Primary education is very important in our national life as this is the basis of building up a skilled citizenry. This stage is also the path to include the whole population within the education system. So, creating equal opportunities and ensuring access of all sections of children to primary education irrespective of ethnicity, socio-economic conditions, physical or mental challenges and geographical differences are the major concerns for any sustainable educational planning. Delivery of quality primary education is always ensured in an effective educational system as this stage forms the foundation of subsequent secondary and tertiary levels of education.
Unfortunately, after four decades of our independence, inequality in access and opportunities is the defining feature of the present primary education system of Bangladesh. Although, this is the constitutional responsibility of the State to provide free universal compulsory education to all children, at present 100% children cannot be given access to primary schools. A unified system of primary education has not been established. As a result, the divisions and discrimination in educational provisions reflected in separate streams of government, non-government, private, and English medium schools and madrassas, exist in our primary level.
Gap between the standard of education in urban and rural areas is widening day by day. The Primary School Completion exam result of 2011 indicates that the best institutes are city/district level schools and privately owned schools with most of their students coming from well-off families. Most of the students who failed to pass these exams are from the rural institutes.
Children in urban areas are not getting equal access and opportunities in schooling. According to the recently published ‘2012 UNICEF Report’, even though children in towns and urban cities are considered a step ahead from their rural counterparts with better access to educational facilities, in most urban areas in Bangladesh great opportunities and great deprivation exist side by side.
Children living in low-income urban areas and slums are deprived of almost all basic rights and facilities including education enjoyed by their peers from well-off families. Dropout rate is still high among these children as their parents could hardly meet the costs of schooling, even where schooling is free of charge, families can be burdened with the costs of uniform, books and supplies.
Needless to mention that for sustainable development, our primary education system must be inclusive and pro-people. It is high time our government take proper initiatives in this regard.