More than 33.2 lakh primary school students, accounting for 23.2% of all primary students in the country, are at risk of dropout due to economic fallout, partial school opening, increasing learning gap, and other reasons, a study has found.
The study titled "The Primary Education Scenario", conducted by Brac's Institute of Educational Development (Brac IED), also says there has been a significant decrease in the enrolment rate in pre-primary schools, threatening the education of the younger generations.
The study report was published at a function in the capital on Thursday.
Presenting the report, Samir Ranjan Nath, programme head of Brac IED, said child marriage, work, loss of interest in education, and difficulty in maintaining health norms are also increasing the risk of students dropping out.
He also said the risk of dropout is accompanied with a high proportion of children being admitted to madrasas.
He called on authorities concerned to be proactive with specific measures to recover the enrolment loss and ensure secular primary education for all children.
"Learning loss is a reality. The question is how fast we can recover it. This can start with an assessment of learning levels of all students, categorising them and preparing recovery strategies as per students' needs," said Samir.
The research was conducted by surveying 11,999 households in 200 villages/mahallas under 100 upazillas/thanas between 12 June and 8 October in 2021.
It suggested that an experimental initiative be taken to provide digital primary education along with face-to-face traditional provision as it found the state of ICT facilities at home is not satisfying for academic purposes.
The report recommended that authorities concerned think of hybrid and blended approaches, such as onboarding parents, retired teachers and temporary teachers in teaching students.
It also called for increased budget allocation to the education sector, saying the national budget should act as an instrument to make the recovery strategy a success.
Prof Md Farhadul Islam, chairman of the National Curriculum and Textbook Board said, "We who work in the education sector – we believe in working collectively. We are working on a plan to reduce learning loss for which collaboration is necessary."
Md Muhibur Rahman, additional secretary (School) at the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education, said, "Our education system is suffering from multifaceted problems. I believe we can find a solution together if we all work collectively and share our learnings to go forward."
Asif Saleh, executive director of Brac Bangladesh chaired the event.
Meanwhile, Brac conducted another survey on its Bridge School programme – specially designed programmes to bridge learning gaps and support children to complete primary education.
The survey found that students under the Bridge School programme have better skills in reading short stories compared to Indian students—53% relative to 50% respectively.
Also, Bridge School students are more competent in division math compared to Indian students – 63% relative to 28%.
The study on Bridge Schools was led by Stephen Heyneman, emeritus professor at Vanderbilt University, USA; John Richards, professor of public policy at Simon Fraser University, Canada; and Shahidul Islam, a doctoral student at Queen's University.