School Enrollment Declines, Madrasa-Vocational Education Surge: Report

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The number of students in both government and non-government secondary schools (high schools) in the country is decreasing. Over the past four years, the number of students in secondary education has decreased by more than 10 million. This is concerning educators. However, during the same period, the number of students in madrasas has increased by half a million. Additionally, there has been an increase in students in technical and English medium schools.

According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics (BANBEIS) report titled "Bangladesh Education Statistics 2023," in 2019, there were over 9.2 million students in secondary schools across the country, which has decreased to 8.166 million by 2023. There are a total of 18,968 secondary schools in the country, with more female students than male. Of the total students, 45% are male and 55% are female.

According to BANBEIS data, during the same period (2019-2023), the number of students in madrasas (Dakhil and Alim) has increased by more than half a million. In 2023, there are over 2.758 million students in madrasas, with approximately 54% being female.

Moreover, the number of students in vocational institutions is also increasing. Currently, there are approximately 700,000 students in 5,395 vocational institutions, compared to around 700,000 four years ago when there were 2,309 vocational institutions. However, the proportion of female students in vocational institutions is still significantly low, with 71% being male.

According to BANBEIS, as of 2023, there are 123 English medium schools in the country, with over 28,000 students enrolled. This number has increased compared to over 26,000 students four years ago.

BANBEIS officials conducting a workshop at the BANBEIS building in Polashi, Dhaka on Thursday afternoon (March 28) said they collected information from various educational institutions across the country and presented it. However, they have not yet analyzed why the number of students in secondary education has decreased. They speculate that due to the COVID-19 situation, many students have switched to alternative forms of education. Many have also migrated abroad at a young age for work, leading to a decrease in secondary school enrollment.

BANBEIS emphasizes that they have collected information from educational institutions nationwide and presented it. They have not conducted any independent analysis. This information can be used by the relevant ministries and policymakers to formulate policies.

The Secretary of the Secondary and Higher Education Division of the Ministry of Education, Suleman Khan, stated that the reasons for the decrease in secondary school students are well-known. Many institutions were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leading many students to enter the workforce. The Ministry of Education is working to bring them back to the classrooms.

According to BANBEIS data, among the decreased number of students in secondary schools, 55% are female. They study in the country's 18,968 schools. However, despite the decline in secondary education, the number of students at the college level has increased to around 1.8 million over the past four years.

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