The number of female candidates in the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) and equivalent examinations has been rising by leaps and bounds over the past few years, with girls taking advantage of the increasing educational opportunities despite societal challenges.
Educationists have urged the government to now address the dropout rate of female students, as it is imperative to ensure that all students complete their education.
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics (BANBEIS), the ratio of male and female students is almost equal among students who participated in the secondary and higher secondary examinations in the last five years. However, just 36.30% of students are female at the university level.
According to the ministry of Education, the number of SSC candidates has increased by 50,295 this year. Of them, around 80% (38,609) are female students.
Education Minister Dr Dipu Moni yesterday said the reason the number of female students is continuing to rise is that there are now ample opportunities to receive education and more people are aware of the importance of education for women and girls.
She also expects the number of female candidates for examinations to increase every year.
Furthermore, the education minister called for more research into links between child marriage and education.
“We were afraid that female students would drop out due to the pandemic, and because child marriages happen during classes 8, 9 and 10. But we have observed that a female student continued her studies even when she was becoming a victim of child marriage,” she said.
She said it was not possible for the government to say whether child marriage had increased or not, but the number of female exam candidates had certainly not decreased.
She also mentioned that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has taken various social protection programs for women and girls.
Deputy Minister for Education Barrister Mohibul Hasan Chowdhury Nowfel believes that employment and financial challenges are the reason for the lower number of female students at the higher education level.
“Many female students do not want to go for higher education because there are loopholes and yet challenges in society in many ways related to higher education jobs. However, the government is working on increasing the participation of females to 50 % at the higher education level,” he added.
Expert suggests increasing allocation
Educationist Rasheda K Chowdhury thinks it is possible to increase the participation of female students further if the government follows some effective plans.
The government should provide stipends to female students at the higher education level, she said, adding that families will become more interested in educating their daughters if the government subsidizes the cost of higher education for girls.
The budget allocated to the education sector is only 1.83% of the total GDP. This rate is much lower than the rate recommended by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). UNESCO recommends spending 4-6% of any country’s GDP on education. However, in Bangladesh this rate was 2.09% and 2.08% in FY 2021 and 2022 respectively.
“At the same time, investment should be monitored with transparency and accountability. If we can change the mentality towards the female, I think it will be possible to change the scenario of female student participation at all education levels,” Rasheda K Chowdhury added.