality of education cannot be achieved without constant attention to teachers," Matsura said, adding that teachers are the key agents of quality and the target of largest education investments. Bangladesh spends around 90 percent of its education budget on teacher salary and training.
Primary Education Secretary Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, who is heading the Bangladesh delegation, told The Daily Star on the sidelines of the meeting that one of country's major challenges is to improve the quality of higher education as it directly affects the quality of teaching.
"We have a challenge in improving higher education because that system produces our teachers. Indonesia and Pakistan have done well in reforming teacher training and salary, but they are also improving their higher education system to produce good teachers," he said.
In the EFA Development Index, Bangladesh ranked alongside India, Pakistan and Nigeria, but was also among only four E-9 countries to have achieved gender parity and universal primary enrolment.
Though Bangladesh has scored high for access to education, its ranking in the index has been brought down by high illiteracy, lack of gender equality in literacy and a high dropout rate, according to Manzoor Ahmed, member of the Bangladeshi delegation and director of Brac's Institute of Educational Development.
He said the government's second education work plan would seek to remedy most of these drawbacks by 2015.
Secretary Musharraf said Bangladesh has important lessons to learn from other E-9 countries, citing that Indonesia's successful mainstreaming of madrasa education not only helps them reach EFA goals, but also gives madrasa students greater job access and allows greater government monitoring.
The conference will conclude today with a communiqué on future cooperation between the E-9 countries.