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Thanks to a series of measures taken over the last couple of decades more children than ever before, especially girls, are now continuing their education at the secondary level in Bangladesh. However, it still remains a challenge for the children from low-income families to have access to good quality education. Prior to 2008, the primary school completion rate was 50%, and fewer of these children moved onto secondary education. Simultaneously, while there has been a significant enrolment growth for poor girls during recent years supported by a range of female stipend programs, enrolment levels for poor boys have remained stagnant. To address these challenges, the government of Bangladesh launched SEQAEP in 2008, with the support of the World Bank. An initiative has been taken through the Bishwa Sahitya Kendra, a reputed literary and cultural education institute of the country, to improve studentsa€™ reading habits, side by side with measures to provide water and sanitation facilities in schools and strengthen their management and accountability systems. An increase in the share of poor children in total secondary enrolment to 39% in 2013, up from 30% in 2008. 20% increase in secondary school enrolment due to stipends, especially among poor children.
SEQAEP financing consists of International Development Association (IDA) support of $130 million and government funding of $25 million.
IDA and the Asian Development Bank are the only active donors in the secondary education sector of Bangladesh. The government of Bangladesh signed a $265 million additional financing agreement with IDA, for the ongoing SEQEAP. The Secondary Education Quality and Access Enhancement Project (SEQAEP), implemented since 2008, aims to improve the quality of secondary education and to increase access and equity among poor boys and girls, including those living in remote areas. Moreover, due to a lack of systematic learning assessments at the primary and secondary levels, the quality of teaching has been difficult to assess. SEQAEP provides proxy means tested stipends and tuition to disadvantaged girls and boys as well as incentives to students, teachers and schools in 125 upazilas so that they can perform better.

However, SEQAEP is supported only by IDA financing in conjunction with the government funds.
The financing will help 4.5 million poor rural children annually, in 215 upazilas across the country, to continue secondary level education. This progress has been achieved in spite of high poverty and its vulnerability to natural calamities. Income played a crucial part in the education of a child as gross enrolment rate for the richest 50% of children was 75% but enrolment for the poorest 50% was only 30%.
Students eligible for the stipend receive from $15 to $40 a year, depending on their grades, and benefits are conditional on students maintaining 75% average attendance, achieving a passing grade in final examinations, and remaining unmarried until they complete Grade 10. Teachers are being trained in English and Mathematics, institutions are now offering additional classes to improve English and Math skills of their students, and financial rewards are also being given to those teachers who achieve pass targets of over 70% of the class and to institutions that consistently increase the number of students appearing in and passing the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examination. The Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, under the Ministry of Education, is the principal implementing agency.
With this additional financing, the project will continue to provide poverty-targeted stipends and tuition to poor students. It improved the quality of schools through teacher training, by providing performance incentives to schools and students, and by improving water and sanitation facilities. The Government of Bangladesh has recognized that primary education is critical to reduce poverty. The introduction of internationally recognized assessments is expected to both allow a quantitative analysis of these measures and enhance their impact. It will give incentives to students, teachers and schools to increase enrollment and retention in secondary level education. It will also scale up activities within 125 upazilas where the project is being implemented and expand in 90 more upazilas to improve secondary education quality and systematically monitor learning outcomes and ensure greater accountability at school level. MDGs and BeyondBangladesh has already achieved one of the key Millennium Development Goals (MDG) - gender parity in primary and secondary schooling.

Secondary School Certificate pass rates for girls in the project area increased from 39 percent in 2001 to 63 percent in 2008.- Training grew and focused on quality. Bangladesha€™s success in female secondary school education is now well established and the success has brought a revolution to womena€™s status in the society.
Can Bangladesh achieve universal primary education?Education for All (EFA) is an international commitment that called for all children to be able to complete primary school. Some 64,000 members of school management committees and another 64,000 members of Parent-Teacher Associations from 6,000 institutions were trained in school management accountability, with a focus on education quality and conducive learning environments.- Participating schools exceeded the target. Bangladesh is unlikely to achieve universal primary enrollment and completion by 2015, if the current trends in access and completion do not improve.
Twenty-five new schools were established to enhance access to secondary education in very remote areas and in disadvantaged communities.- Additional benefits also accrued. Progress has been slower than what would be required to achieve universal access and completion as well improved school quality.A recently released World Bank report, a€?Education for All in Bangladesh - Where does Bangladesh stand in achieving the EFA Goals by 2015?,a€? discusses some of the key challenges faced by Bangladesh in achieving the EFA goals and propose policy recommendations that could help towards meeting the goals by 2015.
Studies show that indirect benefits of the project included reduced early-age marriages and fertility rates, better nutrition, and more females employed with higher incomes.VoicesSabrina Yasmin, is a student benefiting from this program. Yasmin says she has seen a dramatic change in the role of women in the country and feels more confident as she attends school.
Additional Resources- Bangladesh Education BriefLarge strides towards universal primary enrolment for both girls and boys has been taken. The project does not attempt to tackle wholesale reform, rather it is a piece within the larger efforts championed by the Government of Bangladesh in partnership with other donors, including the Asian Development Bank, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, and the European Union.Toward the FutureThe stipends program has been a testing ground for innovations, where approaches and instruments pioneered under Female Secondary School Assistance Program have tended to find their way into other government- and donor-funded projects, including primary school initiatives, in Bangladesh and elsewhere.

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