Over the last several decades, Bangladesh has invested heavily in girls’ education through government policy and programmes, which have worked in tandem with NGOs to expand non-public schools and madrasas to modernise curricula.
Despite recent progress in enrolment, girls remain far less likely than boys to complete their secondary education (52% versus 65%). However, early adolescence marks a turning point for Bangladeshi girls – especially the poorest, given the high number of hidden costs that accompany ostensibly free education.
This brief discusses the educational aspirations of adolescents and how role models, social status, respectability and poverty influence the opportunities they have and what they aspire to be. In Dhaka, baseline data collection entailed quantitative survey with 780 adolescent girls and boys which was complemented by in-depth qualitative work involving 36 nodal adolescents, their parents and communities to better understand the experience and perspective of young people.
We look at the challenges and barriers to accessing appropriate and quality schooling and how education differs in public, NGO, private and madrasa schooling, and the business of coaching centres, which are expensive but have become essential to get good results in exams, given the poor quality of teaching in the schools.
We also explore the kind of parental support that adolescents receive, and changes over time as perceived, from parents’ own experiences to those of their children. Finally, we look at how adolescents’ educational experiences are shaped by gender and other intersecting disadvantages.