|Developing the non-farm Sector in Bangladesh: Lessons from other Asian Countries (WB, 1996, 116 p.)|
|What drives growth?|
Building human capital has also proven to be a difficult process. Bangladesh started out with very high rates of illiteracy -- close to 70 percent of the population was unable to read and write. The percentage fell during the 1 980s, but slowly. In 1990 two-thirds of adults were still illiterate. By comparison, illiteracy in China fell from 35 percent to 27 percent over the same period, and in Indonesia it dropped by 10 percentage points-to 23 percent during the 1980s. Of the countries (table 10) in our sample, the high illiteracy rate in Bangladesh is matched by only that of Pakistan, and India follows a distant second. Predictably, Bangladeshi women have lagged much farther behind the men, maintaining illiteracy rates of 78 percent in l 990 and showing very little improvement since 1985.
In 1980 gross enrollment in primary schools was 62 percent compared with 90 to 1 10 percent in most of the other sample countries (table II ). And this disparity began to change only in the late 1980s-enrollments rose to 75 percent in 1988 and to 78 percent in 1990. Statistics for 1993, which include the number of girls attending traditional religious schools, show an enrollment ratio of 116 percent. But although attendance is increasing, these figures might be biased, and they are partially vitiated by the high dropout rate. Only 43 percent of those entering grade I complete the primary school cycle, and the functional skills of graduates are extremely uneven. Low enrollment and high dropout rates are compounded by the quality of education provided. Because of ill-trained (or absent) teachers, a shortage of books and teaching facilities and crowded classes, less than 10 percent of the overall cohort have the desired level of functional skills.
Enrollment in secondary schools remained relatively constant throughout the 1980s. At the beginning of the decade 18 percent of the relevant age cohort were enrolled. By 1990 this figure was estimated to be 19 percent (table 12). Again, Bangladesh compares unfavorably with other countries. Malawi at 4 percent is the lowest in the sample. Pakistan, Zaire, Myanmar and Zambia have similar ratios. But East and South Asian economies, by and large, have much higher enrollment numbers and are thus far ahead of Bangladesh in creating an educated workforce.